Retailers are constantly looking to use new technologies in order to boost sales – from browsing, point of sale and supply chain to checkout, payment and delivery. As we enter 2017, Retail Consigliere presents some of the top technologies that retailers will be developing and using in 2017 and beyond.
“Chatbots” are computer programs powered by artificial intelligence, which mimic conversations with people and offer retailers the opportunity to boost brand engagement by helping shoppers make product choices, check store locations and opening times, place orders or engage with campaigns. Chatbots give retailers access to a large user base and the chance to personalise each user’s experience, as well as engaging with a younger generation of users. Chatbots could help reduce labour costs as well – if chatbots can deal with many customer queries, a retailer does not need so many customer services personnel. Tommy Hilfiger, Estée Lauder and Burberry have all been successfully using and promoting chatbot technologies in order to gain support and promote sales.
Many retailers now provide shoppers with personalised recommendations based on data collected about shoppers. Relevant recommendations can come in the form of product or content recommendations, or as targeted advertisements. For example, some retailers incorporate collaborative filtering (e.g. “if you bought product A, you will probably like product B”). Taking this idea even further, at the end of last year Ebay opened a pop up which invited shoppers to enter biometric booths which read their body language and facial expressions to detect which products they liked the most.
Visual search technology allows shoppers to paste images instead of keywords into a retailer’s search box. This allows shoppers to find items that are similar to items they like in an image (perhaps a photo they have taken of someone else’s outfit, or that they have found on the Internet) and provides retailers with the opportunity to showcase their products to shoppers. For example, in the US, Nieman Marcus has an app which allows shoppers to search for items in the store’s inventory which are similar to an item in a picture.
Payment and checkout methods
Consolidation of mobile payment technologies, increased security measures and digital identification measures will help retailers provide a more reliable payment process. In addition, the development of barcodes and scanning technology will enable the continued growth of mobile checkout methods. For example, in December 2016 Amazon opened Amazon Go, a cashless convenience store in Seattle, which allows shoppers to check in using an app, pick up their products and leave with a digital receipt without going to a physical checkout.
Drone delivery is gaining increasing traction as a viable future delivery method. Amazon is one of the major brands pioneering drone deliveries, having made successful test deliveries in the US and UK in 2016. However, there are still legal and regulatory hurdles to overcome before drones become a mainstream delivery option
AI developers have been testing applications where photographs of a shopper’s body size and shape are recorded in order to provide recommendations on clothes that will suit the shopper. For example, Adobe Digital has been developing a digital mirror system and Body Labs, a 3-D software company, is developing technologies that can predict how garments will fit by using just a few of a shopper’s measurements. In Uniqlo’s San Francisco store, you can try on clothing in front of a mirror and view it in different colours, turn around and then see your 360-degree turn, text yourself side-by-side outfit comparisons and even invite your friends to advise on the various options via social media.