Times are changing and retailers are experiencing a shift that moves from predominantly human transactions to technology-enhanced interactions. Technology is now available to automate the customer experience – from wayfinding, to merchandise research, comparison-shopping and point-of-sale transactions. Consumers have changed their attitudes toward privacy and expect more from the stores they shop. According to the Control Group's 2013 Retail Technology Survey
, over half of U.S. shoppers are browsing the aisles with powerful computers in their pockets.
Successful retailers will need to provide customers with the same level of personalization, accessibility and service both online and offline. To create a consistent customer experience, technology investments should amplify great service. Seven technologies that are redefining the retail experience include:
1. Computer Vision and Facial Coding: The use of Capture Vision (CV) through digital and depth-sensing cameras, such as Microsoft's Kinect, are beginning to dominate the field. The ability to "see" a customer is a powerful tool for providing tailored experiences in real-time.
2. Touch- and Gesture-based Interaction: Touchfilms, holographics, transparent LCDs, acoustic and "touchless" visual detection are bringing the futuristic vision of immersive media today. The iPhone effect has ignited an industry and provided a generation with focus on the visual manipulation of information. Applications include wayfinding, assisted selling kiosks, media targeting, in-window and at the counter.
3. Projection: Successfully used in smaller deployments, projection creates holographic effects using thin films and glass as refraction surfaces. The utility in these applications can be informational and contextual, enabling flexible customization of real-world spaces and products similar online interactive tools.
4. Printed Electronics: Coupled with inductive shelving and wireless power, printed electronics are particularly well-suited for bringing consumer packaged goods to life while on-shelf. These printable circuits include LEDs, e-ink displays, batteries, RAM, transistors, as well as sensors for light, heat, pressure and chemicals.
5. Wireless Interactivity (RFID/NFC): RFID has long been a tool of the retail supply chain. Products that have been tagged for security and inventory control can now trigger in-store analytic systems designed to drive media and assisted selling. RFID tags can be elevated from a logistics tool to an effective means of driving demand. NFC, a subset of RFID with a shorter range, is increasingly found in many mobile phones and consumer devices.
6. Captive Portal/Passive Analytics: Tailoring content for delivery to certain consumer profiles is key to high conversion rates and is the core strategy behind every successful e-commerce strategy. Tailoring in-store content to shoppers based on displayed and recognized behavioral patterns means retailers are able to shift business strategies based on physical space analytics and can expand or reduce the reach of floor staff, increase engagement and dwell times, and drive higher sales.
7. Mobile Payment: Whether retailers choose to equip sales staff with handheld POS devices or enable customers to use their own devices, decentralized POS eliminates the bottleneck of the cash wrap, pleases customers and enables new physical store concepts.
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