With Gartner projecting worldwide IT spending to hit $4.5 billion by the end of this year, it is clear that digital transformation has become a top priority for businesses across various industries, including retail. However, a common misconception is that digital transformation starts and ends with the shift to e-commerce in the retail sector. While adding a virtual component to business models helped retailers stay afloat in a time when in-person shopping was either unsafe or not possible, retailers are still up against vast, seemingly insurmountable challenges.
Luckily, breakthrough digital technologies can help retailers overcome these hurdles and eradicate inefficiencies by optimizing staffing and in-operations, employee and customer experiences, boosting ROI, and alleviating supply chain discrepancies. Yet not all innovative retail solutions are equal when modernizing retail business models, and many retailers adopt flashy new technologies without considering the value they add to customers and staff.
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So, which solutions effectively toe the line between cutting-edge and effective? In a crowded retail technology market, three solutions emerge as frontrunners: smart inventory management, AR-powered shopping, and smart checkout.
Smart Inventory Management
Eradicating supply chain gaps has long been an issue for retailers. Thankfully, with many businesses turning to smart shelves, or unique solutions that combine indoor positioning technologies and AI to detect changes in an item's position and recommend product replacements, the digital shopping, and restocking experience is reimagined.
Implementing smart shelves streamlines supply chain management and offers a more refined look into the present state of the market. Retailers can track which products run out quickly, which stay on the shelf for weeks, and even how long shoppers pick up items before purchasing. Therefore, these solutions streamline inventory operations and monitor assets and help retailers gain insight into customer behavior and forecast trends.
As brands digitally transform their businesses to support retail operations, consumers reap the benefits, too, as emerging technologies like augmented reality improve store navigation, making finding and purchasing the perfect shirt, cologne, or pair of sneakers faster and easier.
The convenience of accessing AR at the palm via mobile apps adds an element of gamification to the in-store shopping experience — boosting fun, enhancing customer experience, and inspiring more in-person shopping. While the world continues to move quickly, convenience should be at the heart of every omnichannel retail strategy. Adding an AR element to in-store operations can enhance brand reputation among consumers and increase customer retention.
Implementing AR-powered shopping functions also alleviates the workload for employees. Like smart shelves, AR minimizes the time spent on menial tasks like tracking down inventory, allowing employees to use their time on more critical retail functions, such as building customer relationships and investing in the ever-critical human element of the in-store experience.
Another way technology, specifically AI, has digitally transformed the retail space is through smart checkout. These emerging tech trends allow retailers to cater to customers with fewer hands on deck.
Over the last couple of years, many companies have struggled to navigate an increasingly unusual labor market. Unfortunately, ongoing labor shortages have devastated brick-and-mortar businesses more than any other business sector. However, trending technologies, such as QR codes and palm and face recognition, help address these issues in ways we never expected.
Example? Amazon's Just Walk Out transforms retail environments by creating innovative shopping experiences powered by computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Smart checkout technologies like Just Walk Out improve personal safety and reduce the time it takes to purchase items, benefiting retail workers and customers alike.
As retailers everywhere adjust their business models for the digital era, technology is finally a top priority in an industry historically characterized as a digital laggard. However, retail executives must understand that digital transformation extends far beyond the transition to e-commerce. They must also evaluate which types of innovation will transform the in-store shopping experience for customers.
Digital retail and virtual shopping will continue to develop and become more fine-tuned as technological platforms advance. Reassessing your company's digital strategy and implementing omnichannel platforms have become the solution to staying relevant in today's retail sector. By adopting these three key technologies, retailers are well-equipped with a sure-fire path to successful digital transformation.
— Kevin McCaffrey, CEO and Founder, Tr3Dent.