Retail is one of the fastest evolving spaces today. The industry is expected to undergo a lot of disruption in the way people shop, purchase and pay, thanks to recent technological advances. From mobile payment apps to cutting-edge technologies such as image recognition and virtual dressing rooms- retail will never be the same again. According to recent industry reports, technologies such as augmented reality, image, and 3D technologies will provide the UK's largest retailers with a potential boost of £2.4bn for the industry as a whole by 2014.
It is predicted that businesses offering information, marketing and after-sale service through applications to consumers will contribute significantly to customer satisfaction. Mobile payment options are also growing in number. As per Gartner, one third of consumer brands will integrate payment into their branded mobile apps by 2015. Brands that deal with fashion, food and drink, and entertainment are likely to adopt this solution.Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has been using in-store technologies like signage and scannable barcodes that provide product reviews and information. In addition, RFID, or radio-frequency identification technology holds a lot of potential. RFID will enable retailers to avoid traditional checkout, track merchandise, and serve customers better. For instance, JC Penney plans to use RFID tags to eliminate checkout stations by the end of 2013.
Tablets and touchscreens too are playing a major role in the effort to eliminate checkout stations. Touchscreen technology is being used by a major American toy chain, letting children create personalized toys. In another instance, a UK-based retailer has installed a giant touchscreen catalog letting visitors browse the company’s inventory in its stores.
Another emerging technology that drives a more personal experience is image recognition. It enables software and systems to react to an individual based on his facial features or identify an object. In the last few months, augmented reality-powered virtual changing- room market too has been providing a unique shopping experience. This 3D fitting room eliminates the time spent standing in a queue and trying clothes several times. Using this technology, leading brands like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are luring customers to try on clothes virtually and visualize what they look like.
In the next 2-3 years, more brands are likely to embrace these emerging technologies. Even though they provide retailers with tremendous growth opportunities, the benefits are yet to be fully utilized in the retail landscape.