How the current market is shaping technology in retail this year
Huge tech showcases like the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and National Retail Federation (NRF) 2023: Retail’s Big Show kicked off this and gave insight into the top trends we can expect for retail tech in 2023.
Tailoring the “new” customer journey
Amidst rising inflation and economic uncertainty, conscious consumers are redefining their retail habits. Purchases are being scrutinized more heavily— online price comparison and testing items in-store being just two examples.
Due to these consumer behaviors, Forbes stresses the big role omnichannel retail, and subsequently omnichannel personalization, will play this year. Personalizing the customer experience has been a major retail theme for years, but now, retailers are tasked with ensuring that the personal experience is consistent across channels.
Technology that tracks customer interactions across channels is helping top retailers keep their customer experience personal and consistent no matter how they shop. The rise of digital client books and omnichannel customer profiles gives store teams insight into what the customer purchased online last year, which colors they like best, even last week’s SMS message which can help them tailor the experience.
Embracing artificial intelligence
Unsurprisingly, the use of AI is one of the biggest tech trends we’ll see in retail this year. AI has many use cases in the retail space from back of house scheduling and diagnostics to customer-facing interactive displays like chatbots. Two key areas we will see AI take off are in inventory and checkout.
AI has been instrumental in helping retailers manage, organize, and view their inventory. Using machine learning, some retailers are opting to digitize their entire inventory which allows them to quickly classify new lines and products into the appropriate categories for quick look up. Other retailers are piloting the use of inventory estimators, which allow customers to see if an item is in stock before they head for the store. With these new technologies, it’s important to ensure that store teams have access to all the same data in order to best serve customers.
Checkout is also getting a major face-lift this year thanks to AI. Nielsen data indicates that the number one frustration for shoppers is having to stand in long lines to checkout. Cashierless stores with AI-driven self checkout are a popular option for reducing wait times, though rolling these out has been slow coming. For retailers who are hesitant to deploy cashierless stores, other checkout solutions like mobile POS can help eliminate long lineups without the need for a whole slew of bulky, expensive hardware.
Rethinking the role of the associate
In addition to altering customer behaviors, inflation has also forced retailers to rethink their spending. The retail industry often takes the hardest hit when the economy experiences disruptions. Bankruptcies, budget cuts, and layoffs loom at the back of retailers’ minds causing them to rethink how to best deploy their workers.
Although stores are rapidly adopting AI, human employees still play a vital role in the customer experience and the business overall. We’re going to see the role of the store associate go beyond stocking shelves and into the realm of driving business. Afterall, they know their customers on a deeper level than any other role because of the interactions they have.
“Ripple effects from the Great Resignation will force retailers and brands to invest more heavily – and more strategically – in automation in 2023.” — Brendan Witcher, VP Principal Analyst Forrester
Retailers are going to be seeking out technology that will support their associates in this new role. Many of these technologies will focus on automation for tasks like digital client books and inventory management as discussed above. Associates who are distracted by operational noise cannot devote 100% of their time to driving sales. Automation helps associates keep their attention on the customer.
All in all, retailers can expect some big market changes this year that will force them to adapt and evolve the way they carry out business. With so much overhanging uncertainty, ensuring there are supports and systems in place to offset that needs to be retailers number one focus.
Contact us today to see how Tulip can empower your stores by setting a new omnichannel standard.