It’s such an exciting time to be a modern customer! With so many technological advancements taking place around the world, the way you shop is about to become easier (and cooler) than ever in the next few years. When it comes down to it, customers are looking for convenience and speed. The shopping experience as we know it is changing rapidly. From before you even consider buying a product to the physical aspect of having the product in your hands, every step of the retail process is evolving thanks to technology.
You’re probably already aware of the automated purchase capabilities such as Alexa and Amazon Dash. Simply by saying, “Alexa, order more paper towels!”, you know they’ll be on your doorstep in 2 days. No fuss, no stress. Amazon Dash is even easier, all you have to do is push the button which you conveniently place next to your favorite and most used items. This is great for things like dog food or cleaning products. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
But wait, it just might get even easier soon. Automated purchasing could become the next big thing. The ultimate plan is for items such as razor blades, deodorant, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc., to automatically reorder themselves as the product recognizes it’s almost out. Anything a consumer purchases that has a specific need will be on autopilot. Yes, this could be a reality soon, not just a futuristic TV show concept. The consumer would then be entirely removed from the purchase decision, making it something they would never even have to think about unless of course, they wanted to change brands or cancel.
Appliances will also be able to sense automation purchases. Can you imagine if your fridge could tell when you were almost out of milk and then automatically added it to your next delivery? Talk about convenience.
Augmented Reality Experiences
Physical retail stores know they have to step up their game if they want to stay in business. Which is why retail stores will be incorporating augmented reality experiences. Picture yourself walking into a well-known retail store. After you’ve tried on a specific dress or suit, you can see a virtual representation of yourself at the event you’re wearing the dress to, such as a wedding or work cocktail party. The goal is that by providing a unique and unforgettable experience, the customer will want to come back to do it all over again.
Other retail companies are jumping in on augmented reality as well. Sephora launched a virtual make-up artist which scans your face and then allows you to try on mascaras, lipsticks, eyeshadows, etc. Other retailers are doing this for clothes and sunglasses by taking scans or images of your body and face. Eventually, this could mean you can try on clothes at home right from your laptop instead of driving to the store to do it in person.
Similar to how Pokemon took the world by storm, augmented reality on smartphones are also gaining popularity. Location-based augmented reality will direct shoppers to the nearest virtual store. After they “enter”, they can choose from thousands of products on virtual shelves. China is starting to utilize these stores already. Very cool.
Amazon leads the world in promised and quick 2-day deliveries, but they may be getting even faster soon. Amazon Prime has been testing out automated deliveries with the use of drones. With so many people getting packages delivered each and every day, maybe it’s not too hard to imagine your city populated with drones flying around delivering packages to people’s homes and businesses. Each delivery location will have a designated common landing area such as an open rooftop, deck, or window space. Delivery speed will be faster and more efficient than ever before.
There are countless subscription services for so many items that it has the potential to disrupt a lot of industries and retailers. It could even replace traditional retail one day. Subscription models lock customers into purchasing a specific product from them, and it gets delivered monthly.
- Healthy snack boxes razors
- Pet boxes (treats/toys) fitness related boxes socks/clothing
- Beauty products (makeup/hair)
These are just a few of the hundreds of boxes that are out on the market today. Each box is usually a low price for everything included. Another similar concept being done are meal subscription boxes. Blue Apron offers weekly meal kits with all the ingredients and recipes included and delivered right to your front door.
Online grocery ordering services are continuing to gain popularity. By simply ordering online ahead of time, groceries are packaged, paid for, and waiting to be picked up at your store. Store associates even load the bags into your trunk! Consumers really enjoy options that take the “work” out of shopping for items that they know they’ll always need month after month.
The idea for digital wallets stems from NFC or Near Field Technology. This technology will one day allow shoppers to simply walk out of a store with your items. The way it works is that the item will be electronically tagged and charged to your mobile wallet as soon as you leave with the item. Mobility is the key. By allowing customers the ability to skip the checkout lines altogether, retail stores are streamlining the physical process of shopping and making it incredibly easy.
Retailers are going to have to re-establish their place in the world very soon. Payments just might be their way to do it. Cards, coupons, receipts, and ads can all be digitalized to improve security, increase efficiency, be more cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable. Consumers will experience a new level of engagement, loyalty, and insight during the process as well. Seems like a win-win all around!
The Future of Retail
In the past, retail companies have adapted to changing technology to keep up with the times. However, due to the rapid technology changes, retailers will likely be scrambling now more than ever to adapt. Most companies simply can’t compete with Amazon’s fast delivery times, so they’re going to have to turn to other methods such as augmented reality, special ordering services, and digital wallets to please their customers.
The good news for customers is that they have more access to information than ever before. Customers are continuously looking for the easiest ways to automate their shopping experiences and receive that glowing instant gratification. Very soon, these new experiences will become the convenience “standard”. It’s an exciting time and we can’t wait to see what will come next.