Retail is suffering. Retailers need to find new ways to keep up with shoppers in the digital age. The omnichannel shopper, as they've come to be known, doesn't have loyalty to a particular retailer and wants a seamless shopping experience across their many devices, on and offline. Following are six retail innovations that will change how consumers shop and how retail does business.
1. Virtual Reality Shopping
Forbes claims virtual reality will save retail. More and more retailers are finding ways to integrate VR technology into the everyday sales experience. Yihaodian, a province in China, has created virtual reality stores out of open public spaces. Customers simply point their phones at the designated areas, and virtual stores with fully stocked shelves appear for their browsing and buying. The downside is that VR is expensive to set up and is a very location-specific experience in a time when consumers are looking for more flexibility in their shopping options.
2. Visual Search
Visual search is an integral part of an omnichannel retail strategy. With visual search, consumers can take a picture of any product, search for it in a visual search engine and find the retailers, online and off, where they can purchase the item. Known as one of the "holy grails of tech development," visual search seeks to change how we source and buy items we love. Enter Camfind, the Google of visual search. Their visual search engine is a market leader, delivering search results 100 percent of the time. They currently have over 1,500 developers using their API, CloudSight, and that number is only expected to increase in coming years.
3. Augmented Reality Shopping
Instead of using expensive VR equipment, augmented reality uses the cameras on consumers' phones or tablets to allow them to virtually visualize products before they buy. Cimagine, a company at the forefront of AR technology, allows customers to use the cameras on their phone or other devices to scan a particular area and see what an item will look like in that space, without ever visiting a store. The technology appeals to the omnichannel shopper, as it works across devices and retailers so long as the retailer has Cimagine's technology integrated into their online or printed catalog.
4. 3D-Printed Clothing
3D-printed clothes in the past were hard, unmovable and mostly unwearable. However, Nervous, the Boston-based design and technology studio, is pushing the current boundaries of 3D-printed clothing with their Kinematics Petals dress. Made in two pieces, the dress moves away from the "tessellated pattern" of most 3D-printed garments and instead consists of a rounded petal design that moves and flows like traditional clothing.
5. Connected Shopping Bags
Adobe's vision of retail's future includes RFID chip-enabled shopping bags that let consumers buy items by placing their bag on a checkout counter. One version of the shopping bag created by Twyst automatically charges shoppers for the contents of their bag when they leave a store. Another version involves the use of two bags. Once you remove the smaller chip-enabled bag from the larger one, a purchase is made. Ultimately, the technology allows the bag to handle the transactions for consumers, leading to a smooth shopping experience.
6. Connected Stores
Connected stores give consumers a seamless shopping experience across multiple devices, online and offline, using RFID, augmented reality and other technologies. Rebecca Minkoff's flagship store in New York fully embraces the new omnichannel reality. It has connected dressing rooms with special mirrors that suggest complementary pieces of clothing to what customers are trying on. If the customer is unsure of an item, they can save their dressing room session to an app and purchase the item later online or in store. The entire experience is designed to cater to customers wherever they are and on whatever device they are using.