Why investing in wearables could be the key to retail success

Amid the throes of a pandemic, it’s unlikely that hoards of people will be hitting the street in search of retail therapy anytime soon. But, with high street footfall (online and off) quickly depleting, now is the time for bricks-and-mortar retailers to build upon, and finely tune, the competitive differentiation they already have – and ready themselves to compete with the online giants once normality resumes.

And that differentiation is undoubtedly going to be the customer experience. From store staff who know their customers’ needs best, to the joys of window shopping and trying on clothes in plush changing rooms, there’s no doubt that high street stores outrank their online rivals when it comes to the overall shopping experience.

So, what next? Other than free coffees and a personal shopper, what else can retailers do to enhance the customer experience even more? Well, investing in technology might just be the answer.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

It seems that with every passing day, technology gets smaller, more affordable and built into more objects. People carry computers in their bags, pockets and wrists, not to mention the technology being built into clothes themselves and as part of day-to-day objects.

In fact, according to Juniper Research, the number of IoT devices will reach 38.5bn in 2020; that is a lot of devices connected to the internet, relaying information back to their individual motherships.

When it comes to retail, these connected devices can help to provide great personalised experiences in store that are powered by data. For starters, using connected devices effectively will free up staff to provide a higher level of customer service – which is often why consumers travel to the high street in the first place.

Smarter, better, faster, stronger

We should expect to see more and more smart devices in stores over the coming months. Smart devices can enable staff to check on back room stock in real time or even in other stores, meaning shop assistants need never leave the customer’s side. And that will be key to developing and maintaining customer relationships and brand loyalty.

The same can be said too for the use of voice-activated technology, which store staff could use just as quickly, conveniently and effectively, to check for stock and sizes. For example, giving staff smart watches that can be used to check stock amongst other things, is most effective when using a voice interface.

For all of this to work together seamlessly, however, retailers need to think about how they can enable real-time stock checks to track items which will then inform the tech and help the brand better deliver a stellar or unique experience. You are starting to see this happen already with some retailers – not to mention the use of more sophisticated radio frequency identification (RFID) in store.

Radio frequency identification (RFID)

A handful of stores are already experimenting with various types of technology, with some using RFID technology tags instead of barcodes to make daily stock checks faster and more effective. One benefit this brings is the quick and efficient data capturing for intelligent asset tracking and management which, again, frees up store staff to help customers improve the overall shopping experience.

There are already great examples of the use of RFID in stores, where the technology is being used to have a much more accurate understanding of what is in specific stores in real time. Without RFID, a retail business storing millions of pounds’ worth of goods would see much more annual stock loss. After all, businesses typically conduct an asset inventory once a year – which takes staff several days to complete – and then relies on those numbers for the rest of the year to represent what should be in the warehouse. 

Before long, absolutely everything is going to have a chip in it in one form or another. And physical stores need to keep ahead of the curve if they hope to make the most of the changing business landscape.