Retail Technology Trends 2023
Technology has had a major impact on the retail landscape over the past decade and it seems to be evolving even faster every year. The rise of online shopping has meant that physical retail spaces must adapt quickly to keep up, and here we can see a cycle of new technology being developed to meet the growing demands of consumers. The retail technology landscape is now a highly dynamic and ever-changing field, which means it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends. However, keeping up with the trends is crucial to improving and streamlining your own business and ensuring you don’t get left behind. Based on our knowledge of the industry, we’ve listed five technological trends that we see impacting the retail industry in 2023.
AI / Automation
AI technology and automation in the retail sphere can assist with streamlining day-to-day processes. As the popularity of online shopping rises, so too does the need to mirror this fast-paced climate in physical shopping spaces. Customers now expect a frictionless shopping experience with little to no wait time and less dependence on in-person staff members. On top of this, due to the accessibility of inventory and stock levels online, it is now expected that retail spaces must also be highly efficient and up-to-date with their stock and inventory information. In a physical store, efficient management of stock may look a little different to a retail website. Technology can assist with notifying staff when something needs to be restocked or when a product has sold out and the label needs to be removed from the shelf. An up-to-date inventory list also means that staff members can quickly search items for customers and potentially get what they are after from storage.
This is where AI and automation can come in. An obvious example is the use of self-serve checkouts. Technology’s role in checkout service and inventory tracking will most likely continue to evolve into something bigger. By tracking the inventory levels and popularity of products or services, AI can direct business owners to make certain decisions such as boosting the stock of certain items.
One really interesting example of AI in the physical retail space is Walmart’s ‘Intelligent Retail Lab’ (IRL). This new-age store was built in New York and set up with cameras that cover every section of the store. These cameras are programmed to watch the movements of customers and make note of any time an item of stock is picked up. This allows the artificial intelligence to then alert a staff member via text if an item needs to be restocked. This AI surveillance cuts out the need for customers to alert a staff member when something is not on the shelf and means that products are easier to find and access in-store. AI like this helps save both the customer’s time and staff member’s time and is an excellent example of how AI technology and automation are taking strides to streamline everyday processes.
The use of AI in the retail sphere ties in with our prediction of the rising popularity of personalisation within the day-to-day functioning of retail stores. Personalisation is the act of custom tailoring an object or experience to fit the specific needs of an individual. Gathering customer data and information is crucial to successful retail personalisation.
Within retail, personalisation can be achieved in a range of different mediums. This could include a personalised product offer sent to a customer’s device as they enter a store based on data from their previous shopping preferences. An online personalisation example could be those simple yet effective ‘We think you might like…’ suggestions that appear at the bottom of your web browser while you’re shopping online. These suggestions are specially chosen for customers’ individual interests and needs, based on their previous purchases and items or services they may have frequently searched for in the past.
Personalisation technology also allows businesses to use data to quickly update digital signage in physical stores to appeal to a certain demographic. An example close to home would be our data-driven Storya and Eze Suite Platform, which allow users to display highly localised content to their customers based on existing demographic and store specific data.
Hybrid, Omnichannel and Click & Collect / BOPIS
Both hybrid and omnichannel are similar in their definitions. Hybrid retail refers to a mix of online and in-store shopping. This can come in the form of click-and-collect orders and other BOPIS strategies, which utilise physical shopping and digital shopping to create a hybrid experience that is best suited to the needs of the customer. The term Omnichannel focuses more on the merging of physical and digital retail and creating a seamless experience between the two. This often requires the integration of technology across the entire customer journey to ensure a frictionless experience.
While this kind of hybridisation is already quite advanced within retail, we believe that this trend will become even more prominent in the next few years, as other technology such as personalisation tools and AI, get even smarter. New app technology and QR codes are already making this possible. The Mcdonald’s MyMaccas app, for example, allows you to order and pay via your mobile device while in the store and then collect at the counter when ready.
Engagis worked with Telstra to implement an omnichannel retail experience whereby customers are now able to book an in-store appointment to view products that they’ve browsed online. Once the customer arrives at the physical store, their information will already be synced to Telstra’s check-in system which is accessed on a device such as a portable tablet. If a staff member is not immediately available to assist them, the customer is assigned to a queue and is given access to live wait time information. They will then receive notifications on their phone via SMS or their Telstra app when someone is available to see them, allowing them the flexibility to leave the store without losing their place in the queue. This seamless switch between the online store, in-store technology, and the customer’s device, provides a smoother experience for service-based retail.
Conscious Consumerism / Sustainability
Environmentally conscious brands have continued to gain steady popularity over the past few years. Sustainability is a major selling point for retailers in the current climate. As businesses have continued to evolve alongside society, they have become more intuitive to the needs of not only their staff and customers but the world around them. Besides being a selling point, sustainability is necessary for maintaining a functioning world in the future. We’ve seen many businesses gravitate towards factoring sustainability into their business model. Focusing on sustainability reflects a high level of reliability to the general public and builds a strong level of trust with customers. This is because businesses can show that they are thinking deeply and intentionally about the way their company functions and impacts the environment around it.
‘Sustainability’ and ‘technology’ are two terms that, on the surface, may seem to contradict each other, as technology in the past has played a part in some of the issues that sustainability now works to fix. While we predict a greater emphasis on sustainability in the retail sphere, this may not always be through technology improvements.
However, as technology continues to advance there have been some breakthroughs in terms of sustainability. From a technological standpoint, sustainability could mean installing software or hardware that reduces waste or is powered by environmentally friendly sources. In terms of trends, our observations point to a rise in technology that prevents material waste through supply chain optimisation and sustainable/ biodegradable packaging. For example, the ‘Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability’ is a trending retail tool that aims to implement a more sustainable form of consumerism. This digital technology tracks customer data and minimises environmental footprint, by identifying more efficient options for everything from material sourcing to distribution.
AR / Immersive Experiences
Augmented Reality is an incredibly useful tool in the retail landscape as it allows for a customisable and engaging experience with business products and services. AR technology means that customers can virtually try on clothing or place virtual items in the home to see how they would work with the space, before purchasing. Technology like this provides a more seamless, interactive and immersive experience for customers that are more comfortable engaging in this way.
A key example of immersive technology in retail spaces is IKEA’s ‘The Place App’ which allows customers to place virtual pieces of furniture into images of their homes to visualise exactly how they would look and test whether they would be a good fit.
Our professional team is dedicated to constantly learning about the latest in retail technology trends to ensure that our clients are always receiving the latest advice. At Engagis, we have over 20 years of experience in delivering innovative technology solutions to large retailers. Some of these solutions, specific to the retail sphere, include intelligent digital signage, kiosks, and content management. We also offer installation and maintenance of all our hardware. Contact us today to find out how your business could benefit from current retail technology.