Guest Post: 7 Retail Shopping Technologies Setting Trends in 2023
The past few years have changed the way people shop, invariably changing how the retail industry operates. Some changes will stick and some will change. For instance, brick-and-mortar stalwarts are moving towards online shopping, while digitally native shoppers prefer a hybrid shopping experience.
But one thing is certain, traditional stores and online retailers are working towards the same goal: leverage technology to create a strong shopping experience. To be more responsive to changing environments, retailers can harness these upcoming technology trends as a core enabler for next-generation retail.
1) Higher Adoption of Retail Self-Service Kiosks
The ‘new normal’ has changed customer expectations in terms of self-service. Retail stores offer shopper assistance from their staff, but many shoppers would prefer complete autonomy in the shopping experience–from browsing products, adding items to the cart, and paying bills on unmanned counters.
Shoppers want to be able to walk in and out of a store and not interact with the sales staff if they don’t need help.
Digital self-service kiosks help retail shoppers to look up product information, scan prices and check whether the item they want is in stock–and order it if it’s unavailable. Installing self-service kiosks on the sales floor speed up the checkout process and deliver personalised promotional messages.
Additionally, retail self-service stations in kiosk mode software are gaining popularity and witnessing adoption due to the increasing emphasis to reduce labour costs and gaining customer traction.
2) Use of 5G to Integrate Online and Offline Shopping
Retailers have embraced Augmented Reality (AR) in their online stores. The use of AR will become more common in brick-and-mortar stores for customers to instantly access product information on their smartphones.
However, AR needs to process large volumes of data–product information and inventory levels–which needs low latency and high bandwidth networks. 5G will serve as an accelerator for technologies such as AR to transform the in-store customer experience in terms of engagement and personalization.
For instance, a customer uses the store’s AR app to open up a shopping list. The app transmits the list via 5G to a nearby MEC (multi-access edge computing) server, which quickly finds locations of available items and suggests alternatives for out-of-stock ones.
The app quickly identifies the optimum route in the store to gather items and at each stop gives the customer access to product info, ratings, recipes, and coupons. 5G technology can enable the fast transfer of rich information, making the shopping experience efficient and convenient.
On the other side of the counter, store managers can check near real-time inventory using RFID tags and 5G enabled mobile devices, helping them analyse trends to improve merchandising and optimise store layout.
3) Livestream Shopping Will Take-Off
Livestream shopping, or live shopping, provides retailers with the unique opportunity to demonstrate and sell products to an online audience in real-time. With more shoppers using their smartphones for everything from shopping, paying bills, and banking – live shopping is a trend to take off.
In China, live commerce has established itself as a major sales channel two years ago, especially in the apparel and fashion category. Live shopping is projected to hit $25 billion by 2023, according to Coresight Research, a firm that specialises in retail and technology. According to Mckinsey, if China’s experience is any guide, live commerce sales could account for as much as 10 to 20 percent of all e-commerce by 2026.
Walmart, the largest retailer in the U.S., has partnered with tech platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook to host live shopping events. Large corporations like to stay ahead of the competition, so when they see such a trend and invest, it tends to be something huge.
There are two main benefits merchants can hope to gain from implementing a successful live shopping strategy – more conversions and increased engagement. Due to the time-limited nature of live shopping, shoppers are driven to make impulse purchases, leading to a faster conversion journey from awareness to purchase.
These type of top e-commerce trends offers the following benefits:
Live shopping enables e-commerce merchants to demonstrate their offerings and enables customers to make purchases in real time.
Online video shopping is much more engaging compared to clicking and adding items to the shopping cart.
Using trust cues to display evaluations and suggestions helps overcome hesitant consumers to complete their orders.
Early adopters can differentiate themselves from the competition.
4) Blockchain Shopping Will Add More Trust
Blockchain is growing in popularity and has a lot of potential in the retail industry. Fortune business insights confirm that the global blockchain in the retail market is projected to grow from $172.2 million in 2021 to $2,082.8 million in 2028 at a CAGR of 42.8% in the forecast period.
It is one of the underlying technologies for Industry 4.0 and lays the foundation for a transparent, connected, and intelligent retail world. The technology works with QR codes or near-field communication (NFC) attached to products, tags, or labels.
French retailer Carrefour SA has seen an increase in sales by using blockchain ledger technology to track meat, milk, and fruit from farms to stores. Blockchain’s digital tracking technology allows shoppers to see detailed information on the produce like when it was harvested or packed.
