By Devin Partida, ReHack.com
Technology is rapidly evolving the retail industry, and 2022 will see a boom in several up-and-coming trends for shoppers and businesses alike.
2021 was a year of monumental change in retail, sparked by the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses and tech developers have taken those unfortunate circumstances and used them to create a wave of innovation, one that has breathed new life into retail.
Businesses can keep that momentum going in 2022 with these six IT trends.
1. Using Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is one of the coolest new trends sweeping the retail industry. With more people than ever shopping online, often without ever stepping foot in a store during their purchase, augmented reality tech has never been more valuable. Many consumers are already shopping on their phones, and this feature takes full advantage of that by allowing customers to see products in the setting of their own homes. All that is needed is a smartphone camera and an internet connection.
While this may sound like a complex or niche technology, it can make a huge difference for customers, especially those on the edge. When it comes to furniture, for example, the ability to see a new sofa in their actual living room could easily convince a casual shopper to commit to a purchase.
2. Embracing IoT Shopping
The Internet of Things refers to devices that are ambiently interconnected with each other and with consumers’ lives. Examples include smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa/Echo or smartwatches and smart fridges. These devices have a “brain” in the form of intelligent programming that allows them to streamline and simplify the lives of the people using them.
One popular way that consumers have been using their IoT devices is for shopping. They can buy something online simply by asking their smart speaker to purchase it for them. They might even have a fridge that senses when they are low on groceries and orders their pre-approved shopping list all on its own. Retailers can utilize all of this IoT technology to learn about their customers’ habits and preferences.
3. Increasing Automation
With shopping online at an all-time high throughout 2020 and 2021, customers’ expectations for shipping and delivery times are getting higher. At the same time, many warehouses and fulfillment centers have fewer employees on shift at once to increase COVID-19 safety.
To maintain a good experience for customers without burning out team members, retailers will need to streamline their fulfillment processes in the coming year. This is made possible through automation.
Cited as one of the top priorities for retailers in response to COVID-19, automation is all about replicating the in-store shopping experience online. Customers are used to the speed and convenience of being able to buy something and have it right away. The quicker retailers can get online purchases to consumers’ doors, the better the customer experience will be. One recommendation from experts is to partner with third parties to offer more delivery options, such as next-day and same-day delivery.
4. Connecting Online And In-Store Shopping
Online shopping is the over-arching trend going into 2022, but shoppers are becoming more comfortable shopping in stores again. One way to bridge the gap between the convenience of online shopping and the speed of in-store shopping is by offering services like buy online, pick up in-store. Even ship-to-store can be a great delivery option, since it utilizes the store delivery chain that already exists, enabling companies to get products to shoppers quickly.
Additionally, one trend that has been around for a while but shouldn’t be forgotten is in-store stock updates. Customers who want their product as soon as possible like being able to see whether it’s in stock already at the nearest brick-and-mortar store. Offering an up to date in-stock status is a simple website feature that makes a big difference.
5. Adopting Contactless Payment Methods
One of the side-effects of limiting contact with others during the peak of the 2020 pandemic was the rise of contactless payment methods. These haven’t quite taken off yet in the U.S. but are the standard in the U.K.
COVID-19 has sped up the popular adoption process of contactless payment in the U.S., though. While it may cost a little extra for retailers to upgrade their check-out systems for contactless, customers will appreciate the change. Contactless payment is simple, quick, and convenient, besides being safer for both customers and stores.
6. Upgrading Help Chatbots
Another rising technology that took off during 2020 and 2021 was conversational AI. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, customer service chatbots were already popular among retailers. These rudimentary systems lack sophistication, though, and have little flexibility to offer a personalized experience for customers.
Conversational AI, a blossoming trend in the retail industry, offers a more advanced update to chatbots. These new systems are capable of understanding and adapting to human emotions and custom queries. Using machine learning and complex algorithms, these AI can respond to customer input with realistic human language. By upgrading chatbots to conversational AI systems, retailers will not only be able to offer a better customer service experience but also boost automation on the operations side of things.
The Future Of Shopping
The convenience of brick-and-mortar stores isn’t going anywhere yet, but the speed and personalization of online shopping are here to stay, too. Retailers can create the best experience for their customers by focusing on streamlining, whether in the warehouse, store check-out aisle, or online. Making investments for these cutting-edge updates will keep businesses looking toward the future, for team members and customers alike.
About The Author
Devin Partida is a writer and blogger interested in retail technologies and business solutions. To read more from Devin, visit ReHack.com, where she is the Editor-in-Chief.