Emerging Retail Technologies: Why 2021 gives us all something to be excited about

We all have many reasons to be both anxious and excited about what the retail and hospitality industry has in store for us in 2021. 2020, for many, has been a difficult year, especially for the services industry.

We know that retail and specifically retail technology has been developing for some time. New technological advances in retail technology, have all placed a stronger emphasis on improving efficiencies, saving money, providing better products and services, and making customers' lives better.

During the 1st lockdown in March 2020, many retail businesses started to utilise the time they had available, where a large proportion, if not all of their stores, were closed, to rollout the latest retail technology.

Retail technology trends have been developing across the retail industry for some time, with the sole aim of improving the customer experience. It’s safe to say that catering for each and every customer from generation Z, through to baby boomers, is a complicated and time-consuming task, which often requires significant investment and deep knowledge and understanding of your entire customer base.   

Today’s retail customer is more knowledgeable about your products and services than ever before, this is largely down to the internet, with readily available information, product updates and reviews. It is now understood that over 80% of your customers will conduct research online, prior to making a purchase in-store.

With the understanding that your customers will research your products and services prior to purchasing in-store, you know that the journey often begins online.

Not only do customers utilise information online, but they are also highly influenced by social media. Most social media and online channels aim to prompt, encourage, and engage an online audience to take immediate action; whether buying a product, subscribing to their newsletter or downloading a discount coupon, retail brands need to utilise all the technology available to them, in order to compete with all the noise online and provide a personalised service to their target customer and audience.

With all the research conducted over the last five years, we have noticed a common trend amongst those retail brands who have embraced technological innovation in comparison to those who haven’t. What is apparently clear is that if you are a retail brand and you have failed to adopt new technology, that will lead to giving your customers a better experience both in-store and online, you will simply be left behind.

2021 is set to be a record year of retail technological innovation, where some of the biggest retail brands will be influenced and highly encouraged to test and roll out the latest technology, providing that the technology will be both (COVID-19) safe and pleasing to the customer's experience.

One technology predicted to be very popular is virtual mirrors. Virtual mirrors will allow customers to explore clothing or other apparel, by using augmented virtual reality that is highly interactive and adds both value and excitement, to the retail experience.

Even before COVID-19, long queues not only frustrated customers and retail associates, they also cost the retailer sales revenue.  

Queue busting technology, for example, has been embraced by many retail and hospitality brands, which have helped them meet the growing demands that COVID-19 restrictions have placed on them, most notably, grocery retailers, such as supermarkets. Que busting is renownedly known to help retailers keep queues short, and their customers satisfied.

Many retailers have been utilising mobile and table EPOS technology for a few years now, which has been pivotal in reducing long, frustrating queues in-store.  

Being able to directly support your customers with tablet and mobile EPOS technology can not only reduce waiting times but can be highly profitable too. The less your customers have to wait, the quicker you can get revenue into the business.

KFP has supported many retail and hospitality brands with flexible EPOS IT solutions over the years, and we would highly recommend that customers deploy shop floor based EPOS technology, to both reduce the cost to the store, the demands on customers and employees and also improve the experience for the customer, once retail stores are fully open again.      

Supermarkets, in particular, have implemented personalised apps in order to support increasing queues that are a result of customers shopping more often than before, due to COVID-19.

We know that retail is enduring a transformation like no other, in both the European and US retail marketplace. Retailers will be aiming to capitalise on customer loyalty and service deliverable technology, as the fierce competition with the online digital giants in 2021 onwards, is expected to surge.

As technology advances, so does the customer expectation.

Technology is not only pivotal to delivering an exceptional customer experience, it is vital in freeing up retail staff in-store.

One of the biggest challenges that retail store associates face is that as a result of reduced staff resourcing, they are often under-resourced and under pressure, to deal with urgent customer queries, product complaints, and customer feedback, all of which technology helps to automate.   

Technology will be key to dealing with the major frustrations of both retail employees and their customers.

One of the main concerns both retail and hospitality brands face is the growing frustration of poor product availability. This is less of a direct problem in hospitality, but in retail, when a customer enters the store and wants to purchase something, but the stock is neither available or in their size, the retailer faces losing that customer to a competitor, even with brand loyalty, extremely frustrated customers, will simply go elsewhere.

When you look at what most customers want from their in-store experience, they will say product availability and accuracy, which are both key to delivering a leading customer service. If a customer sees that the pair of jeans they want is available in size L men’s, but they get to your store, and only size M is available, then the quality of service starts to break-down.  

What will shoppers expect from retail in 2021?

One thing is abundantly clear, your customers will expect technology to play an increasingly bigger role in the in-store experience, most likely through the use of smartphone technology.

By 2025, it’s projected that with less retail store associates, technology will be the leader in delivering automated processes where virtual assistants and virtual reality technology will take over.

How can retailers grow brand loyalty, when their customers are empowered with so many choices?   

