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2019 Retail Tech Trends: in-store technology

The retail market is an increasingly competitive one with high street brands fighting it out between themselves, desperately trying to find a foothold against the growing dominance of internet retailers. Some say it’s a losing battle and the latest data around declining footfall and falling store revenues certainly seems to support that. But it’s a battle nonetheless and retailers are doing all they can to stay relevant and remain on the high street. But what is it that’s going to give them the advantage? Customer experience? In-store technology? Collaborations with brands or other retailers? Personalisation? Or is it something else entirely?

It’s likely to be a combination of many, if not all, of these elements. But technology is likely to play a decisive role in one of retail’s biggest and most concerning issues, declining footfall. Online shopping may offer shoppers choice and convenience, but let’s not forget that it’s enabled by technology. But moving forward, it’s perhaps this same sentiment that can make in-store shopping more attractive.

Nowadays, shoppers need a reason to visit a store. For many, this is about more than just discounts (which they can get online) and proximity (the smartphone is never far away). Retailers need to make the shopping experience easy, from walking in and finding what they want, to paying for it quickly and easily, and being tempted to return – ultimately aligning it to the online experience.

Technology is often the answer. But not just the latest innovations being touted as the next best thing, but also practical technologies that can empower shoppers and staff and streamline the in-store experience.

Within the store, this can include digital signage and digital displays. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but combine them with multifunctional self-service kiosks and they can significantly improve efficiency. Especially within fashion outlets and department stores. Not only can they help shoppers find what they’re looking for, but they can be used to check stock levels, and select click and collect or home delivery options. But increasingly, these devices can be used for even more, for example, visualising what a particular outfit looks like matched with certain accessories.

This ties back to the idea of experiential retail and making shopping more experience-driven. Many retailers are focusing in on this concept in various forms, much of it enabled by technology. And it’s certainly something we’ll be seeing more of in 2019.

Then there’s the checkout process. Eliminating queues or minimising wait times by having more staff circulating in-store with tablets and mobile POS systems (think about Apple’s store staff armed with iPads) is a good place to start. This is especially beneficial over busy periods (such as Black Friday or Christmas) or during sales events. We’ll be seeing more of this in the next year, and not necessarily just in fashion or electronics stores, but across a number of retail verticals, in an effort to serve customers more quickly and effectively on the shop floor.  

At the point of sale itself, technology behind the scenes can help personalisation efforts tremendously. Data captured at the point of sale can be used to return offers, discounts and value-added information - all in real time - based upon shoppers’ past purchase behaviour or basket contents. Again, this kind of technology will be used more and more next year, especially outside of the more obvious places like supermarkets, where it’s been used for some time already.

It’s difficult to predict accurately what’s ahead for retail. But we can expect the retail landscape to change and to continue to do so. As retailers scramble to gain a foothold in a rapidly-shifting market, they’ll turn to a number of approaches – some new, some tried and trusted – with technology playing a leading role. The aim? To improve competitiveness, increase customer footfall, and ultimately drive retention.

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