Within less than a decade, technology has revolutionized the retail sector. Today's advanced technologies, in particular, are having a significant impact on components such as ecommerce platforms, digital marketing and payment systems. Here's an overview of technological breakthroughs that retailers can expect in the near future.
Automated Payment Systems
Studies show that 57 percent of transactions conducted in Canada are made without cash. Likewise, these same studies show that customers around the world are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of a cashless society. Interestingly, however, cashless doesn't mean faceless; rather, retailers will increasingly rely upon face prints, thumbprints and voice recognition for identification purposes.
Likewise, while credit cards are still the preferred method of cashless payment, mobile phone apps such as Apple Pay are already gaining in popularity. According to a study released in 2018 by Statista, 45 percent of affluent consumers said they use mobile wallet apps. With numbers like these, experts predict that consumers may soon rush to replace their bulky cash wallets with mobile ones.
Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots
Thanks to Amazon's Echo and Apple's Siri, millions of consumers are already enjoying the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) in their homes. Now, ecommerce solutions are being updated to incorporate even more AI components into the online shopping experience. Marketers are already utilizing advanced AI technology and machine learning strategies to identify consumer demographics and create highly-segmented, customized marketing campaigns aimed at target audiences. Likewise, AI technologies are also helping brick and mortar stores not only identify inventory demand and determine customer preference, but also improve upon customer service strategies. Likewise, chatbots have become an indispensable part of online customer service for ecommerce stores.
Drone and Robotic Implementation
Amazon has recently made headlines by announcing plans for drone delivery within the next few years; and experts are already anticipating the advent of drone-based delivery systems on a more widespread scale in the near future.
Likewise, robotics have increasingly become a key component of retail fulfilment systems. For example, in 2016 Canada's Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) unveiled a state-of-the-art robotic system in its fulfillment division. Today, the company uses 300 robots to store and retrieve items from its warehouses.
Retail robotics can serve other purposes as well. In 2017, a fleet of 20 autonomous robots was utilized in Washington, DC to deliver takeout food from restaurants to homes. Created by Estonian-based Starship Technologies, these knee-high delivery bots aren't remote controlled; rather, they utilize GPS, sensors and cameras to navigate the sidewalks. These robotic delivery units are already popular with customers because they keep delivery costs down to less than a dollar (and negate the necessity for tipping). Plus, they're equipped to take photos of anyone who tries to steal from them.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
With the debut of Pokemon Go in 2016, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) went mainstream in a big way, engaging millions of players worldwide. In many ways, the blockbuster game awakened retailers to the potential of VR and AR within the retail sector as well. Today, a number of stores -- including Lowe's and Ikea -- have already begun using VR and AR technologies to enable customers to visualize how furniture and accessories will fit within their own home settings. Lowe's has even installed VR rooms where customers can create 3-D mockups of their home renovation ideas.
Ultimately, advanced technologies such as robotics, drones, virtual/augmented reality and artificial intelligence will impact retail in a number of significant ways. In the near future, we'll not only see a virtually cashless society; we'll also experience firsthand the convenience of robotic delivery, the efficiency of chatbot customer service and the effectiveness of VR/AR tools in making purchasing decisions. In addition, these components will also eliminate the concept of distance, as consumer goods are brought even more swiftly into our own home orbit.
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