Technology has become a strategic imperative for all sectors and retail is not an exception. As retailers scramble to lure customers and improve operational efficiencies, deploying the right digital technologies is essential for differentiation and survival, according to data and analytics company, GlobalData.
The company’s report ‘Technology Trends in Retail, 2018’ mentions various digital solutions that drive greater personalisation and a smoother shopping experience across online and mobile platforms, as well as in brick-and-mortar stores. These solutions include artificial intelligence (AI) for customer service, analytics and smart supply chain management, but also interactive tools based on augmented reality and the latest digital payment methods. Improving last-mile delivery is another major challenge for retailers this year, which requires shorter delivery windows and innovative approaches such as small self-driving robotic vehicles.
Andreas Olah, Lead Analyst for Digital Retail at GlobalData said, “personalisation can drive customer loyalty and the ability to collect more data about their behaviour and preferences. By establishing what customers are likely to be interested in through the latest analytics and AI technologies, retailers can upsell more products and avoid going out of fashion.”
Retailers are deploying a large number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in their stores and warehouses to engage with clients and collect data through sensors, cameras and Bluetooth beacons. Since most IoT devices are connected via open networks, they become increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Against this backdrop, the company foresees cybersecurity and data protection capabilities to emerge as key differentiators for technology solutions in 2018.
Andreas said, “supply chain management systems are expected to get upgraded, with the addition of greater automation and predictive analytics, which is also increasingly powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.”
GlobalData predicts that as shopping habits change and digital technologies advance, the automation of customer service based on AI and robotics combined with augmented reality experiences and new store formats will evolve further in the retail sector over the next few years.
Andreas added, “instead of jumping on every trend bandwagon, retailers need to be judicious while selecting digital technologies, which should match customers’ specific needs and the retailer’s brand identity to address existing problems and challenges. In addition, customers should be allowed to choose their preferred channels of shopping and interaction rather than forcing them to use certain digital tools.”