Retail / eCom

Top 3 trends in retail software development accelerated by COVID-19

The landscape of the retail industry has been already shifting towards optimisation of everyday operations by applying digital technologies. Global retail tech spending was to reach $203.6 billion in 2019, according to Gartner. The COVID-19 outbreak accelerated the beginning of the “new normal” reality, where the use of retail software development services define a company’s position and opportunities in the market.

Retailers should be able to ensure a high-quality shopping experience for diverse customer groups to improve bottom-line results. The recent survey by GlobalWebIndex, a market research company, shows that:

  • 46% of those surveyed will be shopping online more once lockdown measures are lifted
  • 27% of respondents will search for the product online before going to the physical store
  • 49% of people in the survey plan to visit physical stores after the outbreak is over

The adaptation to the post-pandemic retail environment becomes more seamless with the introduction of technologies since it helps to do both:

  • Satisfy the needs of modern customers — who apprehensive about visiting offline stores and prefer to shop online
  • bridge the gap between a brick-and-mortar store and digital world shopping, creating an enjoyable experience

Here are the top three COVID-fuelled tech trends, which adoption helps to gain a competitive edge in the post-pandemic retail sector.

  1. Augmented reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) is at the forefront of retail innovation; this applies to the use of AR for customer acquisition in the store as well as virtual modelling, interaction with brands and advertising technologies. According to statistics, 61% of consumers are more likely to choose the retailers who provide AR experience and 40% eager to spend more on a product, which they can customise using AR.

With multiple applications of augmented reality in the retail industry like online shopping personalisation and in-store interactions, etc. growing numbers of companies are turning to AR development solutions.

Augmented online shopping is an alternative to the consumer’s ability to see and touch a product in a physical store. AR provides a customer with a possibility to experience how a piece of furniture will look like in their home — IKEA, Amazon — or try on a product virtually — Pinterest, Sephora. It reduces items return rate and helps to meet customer demands, thus increasing customer loyalty.

AR in-store shopping makes experience more fun and provides additional information about the items by pointing at it. The extra information helps to match product pairings and impacts consumers’ decision-making process. In the times of social distancing AR mirrors and fitting rooms become even more popular, since it not only speeds up the fitting process but also eliminates the need to touch objects.

  1. Machine learning

In 2019, 45% of companies used machine learning algorithms to predict customer shopping behaviour, according to Statista. Machine learning algorithms based on the analysed data make a personalised offer to a consumer before they understand what they want.

In today’s reality, retailers need to keep up with consumers’ shopping habits as well as predict shifts, and machine learning can help them. It offers substantial advantages for enterprises:

  • flexibility and adaptivity as opposed to traditional forecasting methods
  • real-time price optimisation, which increases revenue
  • improved customer segmentation and targeting
  • personalisation powered by analysed data
  • increase of the demand forecasting accuracy

Those and the number of other benefits provoke many retail companies — Amazon, Walmart, Target, Costco, The North Face — to use machine learning algorithms in their day-to-day operations.

  1. Staff-free stores

In the recent report by Shekel, 87% of respondents indicated that they’d rather choose stores with contactless or self-checkout options. Such digital transformation can be achieved with the combination of such technologies as RFID tags, computer vision systems, IoT devices, etc.

Just Walk Out, a cashier-less system developed by Amazon, powered by computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Once a customer puts products in a shopping cart, the IoT system put them to a virtual cart. The purchase is automatically paid when a customer leaves the store.

Process automation with the help of robots is to help retailers minimise expenses and improve performance. For instance, shelf auditing robots with AI-powered computer vision can scan shelves, providing autonomous monitoring for inventory management and evaluation of items inside the store. Customer service robots can offer personalised answers, assist in the merchandise search, navigate a consumer inside the store and collect information for understanding consumer’s preferences.

With voice recognition technology consumers don’t have to touch any surfaces to perform any action. In today’s zero-touch environment, voice assistants help a customer to get an item or any necessary data without touch interactions.

To sum it up

The global COVID-19 pandemic has also facilitated the rise of the following retail tech trends:

  • Digital wallet — credit or debit cards are to become disrupted due to the spread of coronavirus. According to Bain, digital payments adoption could increase to 10 percentage points globally in 2025.
  • Cybersecurity — with the increase of digitally performed operations, retailers should ensure that their customers’ information is secured and safe.
  • Autonomous delivery — self-driving vehicles make up for the shortage of drivers and don’t depend on business hours.
  • Artificial intelligence — customer service bots are rapidly deploying. Chatbots make the job simpler for employees, helping consumers to resolve an issue without human intervention.

Emerging technologies integration can become a new source of business innovation and add new revenue streams. Stay up to date on the industry tech trends and best practices to survive and succeed in the market.

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