Retail is an essential part of everyone’s lives. It’s a global machine developed to deliver and serve customers across nations. People equally enjoy shopping in brick-and-mortar and online stores. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the global retail industry is expected to reach $29.8 trillion in 2023. But, it can’t do it on its own.
There are many reasons the retail industry needs to keep up to speed with the latest technology developments. Following the changes and accepting them will allow for an even bigger expansion of the retail industry.
Brief Historical Overview of Retail Stores
Retail stores haven’t always relied on the internet to work. At first, people exchanged goods and cattle among themselves and worked hard to have many things to offer. The first retail stores appeared around 800 BC. Markets started developing where merchants sold their goods. The purpose of markets was shopping for products but also socializing.
From there, retail continued to grow. In the 1700s, small, family-owned mom-and-pop stores started to emerge. Between the mid-1800s and the early 1900s, people were opening the first department stores. As towns and businesses developed, along came the first cash register, followed by credit cards and shopping malls.
Fast forward to the internet era. The electronic data interchange (EDI) in the 1960s paved the way for ecommerce that ascended the throne in the 1990s when Amazon stepped onto the scene. From there, retail has been heavily dependent on technology, and ecommerce continued to expand thanks to the internet. Today, social media provides many opportunities for advertising, but business owners have to keep an eye on ever-changing customer behavior to stay in the game.
The New Retail Trends
Retail stores have become strongly intertwined with the internet and the analyses of human behavior. There are so many things to take into consideration:
- User experience
- Web design
- Social media presence
However, that’s not all. The modern retail industry needs to create a pleasant customer experience because people have less patience nowadays. As Philip Green said, “People are always going to go shopping. A lot of our effort is just: ‘How do we make the retail experience a great one?’”
As the internet brought alternative ways to reach out to consumers, consumers realized they had more power than ever before. Today, people need a few seconds to make a decision, and it’s affecting how brands communicate with their audience. You can find more information about consumer behavior here.
To achieve a high satisfaction level, retailers are using technology in all processes. Here’s how.
- Inventory tracking – Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) allows for computer-to-computer exchange of business documents. It reduces costs, increases data transfer speed, minimizes errors, and improves business partnerships. It enables for simplified tracking of transactions between the supplier and the store.
- Automatic replenishment systems – these systems work in almost every industry, helping retailers automate and optimize the replenishment of multiple categories of products, from fresh produce to clothes. Since the process is automated, employees can focus on their work without the fear of lost or spoiled products on shelves.
- Virtual shelves – the retail stores of the future probably won’t have shelves stocked with products. Instead, they’ll have digital kiosks where customers can scan products. In a way, this will be a brick-and-mortar extension of a retailer’s website, providing a truly effortless shopping experience.
- AI registers – new types of registers allow customers to scan their items without the cashier. Smart registers are the latest solution to creating a fluid customer experience. However, there’s still room to grow and improve the systems of item recognition, customer identification, and payments.
- AR and VR in retail – another technological innovation that improves the shopping experience is virtual and augmented reality. While consumers have fun trying out clothing or checking out furniture in a virtual setting, businesses enjoy reduced costs. AR and VR also offer alternative marketing methods with interactive and more engaging apps.
- Proximity beacons – beacons are wireless devices that can detect mobile phone users. These devices help the stores interact with customers who have downloaded their mobile phone app. With beacons, businesses can communicate with customers, participate in real-time marketing, increase sales, understand customer behavior, and more.
- Shipping automation – shipping automation saves valuable time that can be used for decision-making or other processes. Companies use software to set rules for shipping orders, for example. Businesses can also automate shipping labels, tax documents, picking lists, packing slips, etc.
- Robotics – robots will surely take over some human jobs. Just like they disinfect the hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic, robots can also be used to move goods from shelves, analyze the inventory, and clean. They can also replace in-store customer service or warn about safety hazards.
Retail stores have come a long way from mom-and-pop stores to virtual shelves. Merged with the development of technology, retail businesses have lived through and embraced technological revolutions. Today, they use all available methods to increase the customer base and provide seamless shopping.
The latest technology trends, such as robotics, automated shipping, virtual reality, and proximity beacons, help businesses remain an integral part of people’s lives. Companies can now use alternative marketing methods combined with an improved shopping experience to show their products and prove that their brand matters.