What's Next in Retail Technology?

In 2014, a full forty per cent of consumers in PwC’s annual consumer survey declared that they purchase goods from a physical store once a week. Retailers who are still in the brick and mortar game, ever watchful for effective means of client acquisition and retention, are looking to new technology to keep their physical stores up to date and get ahead of the competition.

Virtual reality

Topshop debuted its virtual reality experience at London Fashion Week, installing VR headsets at the flagship London store in a bid to bring customers in to view new styles. In a similar vein, the Vuforia augmented reality app, developed by Qualcomm and recently sold to PTC, is being used by American Apparel to enhance in-store experiences. By downloading the app, shoppers can access reviews and videos of the products they are evaluating while they browse the store.

Mobile access to product information

Mobile advancements include French supermarket Casino’s use of near field communication (NFC) chips to display real-time prices by connecting shoppers’ phones to NFC-enabled labels on the shelves. After filling their basket, customers pay quickly by scanning their phone through a reader.

The future of the changing room

Marks and Spencer’s ‘virtual rail’ was launched with the British stalwart’s re-entry into the Netherlands, and it combines actual racks of clothes with hi-definition mirror-length screens that customers use to swipe through fashion options that are refreshed in a matter of weeks. Similar technology, which UGG uses in Australia, employs radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that transmit information about in-store items to ‘memory mirrors’. The mirrors display an image of shoppers as if they were wearing the clothing, the colour and style of which can be changed with a gesture. It beats schlepping back to the dressing room for each outfit.

For those who still prefer to try on the clothes the old-fashioned way, changing rooms have gone digital. In the US, Bloomingdales installed iPads in fitting rooms so that shoppers can contact assistants, read product reviews and check if other sizes are in stock.

Social commerce

Not heard this term yet? Think of it this way: whenever something appears on social media that presents itself as buyable, which is quite a lot, enjoy the ease of clicking a button that triggers a purchase then and there.

This kind of thing that has giants like Twitter and Facebook plotting, and merchants like eBay and Amazon a bit worried. Why go through them when that adorable hedgehog tea cosy caught your eye on Pinterest, who is all too happy to take your order?

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