We know that customers are empowered with choice, meaning they can go to a different retail store or simply shop around online. With this in mind, the pressure is now on for retailers post-COVID-19, to provide and deliver a unique and personalised in-store experience, which keeps their customers coming back for more.  

With all this talk of customer experience, see some of the examples of retail technologies that are set to advance the retail industry forward in 2021.

Extended Reality

Extended reality is a combination of both virtual and augmented reality, which provides customers with the option to browse products and try them on using a virtual app. It will also give customers the option to share their experience with other users.

Extended reality works to provide customers with additional information when browsing for products.

Here’s an example of Living Wine Labels, which allows brands such as Chateau St. Jean’s Chardonnay and Chateau St. Jean’s Sparkling Brut Blanc de Blancs to bring the user interesting and informative AR content, such as showing the history of the Vinyard the wine came from or supplying tasting notes for the wine.

Extended reality is not only brilliant in sharing AR product content, but it is also great for shopping amongst all the COVID-19 restrictions, by limiting the need of touching items that the customer is not going to buy.   

Predictive Analytics (Big Data) 

Retail and hospitality businesses all have this big problem, ‘big data’. The problem is not always with the capture of customer data, but more an issue of analysing it and using the data to solve problems or create new solutions to problems across the omnichannel.

Predictive analytics changes a lot of that. Now retail and hospitality brands can be proactive about the merchandising, marketing of new products, and utilising their data, to better understand their customers’ behaviour.

When retailers successfully analyse their big data, they are able to personalise the shopping experience, address consumer’s needs based on where they are in the customer journey, improve efficiencies and reduce the cost of their supply chain.

Predictive analytics help retailers’ become smarter, more efficient, and helps them provide a better overall service.

Recommendation Engines

Recommendation engines are a powerful and highly effective tool in helping retail customers find items that they possibly never knew they wanted or even needed at a given time.

This technology is particularly important to online e-commerce brands, but can also be utilised across the omnichannel, when a customer purchases in-store, the technology can be used to recommend similar products based on the customer's last purchase.  

The more data the algorithms have to assess a customer’s shopping behaviour, the better the recommendations. Online retailers get to benefit from higher cart sales and improved customer satisfaction thanks to recommendation automation.

Most of the popular online retail brands do this very well already, Amazon is a great example of this.

Order Fulfilment Automation  

It is predicted that by 2030, there will be hundreds, even thousands of order fulfilment robots who are highly automated in fulfilling large customer orders.

A lot of the larger retailer’s, especially those operating in apparel fashion, will benefit from automated robotic technology to fulfil large orders and support peak retail trading periods.

We know that next day delivery is a growing expectation, especially with the popularity of ‘amazon prime’.

Many retail brands are set to be adjusting to the “Amazon Effect”, and are exploring order fulfilment automation to try to increase the speed and flexibility of operations in order to compete, whilst reducing significantly high costs, associated order processing times.

Facial Recognition 

Facial recognition technology has actually been on the market for some time. With many of the world’s most successful retailers having both online and offline presences. Facial recognition technology is largely used to help retailers proactively battle shrinkage.

Facial recognition technology can not only be highly effective in reducing shrinkage, but it can also bring the personalised online shopping experience back to the brick-and-mortar stores.

When a customer is identified through facial recognition technology, the store staff can better respond to that customer’s unique needs. There is, however, a legal and privacy concern, especially with GDPR. What we’ve seen over the last four years, is the growing popularity and many advantages for retailers, who have adopted facial recognition technology as part of their customer service and satisfaction strategy.

Inventory Management

With the growing popularity of automated warehousing, inventory management technology is improving both inventory control, and accuracy, in real-time. This gives not only the retailer, but it’s customers a first-hand view of product availability in-store.

As opposed to waiting for manual inventory updates, smart robotics and computer systems can keep reliable stock data in real-time, across your entire business. This accurate data helps retailers manage stock flow, make solid predictions, smart decisions, and ultimately improve forecasting, that could help improve the retailer's bottom line.

Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Retail Technology

The Internet of Things and smart retail technology could transform the entire shopping experience. With all the volume of data that retailers have available to them, and the ability to process it, retail and hospitality businesses can now provide consumers with personalised shopping experience’s that were not possible, 10-15 years ago.  

Today’s consumers will want a different experience in-store than they have been accustomed to. As retail technology develops, and improved voucher and loyalty schemes become more advanced, the retail that we know today, is going to be 10 times better from 2021 onwards, simply down to retail technological innovation.

2021 is going to be an exciting year!

At KFP, we’re always striving to give our customers, viewers, and competitors, something different to read. We take personalisation seriously at KFP and hope our content creates value and an important discussion point.

If you are a retailer or hospitality business and want to speak with a member of the team about your options for technology implementation in-store, then you’ve come to the right place.

Speak with our expert team today:  

sales@kfpit.com | +44 (0) 1235 539101 | www.kfpit.com