I’m excited to announce a new partnership Chain Store Age is launching with Plug and Play Tech Center, an innovative Silicon Valley tech startup investor whose mission is to connect promising tech startups with retail corporations in an attempt to help retailers transition into the technological age. From time to time, you will be seeing Plug and Play-related content on our site and in our magazine.
To help kick things off, I asked the folks at Plug and Play to name three technologies that are trending in retail right now. The answers I got were mobile, beacons and image recognition. Here are a few of my own thoughts on the significance of these disruptive technologies to the current and future state of retail.
Mobile Gains Mass Appeal
Constant mobile connectivity has become a fact of life for most consumers, starting as young as the tween demographic and even reaching the Greatest Generation. Consumers are living omnichannel lives, using mobile Internet access to enhance and expand physical reality, and retailers should tailor their customer experience accordingly.
Beyond simple steps like using responsive design or native development to create mobile-optimized e-commerce sites, retailers should also employ more advanced mobile technology strategies. These include sending time- and location-based promotional texts, providing mobile self-checkout applications, and enabling access to product information and videos via barcode and QR code scanning.
A Beacon of Information
Beacon technology, which uses low-frequency Bluetooth transmissions to help mobile devices track their position relative to stationary beacons, is getting quite a bit of attention from retailers. Beacons offer retailers the opportunity to obtain immediate location and buying preference data from opt-in customers who visit their stores.
Beacons offer many potential uses to retailers. While the majority of attention has been focused on the applicability of Beacons to targeted, time-sensitive marketing, they offer retailers other possibilities, as well. For example, Beacons can help retailers determine how individual shoppers are traveling their stores, where they are stopping, where they are avoiding, etc. This data can then be amalgamated and used to determine at a higher level what demographic groups are coming into the store and what differences in may exist in where and how they conduct their shopping experiences.
Image is Everything
The advanced image recognition feature on the new Amazon Fire smartphone, called Firefly, which allows users to instantly create shopping lists and make purchases of items, has heightened retailer interest in this still evolving technology. Today’s consumers function on “Internet time,” and the ability to instantly research and purchase an item through image recognition satisfies the customer ‘s need for instant service and the retailer’s need for converting and capturing sales.
Image recognition can also help retailers “retail-enable” the broader consumer environment, and bring customer service and sales functionality to virtually any customer touch-point. Amazon is taking an early lead in using image recognition as a sales and customer experience tool, but other forward-thinking retailers still have time to enter the space before Amazon dominates it.