For the past few years there has been a large uproar that the end is near for brick-and-mortar retail outlets, especially with recent news of major retailers like Sears and Toys R Us filing for bankruptcy. However, this is not the end. Recent retail trends and innovations have indicated that the retail industry will be able to save itself by using the one thing that once was believed to lead to its demise: technology.

In February, Kara Swisher, founder of Recode, spoke at the 2019 OAC Summit about the future of retail and technology. She described technology’s impact and role in recent retail trends. She also addressed the opportunities that exist for retailers and landlords in the short and long term.

Here are 5 ways in which retailers are adopting technology in new retail trends:

1. Enhancing the Retail Experience

Bernd Schmitt introduced the concept of experiential marketing back in 1999, but retailers have just recently begun to implement it to improve consumer engagement. Retailers are increasing foot traffic in their stores by creating an experience that consumers can’t get online. Stores are being transformed for events and pop-up shops are being built overnight to target new consumers in convenient places.

Pop-up stores, created for the first time ever by Jon Bond’s agency Kirshenbaum Bond and Partners, have become exponentially popular as technology makes them easier to build and more engaging with consumers.

Many stores have been big advocates for creating experiences within their stores. Nike has put tracks and basketball courts in some of its stores to get customers more engaged. Nike even developed a video game and hooked it up to a treadmill for shoppers to test out their new sneakers.

Many marketing agencies and top marketing experts are focusing heavily on creating experiential campaigns for brands and retailers. David Solsbery is the Vice President of Creative and Marketing at Hargrove, an experiential marketing agency purely focused on creating “customized experiential environments.”

Stores centered around the customer experience are being utilized by retailers to increase brand awareness. This marketing concept is becoming easier and more exciting as brands begin to implement technology in stores and create experiences in new and innovative ways.

Hargrove, an experiential marketing agency, designed a beach-side pop-up store to showcase Nike’s Air Jordan XX9 at the World Basketball Festival. The exhibit included many interactive, educational, and engaging aspects all highlighting the shoes and brand.

2. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are transforming the hassle of shopping into an exciting and efficient experience.

While many business professionals still believe e-commerce has a huge role in retail, a-commerce, or augmented commerce, is the newest way to shop. Retailers can sell goods by giving consumers the ability to visualize products virtually in the real-world environment with a-commerce.

Retailers are developing smart mirrors that make it easier for shoppers to see what clothes would look like on them. IKEA has even made an app that allows potential customers to see what furniture looks like in their homes. AR is expected to have a huge impact in how consumers use and view products.

VR takes shopping to the next level by taking customers out of reality and into a virtual shopping world. Retailers have made virtual stores that customers can virtually walk through, browse, and buy items that are later shipped to them, no matter where in the world they are located.

Virtual reality specialists like Maxwell Planck, Clay Bavor, and Eliza McNitt are at the forefront of VR and believe it will have significant impact in shaping world culture.

IKEA Place, an augmented reality app that allows shoppers to virtually “place” furniture in their spaces and see exactly how the furniture will fit and look.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Because these experiential campaigns and virtual reality technologies do not always lead directly to sales, retailers have been hesitant to adopt the practices. However, new improvements in artificial intelligence (AI) have made it easier to track consumers and measure visitor engagement.

An IBM survey found that more than 70% of retail and consumer product executives expect their companies to be using intelligent automation by 2021. The top places they expect it to be implemented are supply chain planning, demand forecasting, customer intelligence, marketing, store operations, and pricing.

Vicki Cantrell, Retail Transformation Officer at Aptos, said Aptos has even begun to measure and document customer emotion by recording them and tracking the data they collect. Descriptive data like this is essential for prescriptive analytics, a tool used to identify opportunities for improving operations. Global researchers like Jason Dorsey talk about how important this data is when learning about how to communicate and reach the new millennial and Gen Y generations.

AI is not only impacting and changing retail but also many other industries. Experts on the subject say it is changing the future of business completely.

4. Increasing Influence on Social Media

By now, all retailers and businesses have at least some sort of social media channels. Social media is an essential tool for both consumer engagement and consumer influence. It is important for retailers to put out content on their own social media channels, including Twitter, Instagram, and more, but possibly even more important for retailers is to build a network of influencers and brand advocates who happily put out their content.

Social Media Influencers have been dominating channels like Youtube, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram since their inception. Brands are just now realizing the power these influencers have over their audience and the potential they have for increasing brand awareness. Influencer marketing experts like Brittany Hennessy and Amanda Russell have worked with and encouraged brands to gain customers by reaching them through the influencers they trust. In a study conducted by The McCarthy Group, 84% of millennials stated that they didn’t like or trust traditional marketing. On the contrary, 58% of the same survey respondents said they do not mind seeing ads from digital influencers.

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, frequently partners with brands to create ads on social media. His reputation and position as an influencer rather than just a celebrity makes it is easier for him to connect to younger generations. He said, “[Influencer marketing] has dovetailed nicely with my full-time jobs.”

Influencer marketing is an essential form of brand marketing towards millennials, who make up 25% of the population and spend more than $200 billion annually. Brand spending on influencers is expected to hit $101 billion by 2020.

Alexis Ohanian posts an ad to his 261,000 Twitter followers.

5. Efficient and Cashierless Shopping

Of all the most recent retail trends, the concept of cashierless shopping has been one of the most shocking. Retail and grocery giants are racing to develop cashierless stores powered completely by cameras and sensors. The goal of the concept is to create an efficient and speedy shopping experience for consumers on-the-go.

Amazon Go, led by Gianna Puerinia, was one of the first stores to implement the technology and test out the store. Amazon continues research and development of the concept. With this relatively new technology, shoppers who have the app are able to walk into the store, pick up what they need, and simply scan their mobile device to pay before they leave. The cameras track shoppers’ every move to see what they pick up and how much they owe.

According to Walmart Executive Vice President and CTO Jeremy King, Walmart is not far behind. Walmart and Sam’s Club are in the development and implementation stages of cashierless shopping in their stores as well.

While there is still a ways to go for this technology to be implemented on a major scale, it is sure to be a massive retail trend in the future. Stores that can solve the inefficiency of checkout lines and improve customer service with technology are sure to be the leaders of retail in the future.

Shoppers enter an Amazon Go by simply scanning their phones.


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To find out more ways the retail and technology industries are rapidly changing and how to keep up with all the recent retail trends, check out our popular speaker lists featuring top retail speakers and top technology speakers.