Amongst the various industries affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, retail has particularly taken a massive hit. Fortunately, retail technology has acted as the last straw that has kept the industry afloat to a point where companies are now finding their footing. But what lies in store ahead? Here is a round-up of the retail tech trends in 2021 that are welcoming some happier times:
The year 2020 marked the coming of age of retail technology as it entered maturity. We saw the widespread adoption and implementation of technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Robotics and Automation, IoT, etc., in the retail arena.
While these digital retail trends sustained the growth of online stores, they also breathed a new life into offline stores. The integration of the two vastly different selling channels gave rise to the “click and mortar” mode of operation.
Vendors could orchestrate a rich, interactive, and interconnected customer experience by connecting their online and offline presence. It added a layer of uniformity across the stores, regardless of the channel.
So whether you talk about pop-up retail stores or eCommerce websites, 2021 will see a greater footprint across many verticals.
Avatar Based Selling
The digital revolution in retail has seen a rise in the use of Virtual AI Avatars. This digital twin understands customer preferences and provides personalized AI powered recommendations. This experience is unique to each customer as the AI powered avatar analyzes and understands every individual’s purchase behavior. This has proven to be profitable for the brand as it drives customer loyalty.
These Virtual Avatars help customers to engage with your brand and products 24X7. It also adapts to changing customer information during the process in order to give better responses as they have the ability to learn from previous interactions.
Retail businesses have been on the customer-centric track for a while now. Whether online or offline, personalizing the shopping experience has been the number one priority for all merchants regardless of their wares.
The penetration of technology within the retail industry has made it more customer-friendly. The AI and Big Data pair have made advanced analytics possible, laying the groundwork for the future tech trends of 2021.
Using the inputs gained from the vast and expansive retail industryinformation and analysis, companies can understand customer behavior, maintain inventory, streamline logistics, and increase sales. They can even leverage it to enhance customer engagement and transform their physical outlets into experience centers. Regardless of the decisions that businesses take, if it is based on solid data, it will deliver outstanding results that can help achieve goals & earn customer loyalty.
A few years ago, Amazon and Walmart were a few of the first stalwarts to introduce the concept of self-service kiosks. This pivot from the traditional shopping experience triggered a new wave of retail industry trends revolving around self-servicing. The popularity of self-service kiosks in retail business has sky-rocketed since the COVID-19 outbreak.
As buyers attempted to minimize contact with people and their surroundings, the safety and convenience of self-service kiosks appeared more appealing. Additionally, these facilities offer additional benefits in the form of improved customer experience and shorter wait times. For businesses, it translates to increased profitability, decreased transaction times, and fewer staff requirements.
Self-servicing would be one of the most defining retail trends in 2021.
AR VR Powered Shopping Experiences
Augmented reality and Virtual reality are no more a thing of the future, as most brands are using these technologies in full-flow. Customers now have the capability of visualizing products in their own homes and they also can receive a price on the go. This simplifies the decision making process of a customer & ensures accurate purchase.
For example, the furniture & décor industry offers a certain AR application that allows the shopper to scan their space and virtually try different pieces of furniture in real time. Various brands Hulu, IKEA are introducing VR technology, where customers can visualize the infrastructure of a space & can also explore the interiors.
The Dark Store Rises
Micro-fulfillment centers or dark stores have been one of the quietest yet most rapidly growing retail industry trends. Dark Stores are essentially mini supermarkets, but they are closed off to the general public. They primarily serve the purpose of fulfilling online orders, making home deliveries, or curbside pickups.
Major companies such as Walmart, Stop & Shop, Albertson, Hy-Vee, Meijer, and others are using this model to keep up with the latest technology trends. The automation of these facilities through retail technology could help businesses scale up effortlessly without compromising on profitability or occupying excess labor.
Voice bots & Chatbots
The use of voice-based chatbot is becoming increasingly popular as various companies are adopting it to be on top of the competition. These bots can replicate an experience similar to that of a physical store by enabling a real time conversation support via text or speech.
Chatbots & voice bots can get more work done with good response rate and can attend to customers queries at any point of the day. Having a 24/7 functionality, these bots are trained to provide a highly personalized product recommendation suiting to the customers taste and preference.
Thus voice bots and chatbots provides a superior & efficient customer service & also enhances the overall customer engagement.
Immersive Social Selling
Parallel retail stores in the form of social media-driven stores, such as Instagram Store or Facebook Marketplace, gained a lot of traction in 2020. Hence, it comes as no surprise that this pattern will continue as one of the retail trends in 2021, as well.Complementing these efforts, the retail business industry also saw brands roping in social media influencers to market or sell their products. However, in a turn of events, the online shopping trends of 2021 will see companies inclining towards nano-influencers rather than investing in the big shots.
What does remain unchanged is the fact that videos would continue to reign supreme as the most-preferred content form for sales and marketing. The stellar growth of apps like TikTok has spurred the trend of short, bite-sized video clips to capture audiences.
From the above retail industry trends, it is evident that the future is shifting towards digitization, contactless, high-tech experience. The retail business is now all about the buyer’s journey rather than clinching sales. Embracing these changes will only make your business more agile, adaptable, and resilient to help your organization thrive.