During the past three months at ClustaLabs I have thoroughly researched into how the retail industry has being influenced by the development of technology, but it is now time to utilise this research into creating innovative solutions for brands.
Shoppers are increasingly becoming more tech-savvy, expending more from retailers in regards to customer experience and deliverables. Retailers need to embrace new technologies; otherwise they are faced with the prospect of being left behind. Across the high street, Brick and Mortar stores are beginning to shut down due to rising costs, the recession, e-commerce and advances such as downloadable music/books putting retailers like HMV out of business.
So what does the high street need to do to get customers through their doors? They need to embrace in the technological world. Some retailers are already starting to use technology in and outside of the store, such as JC Penney’s, Nordstrom’s, Forever 21, Ralph Lauren and Burberry. projection mapping on the exterior of buildings, live streaming of London Fashion Week and interactive bill-boards.
However, small incremental changes can be the key to success, such as ‘tweet-mirrors’ that are used in high street retailers like Pilot and New Look, contactless, RFID tagging, apps and QR tagging.
So what do I think will be in the future for retail? There are various speculations about what technologies will be used in the future of retail and fashion stores. Some will build upon technological solutions that are in-store now, like gesture based window shopping and Augmented Reality, but how is this really helping the consumer and does this mean that people will have to wander around wearing augmented reality glasses all day?
Microsoft Office Labs called “2019″, star men, women and children playing with what they think will be the next-generation of communication, collaboration and production technologies. This includes a “transparent wall” between two classrooms around the world, animated drawings, real-time conversation translations, surface displays, electronic boarding cards, transparent displays, mini projectors and electronic newspapers.
Some believe that there will be a future made of glass, from when you wake up in the morning and your TV tells you the news to special greetings displays in shops, phones, touch-screen bus shelters and even across oven surfaces.
Others believe like Microsoft that augmented reality will be the next big thing in retail e.g. when you go into a supermarket, your shopping list will be projected in front of your eyes. It will be able to guide you around the store and say when stock levels are low. It may even be used to develop an instant social networking solution, virtually bring up information about the person you are talking to including stats, likes and dislikes.
We know that in the future, personalisation will be fundamental to consumers. This means that the retail industry will change from business to consumer to consumer to business. As you walk into a store, everything should be personalised to that person. This may be digital displays that are aimed specifically at an individual, kiosks that suggest clothes for you, technology that recognises age, gender and needs, but remember this information is for all retailers, not just fashion.
Yet, this is all still speculation! It might be an accurate representation on what is coming out over the following couple of years, but more importantly is the ability to understand what is available now. Security and comfort is clearly the number one issue for consumers, hence do people really want to give their fingerprint every time they go shopping or swipe their phone to pay? Will people trust this?
Lastly, retailers need to realise that to increase their brand value and name, they first need to understand the customer and provide solutions to their in-store problems. Hence, retailers have to now concentrate on Queues, Time, Mess, Information Search and Customer Service. No-one has really done anything to tackle these areas yet, why?