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Comment: Keeping up with the continuous retail tech buzz

Shoppers are more demanding, empowered and knowledgeable than ever before, a trend that isn’t set to reverse. Retailers must continue to deliver for their customers. Dynamism, agility, connectivity, engagement and sociability should be the primary considerations. As Generation Zs are set to become the next purchasing generation, the most successful future brands will be those that understand how to tap into this new generation's attention span.

The personal touch has also been the epitome of a positive shopping experience and this will be taken to the next level with on-demand, on-screen marketing materials tailored to the individual. By checking into stores, profiles on product preferences, lifestyle choices and previous purchases will bring instant retailing to the fore. Giving each customer a personalised set of offerings and prices lends itself to the idea of each shopper as a guest, improving their in-store experience and improving service. This, teamed with till-free, instant payments will make the experience faster and bespoke.

Shopfloor layouts that reflect the pace of customers’ lifestyles will also evolve. In addition to merchandising that will alter depending on the time of day and the individual shopper, 3D printing will allow store design to change on a daily basis, creating a dynamic, exciting environment that shoppers can feel drawn into. 3D printing technology will even be used to allow shoppers to collaborate with brands, creating bespoke products that meet the specific needs of the consumer.

Social media, already an important tool in marketing, is used by many shoppers to seek advice from friends and followers. The signals point to this developing into brands and retailers using full-blown live digital streaming of advertising. Engaging in real time with customers, strong visuals will provide guidance and feedback on products. It goes without saying that print advertising, as it exists today, will be consigned to the past.

Currently, the average consumer knows relatively little about their purchases. In addition to live streaming, the expansion in use of RFID technology will see products chipped so that details, such as heritage and provenance, can be used by shoppers to make a more informed decision. Savvy shoppers will have all the information they could possibly need, and the smartest retailers will be those who meet this demand for richer information.

Although not a specifically technological point, a major concern for Generation Z is a sense of community and working towards causes. The importance of sharing experiences may be something that retailers could use to engage with their customers. By broadening their remit, customers not only buy goods but utilise their time to help others. Stores would become multi-functional, with sharing hubs where customers could give their time in a community-orientated space.

Implementing technological advances will radically change the retail landscape, making the shopping experience fruitful for customers and brands alike. The future of retail is something that is set to accelerate at an unprecedented rate – it will be a race to see which retailers take the lead.

Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, will be writing a regular Essential Retail column on in-store technology and the wider retail landscape.

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