Today’s modern consumers are always connected, socially invested and hyper-informed - they can buy virtually whatever they want, anytime and anywhere. Technology is enabling retailers to combine digital with reality to enhance consumer engagement and improve brand loyalty. Retailers are beginning to incorporate the latest and most up-to-date technology to create more engaging, experiential settings in store. What’s working for retail brands and why?
1.) Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality
What started as a means of entertainment has become a groundbreaking tool for brands to connect with their customers. Innovative brands are driving sales growth by creating valuable, personalized experiences that consumers are unable to get anywhere else. While virtual reality simulates a realistic experience and transports to a virtual world, augmented reality requires interaction with reality – it is an overlay of the virtual world onto the physical world, creating immersive experiences between the two. From IKEA and Wayfair aps that let you see if a piece of furniture fits in your space, to ModiFace in-store augmented reality mirrors that allow you to try on different shades on makeup, to dressing-room mirrors that make clothing recommendations (in the first phases of testing at stores like Rebecca Minkoff and Ralph Lauren) – augmented reality is rapidly becoming a driving factor in retail development and success.
2.) Artificial Intelligence
AI is being integrated into the retail industry most notably in sales and CRM applications, customer recommendations, manufacturing, logistics & delivery and payment services. Humanoid robots can now interact with customers and ‘perceive human emotions’ (Lowe’s autonomous Lowebot can respond to questions and direct customers in-store), authentic sounding software messages have boosted engagement rates, GE technology provides manufacturers more visibility into the real-time work flow, robots & Amazon drones are starting to deliver packages faster and more proficiently, and payment has gotten safer and faster with new services to limit fraud and automate in-store customer experience and checkout.
3.) ‘Unmaned’ Store Fronts
Following Amazon Go’s lead, retailers have been eager to work with technology firms wanting to understand how to create unmanned store fronts themselves. Amazon has successfully launched a completely automated store with no cashiers, no lines, and no checkouts. Mastercard has a partnership with AVA Retail and have sensors and tracking technology to make the shopping experience more seamless.
More than ever before, brands are tapping people who already have an engaged and loyal following. Brands have started to “borrow” influencers’ audiences when they are just starting out. This emergent field of “influencer” marketing is essential as retailers try to have their advertisements come across more organic & authentic in an information-dense and overloaded marketplace. Paid promotion has become a branding strategy companies usewith these influencers in order to grow their own audience.
5.) Lessons from Top Retail Brands on Social Media
- Focus on quality, not volume
- Visuals make content more engaging
- Photos are more liked, videos are more shared
- Popular content in retail are DIY guides & recipes
- Sharing corporate social responsibility initiatives improve engagement
Sources: https://www.techemergence.com/artificial-intelligence-retail/, https://blog.hootsuite.com/lessons-top-retail-brands-social-media/, https://www.strategy-business.com/article/Why-Augmented-Reality-Will-Be-the-Next-Revolution-in-Retail?gko=dbc10