Thursday, May 14, 2015

Do New Technologies Mean the Beginning of a Utopian Retail World?

New technological innovations that are increasingly flooding the market are changing the way we live. Smart devices and the ever growing ease at which we can shop online are continuously pushing the need for retail innovation. Here are a few recent innovations that have caught my eye.

1.       Indoor Positioning Systems
Indoor positioning systems are something that have come about to seemingly counteract shoppers having to waste time searching aisle after aisle for exactly what they want. The system allows shoppers to plan routes prior to visiting the store. It also allows for the store to gather shopping preferences so the shopper can be sent coupons and promotions based on their route. Personally I believe whilst this system is good for shopping efficiency, it could detract from sales. Often shoppers see items that they didn’t plan on buying and make impulse purchases. This comes from browsing more of the store whilst searching for different things and specific routes could hinder this.

2.       Augmented Reality
Augmented reality systems allow consumers to virtually try on items that they are interested in purchasing. It combines the physical real world content with the digital world to give the consumer the opportunity to make a more informed decision. There are already technologies such as a makeup mirror that allows the customer to see what they would look like with different types and colours of makeup. There are also systems to show furniture within homes and even 3D body-scanning technology that gives clothes shoppers an idea of the fit as well as the look. Many of these systems will be able to offer advice on other similar products and give the opportunity to tweet and save pictures of how they look.

3.       Interactive Touch Screens
Touchscreens have become a prominent part of today’s world. iPads especially are becoming commonly used and more affordable. Retailers are experimenting on using touchscreen technology in order to digitally enhance showrooms to serve as physical storefronts for online retail operations. Wall mounted touchscreens free up store space and provide consumers with a vast array of information such as price comparison, reviews and images. It allows for purchases to be sent to the counter for pickup or to be sent to a specific location.

Other new innovations include Virtual Reality systems that allow to venture into digital shops and browse unlimited store items. Another is Visual Recognition software that allows consumers to snap photos of items and it will be recognized. The recognized item will then be matched to product availability and pricing at nearby stores.

These new innovations mean that retail will become a lot easier and consumers will be able to make more informed decisions. My interest going forward in the retail world is whether the technologies mentioned could be incorporated together. Augmented and virtual reality combined with systems that allow to send the purchases straight to a home could spell a decline in the need for physical stores. Shoppers would be able to shop from the comfort of their sofa at home. However this utopian idea could still be well in the future, but not entirely unlikely with the advancements that are continuously being made.

About the Author: Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at  

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