Retail startups are using various forms of tech including IoT and cloud to create partnerships that help businesses innovate and better satisfy customer needs. Thanks in large part to new data-centric solutions, startup and retail collaboration is thriving as disruptive technologies help brick-and-motor stores behave agilely and keep up with technological revolutions for improved profits. Keeping up with new trends in video analytics, virtual reality, IoT, and predictive analytics has become essential for retailers across both online and physical channels.
Though e-commerce has certainly made a dent in the retail market, brick-and-mortar retail is still the norm with the majority of shoppers spending their money in physical stores. In fact, a number of online stores have launched physical stores which provide consumers with the chance to see and touch products before making a purchase decision, as well as ensuring instant gratification needs can be met. However, physical stores are often packed with as many digital retail tools as their sister online stores, and the technology ranging from beacons collecting data about shopper behavior to robots stocking shelves help brick-and-mortar retail stores improve customer satisfaction, boost sales, and enhance overall profitability.
Thanks to mobile advances including location tracking and push notification, stores can help consumers get around more easily with store maps. A few savvy startups are already taking advantage of this technology with apps that not only provide detailed store directions but take customers to the item they’re looking for and direct them to promotional or secondary items which may be of interest.
Thanks to in-store beacons and ‘free’ WiFi provided by stores, a wealth of information can be collected about shoppers and their behaviors. This data, once analyzed, offers valuable insights that can be turned into customized and personal marketing schemes, and can also help stores streamline processes and inventories.
A few startups have already launched robots able to assist customers in-store; these new-age helpers can check shelves for stock and guide customers to items. Some robo-assistants are equipped with artificial intelligence to provide even more engaging customer interaction.
Tracking carts in-store, providing customers with recommendations based on products they’ve already selected, and ensuring smooth point of sale exchanges, connected carts provide retailers with both marketing tools and anti-theft devices and consumers with simplified in-store experiences.
Augmented and virtual reality tools have taken off in the last few years, and several startups are investigating constructive tools for in-store retailers covering areas from store layout to promotional displays. Some platforms provide the ability to test designs on shoppers in virtual reality before investing in changes, while others use augmented reality tools to guide and entice customers with interactive displays.
Certainly not a new instrument in the retailer’s basket, tech is enhancing loyalty programs through mobile platforms and data analytics tools. In-store software makes it easier than ever to manage loyalty programs, mobile apps offer customers better access and tracking of loyalty rewards, and data analytics tools use the information collected by loyalty programs to tailor benefits to customer desires.
A plethora of mobile payment solutions is now available, making it easier for customers to pay while providing stores with additional customer data that can be used for store optimization and improved marketing. Financing solutions offered in-store and in real time further encourage spend.
The many technologies available aid both new and existing retailers with store management, customer engagement, marketing, and much more, but also offer innovative startups the raw materials for new and exciting platform and application development. We’re only at the very beginning of brick-and-mortar retail digitization, and the future possibilities are irresistible.
By Jennifer Klostermann