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Technology in retail has reached an all time high and is continuing to grow in 2017. The Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) have all began to make their breakthrough into retail technology. It’s needless to say that this technology is changing the customer experience.
IoT in Retail
The Internet of Things simply defined is the “internet working of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as ‘connected devices’ and ‘smart devices’), buildings, and other items – embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these object to collect and exchange data.”
IoT is everywhere! If you own a smart phone, then you are using IoT on a daily basis. With the new trend of mobile wallets and near field communication (NFC) payments, retailers are beginning to use IoT in their stores to enhance the customer experience. With wearable technology and NFC payments, retailers can provide more payment options for the customer and a smoother transaction process by allowing the customer to pay via smartphone or wearable device such as an Apple Watch.
Moving toward an age of paperless transactions, it’s crucial for retailers to accept mobile payments and offer digital interaction with their shoppers via IoT. Virtual and digital communication and transactions are something that shoppers are going to be looking for in 2017, and it will have a huge impact on the overall customer experience.
VR and AR in Retail
2016 has proved to us that virtual reality and augmented reality will change the way people shop and in turn, transform the customer experience in retail. Shoppers will no longer need to physically travel to a store to experience the way something looks and feels. While VR and AR are definitely related, the two are used very differently in retail technology.
If you are active on Facebook or another social media platform, you may have notices that many people have received a pair of virtual reality goggles during the holiday season (seriously… a lot of people). Overall, these goggles are used to play video games or experience virtual realities like riding a virtual roller coaster or exploring a virtual jungle. In terms of retail technology, virtual reality could possibly be the new way people do their shopping.
How will this change the customer experience? How will this change omnichannel retail?
Think about when you are shopping online, but hesitant to make the purchase because you’re not sure if the pants you are purchasing will fit you, or because you don’t know if the lamp you’re looking at will go well in the living room. With the rise of VR, ecommerce retailers will be able to create a virtual store and connect the shopper with the physical product, without the shopping ever needing to leave their home. Sounds crazy, right?
Now let’s talk about AR. In 2016, Pokémon Go! took the world by storm by introducing one of the first successful augmented reality games for smartphones. We quickly learned how the game could affect retailers, and retailers quickly learned how to take advantage of the game by offering discounts and special promotions to their customers who were playing.
As technology continues to advance and VR and AR becomes ‘the norm’, shoppers will expect a more technologically advanced customer experience. We can already see this trend with the growing adoption of online retailers and mobile payments. Now the question is: what can SMB retailers do to keep up with this advance in technology? How can they continue to keep the customer satisfied?
SMB Retail Technology
While the rise in retail technology will have a huge impact on the overall customer experience, there are ways SMB retailers will be able to better the customer experience for their shoppers in 2017 that won’t require a virtual reality store.
One very simple way SMB retailers can use technology already available to them to ehance the customer experience, is to create an omnichannel shopping experience for their customers. Engaging customers beyond the transaction is key when creating the ultimate shopping experience. This can be done through the retailer’s website, mobile app, etc. According to nChannel, two-thirds of shoppers will check prices on their phone before making a purchase in a brick and mortar retail store. For this reason, SMB retailers need to make sure that they are engaging customers both in-store and online in order to keep their shoppers satisfied.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
In this age of new technology, omnichannel retail, and being able to basically purchase anything you need online or on your smartphone at your convenience, there is an increased pressure being put on SMB retailers to keep their customers satisfied in-store. The important thing to note is that shopping is no longer just about making the purchase, but it is about the entire shopping experience, whether that is a virtual reality store, or superior customer service.
In order for SMB retailers to keep their customers satisfied, they must first understand their audience and their needs. If a retailer’s target audience is a middle or older-aged crowd, creating an app for a virtual store may not be appealing. For this same audience, increasing customer service reps in store or sending mailing coupons might be more efficient. With every audience comes a new strategy for providing the best customer experience.
Brianna Moriarty is the Partner Development Manager at Star Micronics where she works with channel-partners to grow their business and develop new markets. Brianna has a background in marketing and uses this to help VARs and ISVs to establish a go-to-market strategy and create co-marketing campaigns. She enjoys following the latest social media marketing trends and creating content for retailers and SMBs.