By Brianna Ahearn, contributing writer
The retail industry readily embraced technology in 2014, offering options such as mobile apps, smart dressing rooms, click to collect features and more for consumers. Now in 2015, retail analysts predict that brick and mortar retailers from multiple consumer product categories will be implementing even more technology to improve customer experience. As online sellers such as Amazon begin to expand their inventory and offer more features to entice customers to shop online, brick and mortar retailers will have to continue finding new ways to compete with online retailer's discounts, free shipping, and other offerings, reports a recent article in the Calgary Herald.
One weapon for retailers in the fight to get consumer dollars in-store is Apple's iBeacon technology. A feature already built in Apple iOS devices (Business Insider reported in 2013 that 200 million iOS devices could operate as transmitters and receivers), the technology allows retailers to send customers coupons and sales information to their devices. There are some barriers, however, such as a consumer needing to opt-in for the iBeacon messages. Regardless of the barrier, iBeacon technology offers a good way to get customers to come into stores, especially if they're sent flyers or messages while walking nearby. The technology also lets retailers send personalized messages using information about the customer's previous purchases.
3D scanners are also finding use with retailers, because the technology gives customers the capability to find an item by placing it near the scanner. Already this is in operation with Lowe's OSHbots at Lowe's Orchard Supply Hardware Store in San Jose, California. The robots are able to tell shoppers the locations of items such as tools, screws, and more by scanning the object. A similar technology is at work with Findbox, which combines the functions of camera, computer and 3D scanner to allow customers to find nearly anything in a store. Findbox is able to read not only he shape of an object but also logos, slogans, text, and other features. 3D scanner implementation in brick and mortar stores poses plenty of possibilities for retailers in 2015, and could work in all types of retailers beyond hardware stores, including baby products, clothing, media sellers, and more.
Consumers were introduced to smart dressing rooms in 2014, with retailers such as Bloomingdales and Macy's embracing the trend. As Calgary Herald points out, the video game technology Kinect from Microsoft also offers a chance for retailers to add “smart” ways to try on clothing. Using video cameras or mirrors integrated with Kinect technology, retailers can let customers “try on” clothing by having the clothing imagery superimposed on top of the consumer in the mirror or on-screen. Microsoft sees the potential for clothing retailers, and even published a video scenario on Youtube of a customer trying on clothes virtually.
While technology already exists to help retailers connect with consumers and drive sales, the focus of 2015's latest retail tech predictions will likely have a large emphasis on helping consumers shop more efficiently. These innovations will give brick and mortar retailers a way to set themselves apart from their online competitors.