Five technology trends in retail.


7th November, 2018

The 5 tech trends game-changing their way into retail

Retail’s a tough gig at the moment. But as we know, necessity is the mother of invention and this means there are all sorts of retail tech solutions appearing. Here are five of the most promising we’ve seen.

1. Augmented Reality

This one’s already cropping up in places like IKEA, but most retailers haven’t adopted it just yet.

As the cost curve plunges and the tech gets easier to take up, expect to see more retailers play around with AR to enhance and extend the retail experience.

There was a day when websites were designed by those armed with thick manuals and thicker glasses. Then sites like Squarespace came along, unleashing website design so regular folk could do it.

Expect the same for AR.

READ: ARe you ready for AR?

What often gets forgotten when talking about AR is the way physical space is altered.

Those familiar with Melbourne’s White Night events would be aware that simple light projection can bring new life to buildings – so too for retail displays AR not only offers the same transformative capabilities, it can even be personalised for each customer.

2. Beacons (if they can work out the creepy aspect)

Beacon tech in retail is a way of pushing special offers to customers as they walk by a physical spot in the store or shopping complex.

A small, button-sized beacon is triggered when somebody walks past with their phone and the beacon then sends them an SMS about a special offer.

Imagine somebody passes your store, and your beacon sends an alert to them about a special offer – increasing the chances of them popping in.

The problem with beacons is that consumers have found it kind of creepy to be texted out of the blue by a business without their consent.

The tech is ready and its potential is huge, but it could take a couple of years for consumers to get used to the idea, or for retailers to figure our how to use it without triggering the creep factor.

3. Domo Arigato, Mr Robotto

Those who’ve had the good fortune to visit Japan may have seen robo-greeters at the front of department stores, who spout store information and help you locate your desired item.

As retailers enhance the experience for people stepping inside a store rather than staying home, a few savvy retailers may look into robo-greeters as a way to stand out from the pack.

Admit it – you’d be a little bit curious if you knew your local department store had a robotic guide to make your shopping experience simpler.

This one could be a longer-play project, because humans are still nutting out how to interface with robots and AI.

Most people find talking to Alexa or a voice assistant just a bit awkward.

But, as humans interface more with a machine for their information, businesses will begin to make use of the trend.

4. Drones

This one’s a no brainer – the likes of Amazon and Dominos are already experimenting with home delivery made with drones.

We still have a long, long way to go, but don’t be surprised if one day your monthly toiletries order is airdropped rather than hand-delivered.

The sticking points will come when drone tech buzzes into more packed urban areas, and airspace becomes a premium commodity.

READ: How to play the Game of Drones according to the rules

But, as with most tech, once it’s all worked out, the cost curve will come down and smaller players will jump on board.

So watch this space (or the sky).

5. Warehouse sharing

This is a mix of tech and economics, but retailers are focusing on their own distribution points to meet both click-and-collect and delivered orders.

Owning your own fulfillment centre has been the domain of giants like Amazon, and aspirational retailers such as The Iconic.

But as automation brings down running costs, multiple retailers can share the same warehouse space.

Space near urban centres are being eaten away by growing populations, so available real estate is becoming more scarce for smaller companies with their own warehouses.

And they may not move enough stock to pay for the privilege, so sharing a warehouse with other retailers looks like a win-win.