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 hkempe@IIRUSA.com.