The COVID-19 pandemic created widespread impacts on social, economic, and health parameters globally. The retail industry had seen its fair share of business turbulence in the past, but the pandemic put the industry to its knees. When quarantine measures were put in place, offline retail customers started opting for minimum human contact and migrated to online purchasing options at a velocity that was unprecedented before. This led to unprecedented growth of retail tech.
According to data from IBM, the pandemic accelerated the trend of people shopping online by about 5 years.
The retail industry quickly understood that innovation and digital disruption are the keys to staying at the top of their business.
5 Ways Retail Tech Is Transforming the Post-covid Shopping Experience
Touch-free shopping/Contact-less checkout
Many retailers are helping consumers avoid shared surfaces and limit interactions with employees or other shoppers. In fact, curbside orders increased 208% during the pandemic. BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) with the curbside pickup is projected to see continued demand from consumers in the Post-Covid era.
It has led to investment and expansion of contactless checkout approaches, particularly by grocery stores. Several grocers, including Price Chopper, have expanded the availability of smartphone apps that customers can use to scan items and tally up orders.
The cashier-less technology allows customers and shoppers to enter the stores by scanning their app and exit without standing at the checkout line.
79% of people worldwide and 91% in the Asia Pacific say they are now using tap-and-go payments.
Giant Eagle is piloting a system that allows customers to bypass the checkout line with technology similar to Amazon Go
Lowe’s is installing lockers at its stores where customers can retrieve online purchases by scanning their phones.
Augmented Reality(AR)/Indoor Navigation
Augmented reality shopping experiences are becoming the new norm in 2022. Customers can now experience products virtually through various AR/VR options like virtual try-on, virtual malls, product visualization, access to product information, etc. This technology provides customers with viable options to engage with a product before buying it. This is one of the key technological advancements bridging the gap between digital e-commerce storefronts and brick-and-mortar shopping.
Augmented reality-based indoor navigation technology can help shoppers find the items they need in-store by following directions on their phone’s screen.
AR navigation can help retail workers too. Workers can use their device cameras for AR navigation and for order fulfillment workers can simply look for directions on their screen to find the aisle that they’re looking for.
AI-Driven Demand Forecasting
Two and half years back it became apparent that many businesses weren’t ready for the sudden panic buying that resulted from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. To evolve to serve the needs of the public during the pandemic, demand forecasting powered by machine learning took off.
Such AI-led tech can also improve inventory planning, logistics, manufacturing, and marketing, and better supply-chain management. When demand is predicted much more accurately, items can be produced and ordered only according to how much is needed by the consumer.
Rise of E-Commerce
Since the pandemic started, online sales in the U.S. jumped 49%. Customers shifted from store visits to ordering from home during the pandemic and this trend will likely continue post-COVID, as it brings convenience while reducing health concerns.
Retail giants like Walmart, Target, CVS, and Kohl’s have embraced their omnichannel fulfillment methods to successfully address this shift; other organizations are beefing up their e-commerce strategy as an immediate measure.
As artificial intelligence improves in 2022, so does natural language processing (NLP). Smart assistants like Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri, and Bixby are becoming more and more advanced in their voice recognition and responsiveness. Their ability to serve customers in the retail industry has improved tremendously.
Walmart’s Voice Ordering is a great example of this technology in action. By asking smart speakers to add products to a cart, they can place orders entirely by voice. Those items can then be made available for pickup by Walmart’s workers.
Retail will continue to see a renewed boost after the pandemic but should prepare for the high inflations worldwide and tech can be a great differentiator between the retailer that survives and the retailer that perishes. As technological advancements continue to thrive in the retail industry, legacy technologies will continue to be replaced with modern tech and consumer & efficiency focussed outcomes.
The most important part about introducing these new technologies into the retail space is the harmonious relationship between the retailer and the technology implementer. How they collaborate together to develop and maintain these solutions determines the success of the product. Gleecus TechLabs Inc. is rightly positioned as the Digital Innovation Partner for Retailers to take their Tech-enabled consumer and business solutions to greater heights.