Despite being in the year 2014, we’re not quite at the heady heights of technology that popular culture would have predicted twenty years ago or so. No flying cars or trains, technology is growing fast but not that fast. But hey, maybe someday?
There needn’t be room to moan though. In the past ten years, there have been some exciting technological advancements that have just begun to scratch the surface of where technology will go. Things such as the Nintendo Wii, i-Pad, i-Phone and recordable digital television, although now seen as part of a staple tech diet – these inventions revolutionised technology and showed to the world, it was possible. Fast forward a few years later, and new innovations in technology are constantly raising the bar.
Looking at these technological advancements and their origins, inventions such as the i-Pad and i-Phone were all born out of a changing customer culture. For these products were created to satisfy the ever changing needs of a consumer and as technology advances more and more, so does the customer, be it them becoming more demanding, impatient, savvy or yearning practicality. Whatever the change, retailers see the need to adapt to how their customers change and what they want.
With the onset of the online world and technology revolutionising day by day, the customer has changed and as a result wants more from their retail experience. We’ve mentioned it numerous times before, but with the ever changing circumstances in retail, the high street has had to fight back! Retailers have had to make shopping experiences as innovative, inspiring and memorable for shoppers as possible and technology has played a huge part in this. Commerce technology expert Chris Baldrey-Chourio explains how the advancement and evolvement of technology has been a determining factor to how the retail industry is changing and it is up to retailers to keep ahead of the times and always be one step ahead of their customers; “The innovation in retail technology continues to drive digital transformation on a scale not seen since the dotcom boom. How retailers respond to the changes in consumer behaviour and create the ability to interpret and understand a customer’s digital footprint through data will mean competitive advantage or disadvantage. One thing is clear the digital revolution has started and continues to evolve into a world of connected devices and endless possibilities for commerce” The potential that exists in retail is exciting and it is up to retailers to use this as best they can to deliver a fantastic retail experience for shoppers; “The emerging focus of technology to deliver innovation through an in store experience…will continue to shape and define the way consumers engage with brands in store and online.”
So where is the 2014 customer heading and beyond that? And what role will technology play? The two will arguably play hand in hand and as the year progresses we will see certain trends emerge based on customer shopping habits.
Expect to see customers wanting a singular retail experience with smartphones continuing to be a key player in retail technology. With customers becoming more socially savvy, their smartphones have become an extension of their own self and has become a portal they live their life through. As this pattern grows, coupled with a need for customer practicality and seamlessness, expect further investment from retailers to meet consumer expectation so that all brand interactions can be managed through one singular device.
As mentioned, with customers now wanting the most seamless retail experience available, we should see mobile point of sale become more prominent in 2014 with mobile payment pilots being used amongst major retailers. Its flexibility is seen as appealing to customers and will no doubt improve the ebb and flow of a store, beating queues along the way.
Retailers will look to change the work and flow of their in house store and we’ve seen this with the continual implementation of tablets to act as mobile point of sale devices. Creating a smoother and more fluid experience for the customer will be regarded as highly important and as a result, stores are increasingly incorporating the ability to process credit cards through i-Pads and i-Phones.
Continuing on from 2013 into 2014, customers will grow increasingly frustrated of loyalty card schemes and are searching for more instant rewards that can be integrated better into their way of life. As a result, loyalty schemes are changing and there is now a move towards more instant and targeted rewards in the form of real time digital vouchers delivered via mobile. Integrating this with social media and using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will deliver a more enjoyable loyalty experience for consumers and produce instant results whilst providing a seamless consumer experience.
Personalisation, interactivity and experience will once again be key to retail and the role of technology will be pivotal once again in deciding what exciting directions it heads. This social generation we live in has bore people who want to experience more and more. Retailers have therefore used technology to make their in store experiences as compelling as possible, be it augmented reality, personally customised items, headsets or virtual shop assistants – retailers are always seeking creative innovation in the field of technology. The physical and digital worlds are now fully converging and technology is making that possible and opening up new boundaries for where the retail world is heading.
Chris Baldrey-Chourio currently works in commerce technology recruitment for technology recruiter C4Commerce.