One of the latest trends in retail fit-outs is the widespread use of innovative, experimental technology. Think cashier-less tech like Amazon Go, augmented reality products that let you try on clothes without actually trying them on, and robot shop assistants that help customers to find inspiration.
All this might seem like a passing fad, but the reality is that all this ‘futuristic’ technology might actually be the future.
It seems that the retail stores of the future are likely to include all manner of technological products that improve the in-store experience for customers, and the future might be closer than we think. In fact, some experts estimate that we might be seeing widespread use of this technology within just a few years.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. It Helps Retailers to Meet the Changing Demands of In-Store Shoppers
In 2017, online shopping in Australia increased by nearly 10%, while in-store footfall lagged far behind, increasing by just 3%. Elsewhere across the world, we can see the same trend. In the UK, for example, online non-food product sales have increased by more than 12% since 2012.
What does all this mean? It means that e-commerce is growing rapidly. The online shopping industry is successfully competing with traditional brick-and-mortar retailers for business, and it’s winning.
If in-store retailers wish to compete and stay afloat in the years to come, they need to adapt, and studies suggest that switching their goal to providing experiences for shoppers may be the answer.
Seeing as brick-and-mortar stores can’t compete with online stores when it comes to providing convenience, they need to add value in another way. In other words, they need to make shopping fun.
We can already see technology being used to provide ‘mini experiences’ for shoppers. For example, some retailers are having their shops fit with ‘selfie mirrors’, which allow shoppers to pose for pictures with their friends and upload them to their social media accounts while in store.
This novel idea allows shoppers to stay connected and have a fun, mini experience, while simultaneously functioning as a free marketing tool for the store. Customers that post their selfies to social media inadvertently advertise the store while doing so.
2. It Can Help Retailers to Unify Online and Offline Sales Channels
Retailers which have both online and offline sales channels can more effectively utilize them by using retail technology. For example, we’re now seeing technology being used which allows customers to browse their e-commerce portals while in store. This means that customers can browse a larger catalog of items and find products that might not be available in store.
This technology sometimes takes the form as a window display, meaning that shoppers can still browse products through the window even when the store is closed, which helps businesses to avoid losing out on business.
This is especially important in light of the fact that online sales now make up for a significant portion of total annual sales. As online sales continue to grow in the years to come, it will become even more important for businesses to merge their sales channels.
3. It Can Help Retailers to Cut Costs
So far, we’ve talked about how fitting your store with retail technology can improve the customer experience and, in doing so, drive more sales. However, it’s not just about boosting sales, it’s about cutting costs too.
Retail technology can also help businesses to cut costs by reducing their reliance on manual tasks. For example, cashier-less technology like Amazon Go, and products like self-scanners, can reduce the need for checkout staff. This can help retailers to cut down on labor costs and also process sales faster, thus increasing efficiency and productivity.
Another example of ways technology might help businesses to reduce running costs is by using smart systems to automate power usage. For example, smart systems which automatically control things like lighting might help you to reduce your energy consumption and the costs associated with this.
4. It Can Help With Market Research
Experts have suggested that ‘smart store’ technology can be utilized by businesses to aid with market research. Technology such as light detection sensors can track customer movements in-store, enabling retailers to collect valuable data on their behavior.
For example, it can help you to learn which aisles your shoppers are visiting the most, how long they spend in each aisle, and which of your promotions and displays seem to be the most effective.
What Does this All Mean?
This shows that the future of brick-and-mortar stores is brighter than it might seem. On the surface, it seems like the growth in technology might be the death of the high street, but on the contrary, it might actually save it.
As we see technology like augmented reality and AI become more sophisticated, in-store retail might even have the edge over e-commerce, providing customers with a more personalized and enjoyable experience.
However, we’re not there just yet. Futuristic technology is still out of the budget for most retailers – particularly smaller, independent stores. Nonetheless, if you’re considering refurbishing your store, you might want to give a lot of consideration to the use of technology.