2 May 2023
By Roger Kennedy
The retail industry has seen huge changes in the last few decades from the introduction of card readers to the rise of online stores. However, there are many more changes that are likely to occur in the future. Below are just some of the future technologies and trends to expect.
Virtual fitting rooms
Virtual fitting rooms will allow shoppers to try on items of clothing without physically touching them. How does this work? By using AR (augmented reality) technology.
Much like SnapChat filters, this technology allows you to take a live video of yourself which is then digitally augmented to make it appear as you’re wearing a certain item of clothing. There are already apps and websites that can allow you to do this with items ranging from sunglasses to shoes. In the future, we may see this technology become commonly adopted by retail companies – including AR full-length mirrors used by physical retail stores that you can stand in front of in order to virtually try on various clothes. Fitting rooms where you physically try on clothes could become a thing of the past in big brand clothing stores.
Dynamic price tags
Price tags on shelves are typically printed out. This means that when there is a change in price, new price tags have to be printed and manually placed onto shelves.
Replacing printed shelving price tags with digital screens could allow prices to be altered much more quickly. This could open the way for AI-powered dynamic pricing in which the price automatically changes depending on customer demand, available stock and expiry dates. Such a pricing system is already used by many websites, but could be applied similarly to physical retail stores, helping to maximise profits by increasing and reducing prices at the right times.
Human resources management can be a very time-consuming duty for many retail business owners. It includes tasks such as clocking employee hours, creating staff rotas, handling holiday requests, managing employee benefit schemes and recruiting new staff.
In the future, all of these tasks may be automated. In fact, most of these tasks can already be handled via automotive software including clocking employees hours and automatically generating staff rotas. Future software may be able to help fill emergency vacancies quickly with temporary staff and even automatically headhunt permanent recruits.
Fixed checkouts may not be necessary in many stores in the future. Instead, stores may simply provide employees with portable POS systems such as Payanywhere’s point of sale system, allowing employees to accept payments in any location within the store. This could allow more space in stores to be used for displaying inventory.
Already many stores have started supplying these portable POS systems. However, many stores still have physical counters, encouraging customers to queue up in one place. Less emphasis on using fixed counters could allow larger teams of staff to accept payments at the same time during busy periods, helping to reduce queues.
A lot of stores have already introduced self-service checkouts. However, such stores typically still have staff on hand to provide assistance. Unmanned stores could eventually take away the need for any staff at all. Such stores would operate much like giant vending machines in which customers browse, select their product on self-service checkout screen, pay for the product and then receive the product.
Sounds like a sci-fi concept? You may be amazed to hear that unmanned stores already exist. The first unmanned store was launched in China in 2014, and since then a number of stores have popped up around the world. As automation and robotics progresses, we could start to see much more elaborate unmanned stores being developed.
This tech-heavy future shopping experience is unlikely to be for everyone. As a result, we could see a rise in certain stores rejecting new technology in favour of a more ‘retro’ experience.
Such stores will continue to place an emphasis on human interaction for those that want to talk to a person. Already, there are many stores taking a more experiential approach in order to stand out from online stores – including offering tasters of products, providing demos of products and hosting events (such as book clubs at book stores and board game competitions at game stores). More shops may become hybrid cafes and serve as a place to meet people instead of just being a place to buy products. This rejection of technology may also be represented with traditional details like prices on chalkboards and physical fitting rooms.