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3 Ways Technology Is Changing Retail

Posted By: SGK May 25, 2018

Consumers are now more empowered to use technology to assist in their purchasing decisions than ever before. With a constant stream of new channels to explore, it is key for retailers to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to engaging their consumers.

According to a recent TrendWatching guide, in 2018, consumers will expect retail brands to offer personalization in new ways including emotional data and eye tracking. The need for tailored experiences is on the rise, and retailers must take note.

Innovation and collaboration is where it all starts.

WATCH: The Age of Collaboration: Mastering the Modern Retail Experience 

Here are three ways retailers can start building dynamic journeys for consumers:

Get outside your comfort zone.

Brands are looking to make greater impact by partnering with like-minded brands to offer more value. An example of this in a more fashion-forward collaboration, is one of the most talked about partnerships in recent retail history — the Supreme and Louis Vuitton collection and sub sequential pop-up store. This effort was structured around risk.

Could two very successful brands in two very different marketplaces double their success if they combine forces?

The store was only announced two hours before their opening, but fashion gurus around the world were already waiting in line up to 72 hours prior. These two brands drew such large crowds what it was called a global shopping stampede.

Louis Vuitton was able to harness the kudos of one of the hottest brands in the industry while Supreme became a beneficiary of Louis Vuitton’s vast resources and reach. Stores were shut down because of the amount of hype around this collection, and pieces from this collection sell online for up to $20K. Both lines have seen increase in sales and cross-pollination from loyal clients of one brand to the next.

Make it about the consumer.

Let’s take open-source code as an example of this. This is a whole system built on sharing. The idea behind Open Source is that it’s crowdsourced, essentially free, adaptable content that everyone can contribute to and draw from. It’s not about whose idea it was or what gets created with it — it’s about community, and it has some pretty amazing benefits to back it up:

  • Transparency
  • A constant support network
  • Reliability
  • Better security
  • Faster time to market
  • Merit based work
  • Cost effective solutions

This is all great, but who’s using it? Wordpress, an open source platform for creating websites and blogs currently powers 28.9% of all websites on the internet right now. That includes big brand names such as The New Yorker, BBC, MTV News, Sony Music, The Rolling Stone, and Beyoncé’s personal website.

Not convinced?

How about TensorFlow, another open-source library created by Google Brain Team for machine learning? That’s the idea that a computer gets smarter as it’s given more access to information. Why don’t they keep it to themselves? Because with more contributions from a variety of users, retailers like Airbnb, Uber, eBay, Snapchat, and Coca-Cola have more data to train their models on.

The reason brands are using this data is to create targeted messaging for consumers while providing a better user experience. Every major retailer’s website has some form of an open-source platform helping it to run. That’s collaboration at its finest!

The main idea is that without an unselfish, wide open collaboration of time, ideas, and resources, you will avoid success. The egos need to be checked at the door.

Create space for exploration.

Going back to the aforementioned pop-up store between Supreme and Louis Vuitton, let’s talk about how experiential retail is changing the shopping world. If foot traffic in stores is decreasing, the creative industry needs to know how to make a physical space that much more engaging.

Take the Nike and Finish Line “House of Hoops” pop-up as an example. Consumers today have comparative pricing data right on their phones as they’re shopping. It’s not always about selling a product while the consumer is in the store, it’s about convincing the consumer through creative installations and product display that they need the product no matter where they’re buying from.

READ: The Innovative Story Behind Nike’s Ultra Flyknit

Another example in the pop-up space is Storenvy based out of San Francisco. This one is a little bit different, as they are an online retailer emerging into the physical space temporarily. They provide a platform for smaller retailers to not only sell online, but to also test the physical marketplace in a low-risk environment.

But what about retailers that already have a physical space that may not have a product that can support the pop-up model? Consumers may initially conduct product research online, but they are still buying high-end items in-store.

Retailers such as Neiman Marcus don’t turn their noses up at the fact that consumers are busy — they embrace it. Neiman Marcus recently rolled out a virtual dressing room mirror — an augmented reality display that lets you see outfits side-by-side, explore different color options, and send images to your second opinion buddy.

This all boils down to the fact that we’re now beyond the point of convincing people that the current retail space is the best way of operating. It’s time to suit up and jump on the battlefield together. The key to success is technology, which is what makes all of this collaboration and innovation easier.

Things like new device platform and artificial intelligence have created a need for more content, all the time. We already have big things that are in the works like virtual reality fashion shows, automated sales assistants, better and faster manufacturing software, and faster delivery options. If we’re needing to create more dynamic content faster than ever, we need larger teams, more resources, more time to explore, and less barriers. Technology is great, but it’s just a tool and if we aren’t using it correctly, it’s useless.

The bottom line: the retail space is changing, and it will continue to change in our lifetime. Technology that feels innovative now will be irrelevant in what feels like minutes. Collaboration is just one of the keys for success and maintaining inspiration.