Technology has brought a paradigm shift to all fields, and the retail industry is no exception. The advent of smart devices and the integration of information systems has redefined how the retail sector operates as an active participant in the supply chain. Moreover, advanced technology has opened many opportunities for retail businesses, from instant inventory replenishment to mobile payments, digital marketing, and AI for forecasting and budgeting.
But that’s not all! The increased use of the internet and smartphones has allowed businesses to operate beyond conventional brick-and-mortar settings and run a successful retail business even from the comfort of their homes.
The benefits of technology are beyond imagination and expectation. But to reap the true benefits, businesses must stay up-to-date with the latest innovations and devise strategies to effectively incorporate the right tools to achieve sustainability and growth. In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into the way technology has revolutionized the retail industry and the immense benefits associated with its use. Let’s get started!
1. Optimized Inventory Management
Gone are the days when retail businesses have to manage a large inventory to avoid stockouts and deal with storage space issues, reorder delays, and the staff’s inefficiency in locating inventory items. With smart devices and sophisticated systems, retail businesses can streamline inventory management processes and maintain optimal inventory levels.
Bar code scanners are one of the most widely-adopted tools that allow retail businesses to easily manage their inventory, track sales, and reduce errors in pricing. These smart handheld devices can drastically reduce human errors in entering product information and updating inventories. The latest genre in these devices, such as the smart bar code scanner from Code®, brings a whole new set of features for retailers, including:
- High-speed scanning to scan bar codes faster and more accurately
- Robust design to endure rigorous use in retail settings
- Wireless connectivity that allows retail businesses to connect barcode scanners with mobile devices and computing systems
- Multiple scanning modes that are suitable for a wide range of applications
- Seamless integration with Point of Sale (POS) systems at checkout counters
Retail businesses can track inventory movement down the entire supply chain from manufacturer to distribution points and, eventually, in the store shelves by using such state-of-the-art devices. Retailers can also track the location of products stored in warehouses or displayed in isles.
Integrating bar code scanners with POS systems empowers businesses to automatically monitor inventory levels and notify when it reaches minimum replenishment levels. As the items get scanned at checkout counters, businesses can monitor their sales and forecast product demand to avoid stockouts and reorder delays.
2. The Rise of E-Commerce, M-Commerce, and Social Marketplaces
Although the significance of running a brick-and-mortar retail store cannot be underestimated, the sole dependency of retail businesses on physical stores is increasingly becoming obsolete. As smartphone and handheld device use continues to soar, the retail industry has many opportunities to skyrocket sales and operate beyond physical boundaries.
The use of e-commerce platforms for buying everything from groceries to fresh food items and medicines has skyrocketed during the recent pandemic, and the trend continues. Mobile commerce and social marketplaces have recently received widespread acceptance worldwide, with nearly 30% of customers purchasing online using their smartphones worldwide.
Retailers now develop and use dedicated apps with an adaptive web design for Android and iOS, allowing customers to purchase products online. Implementing industry standards in securing personally identifiable information (PII) has made it easier and more reliable for customers to buy online.
The same applies to social marketplaces where customers can purchase products using famous social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon Live. Contrary to conventional retail settings, some prominent retail outlets operate solely online with no dedicated outlets, thanks to the proliferation of social marketplaces.
3. Augmented Reality (AR) for Immersive Shopping Experience
With the inception of the Metaverse and Web 3.0, augmented reality is increasingly gaining popularity. Using AR devices or smartphones, customers can take a comprehensive look at a product from all angles and virtually try them out using dedicated apps before purchasing them. It is particularly beneficial for retail businesses that solely operate online.
For example, customers can try different products and visualize their appearance using the try-before-you-buy applications. Additionally, customers can visualize how furniture items and home accessories will look in their space and how variations in hues and styles will affect the product’s overall appearance. With the latest innovations in AR technology, customers can customize products according to their needs and preferences before placing an online or on-site order.
There’s more to augmented reality than choosing product styles and colors. AR technology has transformed customers’ shopping experience, even within conventional brick-and-mortar settings. AR technology allows customers to locate their desired products as they navigate the store and view detailed product descriptions instantly on their mobile devices. The same technology can show customers a list of suggestions on their mobile screens and make the shopping experience more engaging, immersive, and enjoyable.
4. Self-Checkout with Intelligent AI-Powered Systems
Artificial intelligence has undoubtedly transformed the way businesses operate in the digital marketplace. Customers can now use powerful AI-based mobile applications with the Internet of Things to locate products, add them to a cart, and self-checkout using advanced sensors.
For example, Amazon now uses the “Just Walk Out” feature that uses AI-powered sensors, computer vision, and deep learning algorithms to detect items taken off the shelves by customers and added to their carts. As customers head to the counters, pass through dedicated sensors, and leave the store, the system uses their credit card and personally identifiable information to charge for the items and send the billing details to the customer’s contact information.
Customers can easily avoid long checkout lines at retail outlets using the self-checkout feature and enjoy a seamless shopping experience. This cutting-edge technology is particularly beneficial for retail businesses that deal with big items or operate big retail outlets.
5. Big Data Analytics
The use of artificial intelligence is not limited to customers’ shopping experience. The true benefit of AI for retail businesses lies in using heaps of real-time data and historical data to determine patterns, analyze consumer behavior, and make informed decisions amid changing market trends.
Retail businesses can use predictive modeling on interconnected datasets to analyze customer preferences and forecast future trends, financial outcomes, and sales targets. The availability of valuable data in the form of meaningful visualizations has helped retailers make informed decisions and improve the overall shopping experience for customers by maximizing product availability and catering to individual preferences.
Technology has brought a landscape change to the retail industry in various ways, creating new opportunities for retailers to skyrocket their sales, increase revenues, and improve customers’ shopping experiences. However, retail businesses must consider multiple aspects of implementing technology and analyze its long-term benefits compared to the high upfront costs of implementing cutting-edge technology. With the right tools and technology, retail businesses can unlock many benefits to help them succeed in today’s competitive marketplace.