Retail technology has expanded considerably over the past two decades. And the pace of disruption will only increase, so keeping a pulse on emerging trends will prepare your business to thrive in the digital retail age.

As retail technology advances, consumers are increasingly demanding access to products and services everywhere they go. Meanwhile, retail employees expect technological assistance so they can work more efficiently. By embracing new technology, you can deliver an experience that delights at every retail touchpoint.

The Evolution of Retail Technology

Early technology began with point-of-sale machines that could quickly check credit and debit card information. Through increased affordability and improvements in usability, they rapidly spread throughout the retail world.

Mobile shopping started to take shape in the late 1990s. In ’97, Coca-Colaintroduced vending machines that accepted SMS payments. In 2001, mobile check-in was introduced. From that point, mobile marketing has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry that is on track to reach $700 billion in the U.S. by 2017.

Consumer confidence in retail tech solutions that amplify the shopping experience is at an all-time high. Retail consumers have broadly adopted web-based retail services. They know they can research a company and its services or products before buying, and they expect simple payment solutions such as NFC terminals as well as online shopping and check-in incentives. This holds true with all age groups. In fact, 72 percent of Millennials reportedly research purchases online before buying, and two-thirds of older Americans engage in online shopping.

Enter the New Era of Retail

The retail space has exploded in the past decade and shows no signs of slowing down. NFC and augmented reality are two hot items to watch for. NFC will increasingly mobilize the workforce as devices become ubiquitous, and technologies such as Google Glass will drive forward interactive heads-up displays incorporate advertising to reach customers right outside the point of sale.

Data analytics offer near real-time insight into the effectiveness of campaigns and business strategies. Companies across all industries are already leveraging data to make informed business decisions. In the future, integrated electronics might allow customers to wave a hand in front of an item, receive the information they want, and make a purchase, providing the convenience of online shopping and the speedy delivery of in-store acquisition. The key word in all of these solutions is automation — a concept that will impact advertising, information gathering, transactions, and inventory management.

Strategically Position Your Business for Success

Early adopters in retail tech have an opportunity to work out the kinks with fluid implementation before consumers start to expect and demand it. Employees’ confidence in the technology will generate trust and improve the reliability of that technology — benefiting the company’s bottom line and promoting usage among consumers and employees alike.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Customer service is more important than ever. Customers can easily share reviews with their communities, so responsively interacting with your customer base is a priority.
  • Focus on web and mobile. Retail increasingly relies on online apps and services to reach customers, drive sales, and build confidence. Get started early.
  • Capitalize on cloud computing and data analysis to create an adaptable business that’s equipped to thrive in the rapidly shifting market.
  • Use mobile services to improve both the consumer and employee experience.

With a little foresight and imagination, your business can ride the technological wave in retail to build your customer base, rapidly respond to customer care issues, educate and inform customers and employees, and drive sales across every platform.

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