The technology increases shopper confidence as blockchain verifies the authenticity and safety of the products.
5) Conversational AI Chatbots to Drive Sales
Artificial Intelligence (AI) aims to improve the retail experience through virtual assistants or conversational AI that solves problems for customers from anywhere. It can be a cost-effective option for stores that are not big enough to hire a full-time staff for customer service. Initially, most of the chatbot adoption will come from cost savings rather than revenue growth.
As per Juniper Research, retail sales from chatbot-based interactions are projected to double each year to $112 billion by 2023. Shoppers may be hesitant to use AI assistants at first, but as technology improves, acceptance will increase.
AI naturally dovetails with voice search. Over 20 percent of searches in the Google App are now done by voice. It shouldn't sound surprising since humans can speak much faster than they can type. As per Statista, By 2023, the number of voice assistants will reach 8 billion units. The count will even surpass the number of people living on the planet in the near future.
The growing popularity of smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home devices that rely on AI and natural language processing (NLP) technologies to handle chats is helping to familiarise millions of people with conversational commerce.
Virtual assistants should be capable of comprehending customer inquiries, retrieving solutions, and providing satisfactory results. This would imply that AI systems will be able to understand consumer patterns more quickly, recognise when a customer searches for particular items, and assist in making product recommendations tailored to that consumer.
6) BNPL: Opening Financing to Customers
Customers have specific needs when it comes to online payment methods, and might cancel a potential sale if they can't pay how they want on an e-commerce website.
Flying under the radar last year, Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is recording significant growth. BNPL has become a popular payment option among young shoppers as payment plans are easier to get approved than traditional credit cards or other lines of credit.
The popularity of BNPL among GenZ, young Millenials, and new-to-credit borrowers has prompted more retailers to make this financing option a part of their payment process. From larger retailers that are becoming more digital to small merchants competing to acquire customers, BNPL is supporting online retail.
More and more retailers will partner with high-quality BNPL solutions to anticipate consumer spending declines, thereby driving more conversions and high average order values. Popular BNPL apps include Afterpay, Affirm, Bill Me Later/PayPal Credit, FuturePay, and Klarna.
Merchants can experience cost reduction benefits from BNPL as well.
Fraud level: The BNPL provider takes the full risk of payment and lending.
Customer support: Customers have relationships with the BNPL provider and merchants. The providers have effective mobile apps and customer support teams who answer any questions related to the plan–payments, repayment details, and order details.
Managing returns: The status of returns and refund management is the responsibility of the BNPL provider, thereby reducing the burden on the retailer.
Besides costs, BNPL providers can also help retailers with valuable data to understand their target customer needs. Repeat purchases and in-app engagement can help merchants understand loyalty and customise products to match the buyer’s needs.
Providers can offer intelligence by aggregating data on past purchases, items viewed and saved, time spent on the checkout page, abandonment rates, tracking customer journeys when browsing the app, and social sharing.
7) VoIP Technology for Customer Care
Why use VoIP in retail? Here's a plausible scenario from the movie, The Intern, where Jules - the owner of the online store, answers a customer service call from a bride complaining that her bridesmaids' dresses are the wrong colour.
"...You have six bridesmaids, you ordered six of the silk chiffon Antoinette dresses in pink. The wedding is in three days and the dresses just arrived all in charcoal grey...I'm gonna call the vendor and have this fixed today...and I'll promise you they'll be at your front door by 9 AM by Friday..."
Crisis averted. Alleviating customer complaints over the phone makes people happy. Satisfied consumers tend to stick around, spend more, and share recommendations with others. With VoIP, customer service agents will be able to make phone calls and assist customers from any device. As per Salesforce's "State of Service" report, 89 per cent of service professionals say the phone will always have a customer service role.
VoIP will empower merchants to provide 24-7 customer support. Brands can operate customer service from different time zones for effective coverage. To ensure customers have a seamless experience, businesses can employ virtual phone numbers with prefixes, creating a positive impression that customer support is based in one location.
Generally, VoIP calls are more affordable than traditional landlines, resulting in cost savings. Voice calls become cheaper and the exorbitant prices of long-distance international calls are no longer a barrier to building a delightful customer experience.
Retail is a dynamic industry. With every passing year, Millennials and Gen Zers account for a large percentage of the target market. Digital natives and early adopters of technology make both generations accustomed to using digital services for convenience. Retailers don’t have to pursue every trend, but keeping an eye on changing business and technology environments will help attract younger consumers and maximize sales.
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