The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically transformed the way societies live and operate. The retail industry has been at the forefront of this change, with shopping becoming increasingly internet-driven.
Retailers, both essential and nonessential, have had to alter processes, with most of them facing supply chain and inventory challenges throughout the pandemic. While offline retail has been hit hard, online retail continues to boom and flourish.
Such changes have pushed retailers to recognize the importance of technology moving forward. Indeed, technology has revolutionized the way customers shop and organizations run stores, enhance customer experiences, and manage back-office operations. Research by Gartner predicts, “by 2021, 77% of retailers will survey plans to have Artificial Intelligence (AI) in place.”
Below, we give you a peek into the retail technology trends to look out for in 2021 and beyond.
1. AI-driven predictive Analytics
With the abundance of data available at every organization’s disposal, the retail industry has become extraordinarily data-centric and data-driven. Such information can be used for predictive analytics.
A recent blog by Mckinsey states, “winning decisions are increasingly driven by analytics more than instinct, experience, or merchant ‘art’; what succeeded in the past is a poor predictor of the future, and analytics is helping to inform and unlock new pockets of growth.”
Widespread disruption due to the pandemic caused inefficiencies in the supply chain and led some retailers to realize how ill-equipped they are to meet consumer demand in testing times. Undoubtedly, the future’s highly efficient supply chains must be agile, measurable, and must optimize data as an asset. Moreover, customer expectations and buying behavior are evolving continuously, and retailers must adopt a proactive approach to offer truly personalized and unique shopping experiences.
AI-driven predictive analytics help retailers make smarter business decisions by analyzing factors, such as –
- Inventory reporting, purchase dynamics, and discounts from suppliers – assist with demand planning, supply predictability, choosing the right vendor, improved replenishment, and in optimizing store operations
- Patterns in consumer behavior – boost conversion rate and increase sales
- Customer preferences – tailor loyalty programs and personalize the customer journey
Types of data in the retail sector include retail pricing strategies, point-of-sale data, social media metrics, competitive intelligence, seasonality, etc.
2. Augmented reality in chatbots
As defined by Gartner, “augmented reality (AR) is the real-time use of information in the form of text, graphics, audio, and other enhancements integrated with real-world objects.”
When combined with chatbots, augmented reality opens a world of immersive, feature-rich shopping experiences by allowing retailers to engage three-dimensionally with customers. While the pandemic continues, AR-enabled chatbots empower customers to virtually try out clothes or makeup or check out how a new piece of furniture fits in their living space while adhering to the social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines.
Popular skincare retailer POND’s has introduced a skin-diagnostic chatbot called SAL that leverages AR to help customers deal with the common skincare issues in four major areas – pimples, wrinkles, spots, and uneven skin tone. All you have to do is upload a selfie, fill in a short survey, and the chatbot will deliver a personalized diagnosis and product suggestions within 60 seconds.
Another example is that of Estee Lauder’s Lip Artist. Customers may click a selfie and try on lipstick shades. Additionally, the bot will act as a personal beauty assistant and suggest lip shades based on skin tone, color preferences, and occasion.
Such unique customer engagement generates buzz around the brand and boosts the retailer’s sales. AR in chatbots will be a significant retail technology trend for 2021, especially for retailers who sell products that often require a look-and-feel test.
3. Buy online, pickup in-store
In line with social distancing measures, buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) will continue to be the preferred mode of shopping for many customers as they need not wait for shipping. This will require retailers to implement data analytics and management tools on mobile apps to keep employees up-to-speed and a robust inventory management system to match supply with demand.
A survey found 73.1% of respondents have implemented or are moving towards giving customers the ability to buy online or pick up in-store. The same study also saw 77.1% of respondents say that they are looking at delivering real-time-in-store recommendations via smartphones.
4. Voice Assistants
Voice shopping will account for $40 billion in US consumer spending by 2022. Voice Assistants like Google Home, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana have gained traction with consumers turning to voice channels for product search, purchases, and comparison shopping.
With voice assistants, consumers can search for products in a faster, more comfortable, hands-free manner, adding a new dimension to your retail strategy.
5. Getting a 360-degree view of the customer
With the vast amounts of consumer data available to retailers, including consumer insights offered by various e-commerce and social platforms, it is becoming easier to get a holistic, 360-degree customer view. From what customers shop from your website or when they navigate it to what they buy from the stores, every piece of information can be harmonized and used.
Retailers can leverage such data to customize loyalty programs, plan ad campaigns, and boost conversion across channels. This data presents a massive opportunity for retailers to personalize the customer experience and build more fruitful relationships.
While technology has enabled retailers to survive and flourish amidst the pandemic, data and applications’ security continues to be under threat. As a majority of retailers have shifted their resources from on-premises to the cloud, it opens up doors for complex cyber-attacks.
Retailers must embrace a powerful security strategy and cyber defense capabilities to infuse agility, build business resiliency, and secure brand trust. Most importantly, the comprehensive threat protection plan must consider employees, partners, apps, and systems.
7. In-store digital evolution
In-store digital enablement will transform from being “good-to-have” to “must-have.” From self-checkout to scan-and-go apps to personalized customer notifications for BOPIS to other flexible digital solutions, retail stores will become more technologically-able to maximize sales and generate brand loyalty.
How can Acuvate help?
At Acuvate, we help retail clients overhaul their business models and embrace technologies, including artificial intelligence, chatbots, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and advanced analytics. Our enterprise bot-builder platform called BotCore enables retailers to build and deploy AI-enabled customer-facing chatbots quickly while our robust analytics solutions build an agile, resilient, and future-proof supply chain and allow clients to anticipate and meet customer expectations.
To know more, please feel free to schedule a personalized consultation with our experts.