2016 was quite a rollercoaster for retailers: Magento 2.0 was released, the ‘Internet-of-Things’ escaped the clutches of science fiction and became more reality, and omnichannel retail became an increasingly important term for retailers to consider. While each of these changes sounded exciting to the average person, they were viewed with trepidation by retail professionals, as with each opportunity comes a host of new issues, such as the need to upgrade one’s IT infrastructure to cater for these growing trends.
This blog covers what upcoming retail technology has in store for retailers this year, so that readers can prepare their infrastructure to live up to the modern standard for seamless customer experience.
Supermarkets have been at the forefront of retail automation for years, ever since the advent of self-serve tills. Amazon, however, seem to regard even this innovation as old fashioned; for they have done away with checkout tills altogether with Amazon Go – the supermarkets of the future.
Picture this: customers walk in, pick up their desired grocery items, and then leave. No scanning, no payment; nothing. To the untrained eye, it may look like petty thievery has taken an upswing. Not so, as Amazon monitors which visitors enter the store, and what items they have on them when they leave. The bill is then tallied and automatically charged to one’s Amazon account.
While it will be a while before this filters into the mainstream, it will inevitably create an expectation among consumers that they should be able to walk into any store and leave without wasting time queuing, scanning and paying. This move towards brick-and-mortar may also indicate that Amazon sensed that high street shopping is far from dead and buried.
Many retailers will have to factor this in when formulating their long-term strategies, as well as assess whether their current IT infrastructure is up to the challenge.
The Cloud was at one point seen as the promised land by IT experts. Now, however, we seem to be over the honeymoon period as an epiphany has been reached: The Cloud comes with its own drawbacks which most did not foresee. Many businesses focused on the short-term cost saving of the Cloud, whilst neglecting to factor the long-term costs, which tend to add up over time. In addition, many business leaders are realizing that the upshot of the Cloud is that you put all your eggs in one basket – a failure in the Cloud, or in one’s connection to it, can render all your branches non-functional, leading to frustrated customers and loss in revenue.
Therefore, many businesses are returning their data back to on-premise. This has created a need for hybrid IT: combining the advantages and simplicity of Cloud with the security, reliability and sovereignty of on-premise.
Scalable Customer Personalization
How do you coax consumers away from the convenience of online shopping? By promising them a personalized experience if they come to one of your brick-and-mortar stores. A growing number of retailers are looking into providing such experiences for their customers. The latest example being homeware retailer Crate + Barrel, who hand out tablets to each visitor, who can then proceed to scan products with the device to see additional information. Such a move has re-invigorated the ‘Research Online; Buy Offline’ model.
The fear of accidentally buying counterfeit designer labels is a common worry among fashion and art consumers. This fear may become a thing of the past, however, as a fashion startup utilized Blockchain technology to create a system in which a chip implanted in each garment communicates with clothing items, smartphones and in-store devices to authenticate themselves. While the technology is still in its early days, the startup demonstrated that it is effective, and could be rolled out within the next few years.
No blog post about new retail technology would be complete without mentioning drones. And yet, for all the hype, most people wouldn't envisage that drones will be utilized much outside of Amazon's novelty Air.Surely, no other businesses are bothering to invest in drones, right?
Wrong. While drone delivery was previously seen as somewhat obscure among the business community, more are beginning to move up to this level of automation. The latest being Just Eat using drones to deliver take-away in certain areas. This will likely raise the bar for customer expectations, as drones begin to outperform humans at delivery.
The Increasing Need for Versatile IT Systems
All of the innovations above are brilliant, and will certainly open up yet even more opportunities for the modern day retailer. With these benefits, however, come the need for an IT system that is sufficiently powerful and versatile to provide a modern day omnichannel retail experience.
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