2017 is here, and the "retail trends prediction" think-pieces have begun. While some of these are well researched and written, many are simply rehashed thoughts you could find from 2016 retail predictions.
We already took a look at some really interesting stats that will shape retail in 2017, so instead we're going to talk about retail tech that will receive mass adoption not just this year, but well into the future.
These are the 5 retail technologies we're most excited about. Here's why we think they'll transform retail forever.
VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality)
You find a beautiful dress online (or suit, for my bros) that also happens to be a great deal. It's on sale! But how can you be absolutely sure it will look good on you?
Fortunately, this particular retailer has an app that incorporates AR technology. You pull out your phone, open the app, select the product you're interested in, and then step in front of your bedroom mirror.
And just like that, that dress you were on the fence about is on your body, and looking fantastic. How can you not buy it now?
This is the kind of practical use AR can have for retail. If you think it's too far fetched, too bad, because companies are already doing this.
The shoe company Converse has an app that allows users to try on their shoes using just their phone. Pick a shoe, point the camera at your feet, and the shoes instantly appear as if you were wearing them.
If this AR technology means I never have to set foot in another shopping mall, count me in.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
As always, when it comes to leading trends in retail, we turn to Starbucks. They were among the first companies to heavily incorporate mobile ordering into their buying experience, and now they are looking to expand that even further.
Starbucks is releasing a Siri-like digital barista. While on the surface it may look like just another pointless chatbot, here's where the AI part makes this really interesting.
The app's algorithm tracks what people buy to recommend similar products and offers in the future. Someone who prefers iced to hot coffee could get an coupon for free food (the algorithm detects a 3 p.m. snack), for example, while someone who buys a cup of coffee every morning may be able to play a game within the app (the algorithm detects a long morning commute). All told, AI in theory will allow Starbucks to create a limitless number of offerings. - Adweek
This is true artificial intelligence.
It also shows that brands could be playing a much larger part in our day-to-day lives. What used to simply be a place to get our morning cup of Joe, now has become an AI-powered virtual assistant that tracks our location, habits, and personal preferences.
The things we will do for coffee...
Seamless Purchasing Solutions
Amazon has been looking to incorporate their own virtual assistant Alexa, into as many products as they can. And for good reason.
When Alexa is readily accessible and super helpful, you're more likely to buy more stuff from Amazon.
Take this new fridge from LG, for example. It has a built-in version of Alexa to help you find recipes, play music, keep track of your expiring food items and, here's the important part, help you reorder groceries. (from Amazon, of course)
This is just the beginning. The new retail is everywhere. Companies are striving to find more ways for you to buy things as easily as possible. No forms to fill-out, no credit card details, no shipping info, and now even no clicking required.
Only downside I can see to this is when Alexa gets too smart and starts judging me for buying my third Cherry Garcia in a month...
We've been using social media to sell stuff for years now and, as it turns out, we've barely scratched the surface.
Twitter tried, and failed, to incorporate ecommerce into its platform years ago. It generally amounted to nothing more than a simple "Buy" button that you could include in your tweet. Easy to see why it didn't take off.
Instagram looks to be doing things different, thankfully.
Already one of the most popular social media platforms for ecommerce, Instagram plans to offer the ability to add shoppable tags to your pictures.
Now, when you see your favorite Instamodel showing off her new outfit, you'll be able to not just see where she got it from, but also buy it instantly. Another great example of removing buying obstacles and creating seamless purchasing solutions.
Now if only there was a way to order my friend's lunch that they posted... I smell an UberEats integration.
When I think of 3D printing, the first thing I think of is plastic. Because, in my limited knowledge, that's the only material I can picture being instantly formed into custom creations.
Boy, was I wrong.
All sorts of materials are being used to print 3D products. My personal favorite? Candy. That's right, we're printing custom-made candy, instantly. Humanity has peaked.
A store in Dubai is selling 3D printed gummy candies. Customers can visit the store and use an app that allows them to tinker with design elements such as words and shapes. The candy is then made, using all-natural fruit ingredients, in under five minutes.
There are so many industries that can be disrupted by this kind of technology. Our reliance on supply chains will be drastically reduced, as customers will be able to walk into retail stores, custom design in hand, and have it printed instantly.
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. I'm sure we'll all only use this tech for good, right?
The future of retail is happening
By now, you're probably thinking about how you can incorporate these technologies into your own business. If you're not, you should be.
This tech is already here. Now. All of these examples are currently being used in retail environments. At the risk of sounding too cliche, the future is now.
And I, for one, welcome our new AI-powered, social selling, candy-printing, augmented reality overlords.
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