Transforming retail with technology

Anyone working in technology will know that last week marked the launch of London Technology Week – the annual showcase celebrating the capital’s position as a hotbed for tech innovation. And nowhere is technology innovation more significant than in the ever-evolving retail sector where keeping up to date with the latest technology is a matter of survival. In an extremely competitive market, brands and retailers have to think of new and innovative ways in which they can capture customer attention and deliver a strong omnichannel experience.

Beacons Beckon

Amid the accelerating pace of in-store mobile technology innovations, beacons are beginning to shape the industry by enabling retailers to personalise the in-store behaviour. Essentially, beacons are a type of low cost, micro location based technology that uses low-energy Bluetooth signals to communicate with mobile devices.

According to a recent Business Insider report, beacons are expected to directly influence over $4 billion worth of US retail sales this year at top retailers. The same report also says that half of the top 100 retailers in the US are testing beacons this year. With stores like Sainsbury’s, Macy’s, and House of Fraser deploying beacons at scale, it’s evident that retailers are convinced about the potential of beacons in retail.

Life in 3D

While consumer use of 3D printing is still relatively sparse, some merchants, including online jewellery store, have already found a use for the technology. Brilliance is using 3D mock-ups to help customers try on different rings so they can determine the right size, shape, carat, and diamond arrangement for their hands. Once 3D printing becomes more affordable, who knows how it will change the way retailers sell to consumers.

Mirror, mirror in the mall

From virtual fitting rooms to interactive window displays, retailers are continuously finding ways to use Augmented Reality to improve customer experiences. In the fashion world, firms such as Magic Mirror and MemoMi are developing smart mirrors that allow people to try on clothes via a projected image of themselves on screen. Body sensors map their shape and virtual clothes can be added via a touchscreen. Anything that takes the hassle out of trying on clothes gets my vote. I predict this is something we are likely to see a lot more of over the next few months.

Wearing your shop on your sleeve

Following the launch of the Apple watch, and the slew of smartwatches and fitness tracking devices on the market, wearables certainly seem to be popular with consumers. With its ability to collect data and also its sensor-driven element, it also has huge potential in the retail domain to gather analytics to help retailers enhance customer experience and make more intelligent decisions about their customers. For example, Disney has replaced its ticketing system with RFID armbands called the ‘MagicBand’, which connects park entrance tickets with hotel room keys and credit card information. This system removes strain on employees to manually process tickets and manage logistics. Despite their growing popularity, the technology is still in its infancy. Booth retailers and consumers experience a range of challenges before we see mass adoption. However, it is certain that wearables will inevitably change the retail landscape, offering more touch points for customers interacting with retailers.

While staying abreast with the latest technologies might appear daunting for retailers, failing to live up to consumers’ growing expectations could be detrimental – something video rental chain Blockbuster are all too familiar after they were driven out of business by Netflix. It is also one of the reasons we have been working hard behind the scenes to develop Triggar, an big data analytics tool we believe will revolutionise the way that online retailers view, measure and predict customer behaviour through the checkout. Keeping up with the latest technology is no longer a choice – it’s a necessity.



  • Ian Evans

    You’re right Natalie, there are some exciting developments in this area, but I often wonder whether the expectations of beacons are over stated. From an unscientific straw poll of family and friends, most of us have bluetooth switched off on our phones for power consumption reasons and, until this hardware issue is addressed, that’s got to be a huge missed market for retailers.