What kind of cool technology did you encounter in retail stores this holiday shopping season?
2012's fourth quarter has been a time of tech experiments on the retail floor, as well as on consumer mobile devices. These twin trends are only likely to proliferate in the years ahead.
For example, our sister website, DigitalCanvasRetail, reports on a digital sales assistant in place at Nike stores. Here's how it works, according to DigitalCanvasRetail:
Each time a shopper retrieves an RFID-tagged product from the store's display wall, an Impinj reader linked to software designed by InMotion Technology detects the item's movement and triggers a video display that presents marketing and technical information on the selected item.
Duane Reade stores are looking to do Nike one better. According to a blog by retail technology consultant Tim Dickey, the stores plan to deploy projected virtual assistants who will greet customers. The technology could ultimately be enhanced to create a virtual personal shopper who can respond to our requests via voice communication tools such as Siri.
From Business Insider we get a look at 12 technologies that are transforming retail around the world. RFID is a big one on this list too, with JC Penney reportedly planning to use RFID tags to eliminate checkout stations by the end of 2013.
Tablets and touchscreens are also playing a major role in the effort to eliminate checkout stations. Retail shops of all sizes -- from the local clothing boutique to Apple's flagship stores -- are using touchscreen devices to ring up sales using credit card readers.
Touchscreens are being used in other ways to enhance the shopping experience. For example, toy chain Build-a-Bear is experimenting in select stores with touchscreen technology that kids can use to create ultra-personalized plush toys, according to DigitalCanvasRetail.
UK-based retailer Tesco is offering a giant touchscreen catalog in stores that enables visitors to browse the company's inventory of more than 11,000 products, according to Business Insider.
Mobile payment options are also on the rise. In fact, research firm Gartner predicts that by 2015, one third of consumer brands will integrate payment into their branded mobile apps. Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner, says in a prepared statement:
Branded apps should be good shopping apps in the first place, and payment is only the final step before making the sale. To achieve this, they will use a combination of mobile apps, text messages and Web browsers to engage customers and increase sales. In developed markets, apps will lead the way, whereas in emerging markets text messages are likely to dominate initially.
Brands with retail outlets, such as those in the fashion, food and drink, grocery, and entertainment sectors, are likely to be among the first to embrace these solutions, according to Gartner's report "Predicts 2013: Businesses Will Take Consumer Apps to the Next Level."
All of these solutions are going to change our personal experiences with retail. They're also going to change the demands on the IT organization in the process. As Dickey reports:
From a retailer perspective, there are new sources to consider. eBook readers can tell us how long it takes people to read a book. It can tell us if they finished it or not. It goes way deeper, allowing for a new level of understanding of clients. New channels mean more data and more complexity.
It will be important that all of these new channels take into account how data will be gathered and analyzed. If you build a mobile app and only 400 people use it, that may sound like a loser if you have thousands of stores. However, those may be your most important customers that lead the rest of your customer base. Without the data to understand who they are, retailers could mistakenly discontinue their most important customers’ favorite channel.
What manner of new technologies did you encounter in retail stores during your holiday shopping excursions? How would you like to see your in-store shopping experience enhanced by technology? How prepared is your IT organization for the influx of data from these new shopping technologies? Share your comments below.