Technology and trends that will shape the retail industry in 2018
For much of 2017, the common thread stitched under observations of the retail industry were centred around the online space, and more specifically how businesses were targeting their online shoppers. While this will certainly continue in 2018, there will also be a wide-range of new ideas and smarter technology that will help transform, perhaps radically so, businesses small and large.
At Hike POS, we’re here to help you kick-in the new year by revealing five of our most anticipated retail technology trends that could help change the industry in 2018.
It’s all in lieu of helping retailers and customers to stay at the cutting edge of the ever-evolving, and technologically advancing, retail industry.
Personalisation | Bespoke Products
When referring to personalisation, retailers instinctively think of ways in which they can better market their store to consumers, offering a more curated shopping experience to the individual.
This is still very much a part of the retail calculations in 2018, but more than just a greeting that invokes the customer’s name, personalisation in 2018 also extends to the products themselves, where shoppers can build and customise an item to their own specifications.
Bespoke or custom products can soon be regarded as the new normal with interchangeable parts, modifications, colours and sizes, that can be selected as per a customer’s choosing. Businesses that heed this new trend, will benefit from a consumer base that is tired of items simply manufactured for many, when they can get something tailored exactly to their needs, and will be willing to pay a premium to get it.
Of course, this type of product customisation should still work in conjunction with existing personal customer service, where your customers are free to feel as though they can shop at your store and have their needs and wants fulfilled. Though the traditional dynamics of a sales assistant describing what’s available to a customer, might soon change into a customer explaining exactly the specification he/she wants, and the sales assistant delivering on that.
Online Integration | Perfecting Omnichannel Retailing
Reciting the same line of how valuable omnichannel retailing is, will undoubtedly play like a broken record to some. The need to combine both brick and mortar (in-store) sales with e-Commerce utilisation has been on the cards for a while, but 2018 presents an opportunity for businesses to perfect and capitalise on the burgeoning market.
This doesn’t mean however, to focus on one sales channel more exclusively than the other. Rather that the consolidation of both platforms is integral for the customers’ retail experience. A seamless integration between the two, allows a customer to enjoy a more convenient way of shopping where they can login to their online account and view their historical orders that they made in-store.
It’s also particularly useful for customers when it comes to loyalty points where a seamless integration between your online and in-store sales channels, enable a user to accrue points as they shop on each platform, all with the one account.
Omnichannel retailing isn’t a new 2018 development, but it is a system we expect to be consistently in place for most small businesses looking to firmly cement themselves as modern retailers.
Just saying the word ‘crypto’ can unleash a flurry of discussion of what is an early front runner for most talked about topic of the year. Indeed, cryptocurrency can elicit intense debates on its staying power, drawing both staunch sceptics and passionate enthusiasts to the forefront of mainstream discourse.
For retailers however crypto becomes an important avenue to consider, especially in its potential role as a new payment method for customers. Whilst there is no perfect ready-made blueprint in which to view the emergence of digital currency through, there are already existing examples of major retailers accepting bitcoin as a form of payment.
Major online retailer, Overstock, and hotel booking agency Expedia allow their customers to pay using Bitcoin (and in Overstock’s case other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Litecoin). When considering that breakthrough moment for crypto to hit the mainstream, industry analysts all point to retail stores as being such a catalyst. Thus, the natural takeaway that retailers can learn from such information is that it’s better to be first to the party than late.
Currently, cryptocurrencies exist in the bubble of investments yet with more and more retailers using it as a form of payment, and thus giving customers a new way in which to spend their online currency, we could be seeing a snapshot of the future in real-time.
Our smartphones have become so integrated in our lives, that they might as well be a body part. It’s given society complete access to online shopping, putting a new and literal spin on the term shop on-the-go.
So, barring a seismic shift in mobile technology, consumers will continue to use their phones and tablets to not only conduct purchases, but perform research to view a store’s website to look up information on products and stock availability. This means ensuring that your online site and e-Commerce channels are optimized for mobile and tablet use.
This doesn’t just mean having a site that looks pretty (all though that certainly helps!), as it also requires something that is fast and in the case of repeat shoppers, streamlined. One-step checkouts where customers don’t have to repeatedly enter in their information is a great way to improve your customer conversion rate and get you increased sales.
Mobile technology also extends to retailers using POS systems that allow for smartphone or tablet use. Tablets, and the iPad in particular, have become increasingly prevalent within the retail space. Shop owners have identified the advantages of mobile and iPad POS brings to a store, with it’s complete management and operations functionality that is now also portable and streamlined, enhancing the customer and staff experience. Retailers that wish to adopt a modern aesthetic to their business, will surely look at mPOS technology to improve their overall store experience.
Don’t panic, robots aren’t going to take over all your jobs and tasks (at least not in 2018) but they, or more appropriately artificial intelligence, could well play a factor in how the retail industry develops moving forward.
In a recently released report by software company Adobe, it was found that smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo were used 22% of the time by consumers, to shop using voice commands. This speaks to the growing acceptance the mainstream has towards AI-powered devices and how it can take over some of the traditional methods, by doing business in a more intuitive way.
This includes beacon technology, which are wireless devices that can transmit information to a customer’s smartphone via Bluetooth. It’s a new form of marketing communication, where retailers can deliver message about any store discounts, new products or promotions, straight to the user. Where a customer is unsure of the specifications of an item, they can simply utilize the store’s inbuilt beacon technology to provide them with the information they desire.
We could also soon be on the horizon of Virtual or Augmented Reality entering the retail foray, enabling shoppers to ‘try’ their wares before use. These AI devices may not capture wide-spread adoption in 2018, but they are almost certainly going to be tried and tested, and could well be the inflection point in which artificial intelligence within the retail industry, takes off.
Having a desire or at least interest in partaking in the technological advancements that are occurring around the world is surely now a must for all retailers. The ways in which devices are created to improve and deliver new and customized options that not only make the lives of sellers and staff easier but also enhance that of the consumer, are becoming more and more accessible, and 2018 marks a fantastic opportunity to explore which of those trends will be suitable for your business.