Despite all the buzz about personalization, it gets a relatively low ranking on the Retail Innovation Radar report from HighStreet. That’s because while retailers are collecting much of the data they need to personalize customer interactions, they haven’t yet found effective ways to translate those insights into store-level actions.
This quarterly report ranks up-and-coming technologies impacting retail, ranking them on their potential impact and level of adoption. HighStreet assigns a numerical value of zero to 10 based on how shopper-ready the technology is, basing the ranking on a combination of recent retail installations, shopper statistics and HighStreet’s opinion on where the innovations exist on the technology adoption curve.
Mobile Technology Can Be Harnessed To Brick-And-Mortar’s Advantage
One area where retailers are already seeing success is in mobile interfaces, which are fairly widely-adopted and received of score of 4.8. Mobile devices are a great way to deliver appealing promotions and easily accessible information in-store, but the usage must be as frictionless as possible.
“We are always on the lookout for mobile technologies that do not require shoppers to download an app,” said Ed King, Co-Founder and Shopper Behavior Expert at HighStreet in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Most people are reticent to download an app inside of retail — how many retailer apps do you have on your phone? Maybe two or three? How many stores do you shop at? Thirty or 40? You might get some of your hard-core customers to download an app, but the best practice is understanding that the shopper won’t download an app, and look for ways to engage short of that.”
Rather than force shoppers to download an app, retailers can use QR codes or other technology that brings shoppers to a page on their browser, letting them access the benefits of a mobile offering without any additional time requirements.
Frictionless payment is another unflashy set of solutions with potentially major benefits. This rapidly advancing technology earned a score of 4.7, and stands as a prime example of a technology that directly solves a problem: the wait before shoppers can pay and leave.
“If you can get to the point where you can remove one of the biggest barriers for brick-and-mortar — waiting in line to pay for something — that’s a huge step forward to getting people off the couch and back into the store,” said King.
Brick-and-mortar retailers must select their in-store solutions with a human-first, not tech-first, attitude, according to King. Companies should start by thinking about how they can improve the shopper experience, then decide which technologies best fit that goal — rather than implementing new solutions because they are interesting from an IT perspective.
“Looking at it from the shopper’s perspective, the shopper doesn’t say, ‘I can’t wait for this place to have some digital,’” said King. “They’re walking into the store saying, ‘I want a better experience, a faster experience, a more enlightening experience, a more emotional experience.’ Sometimes technology can be that answer, and sometimes it isn’t.”
Other technologies that are starting to see mass adoption include:
- Data Tracking (5.3), which is being used to advance the sophistication of other technologies and provide more targeted promotions;
- Wayfinding (4.5), which can improve store navigation through the use of mobile devices and digital signage; and
- Beacon Notifications (3.1), but only if used sparingly. King warned that shoppers don’t want more than one or two location-targeted messages, and that the experience should be entirely opt-in.
Keep An Eye On Paradigm-Shifting Technologies In Their Infancy
The study found that augmented reality (AR) is the technology with perhaps the greatest potential impact on the retail industry, but adoption rates are still low, resulting in a score of only 2.3. While the technology would facilitate massive improvements in personalization — such as allowing each shopper to see unique prices and receive personalized navigation tips based on their shopping list — mass adoption will require powerful mobile devices or Google Glass-like technology.
While personalization itself also holds great promise and is enjoying widespread use, the technology only earned an overall rating of 2.9. While retailers have been doing a good job collecting data, the infrastructure needed to properly implement that information at the brick-and-mortar level is still being developed.
“It’s just a simple matter of leveraging the data that they’re already collecting, and creating insights from it so that those sales associates will have that information at the ready,” said King. “It can be put on a tablet or [the associates’] mobile device, so they can give really good recommendations and a more curated, personalized experience.”
Some other technologies, while currently limited in use, could see wider adoption in the future:
- Touch and Gesture (3.0) is well-developed, but shoppers aren’t in the habit of using it themselves. Retailers may be able to create immersive experiences using the technology, but it will need to go beyond just touching a kiosk; and
- Virtual Reality (1.2) currently suffers from inconvenience at the brick-and-mortar level, requiring bulky headgear for its use. However, Walmart’s embrace of the technology shows that virtual reality may yet hold promise for retailers, particularly for internal use cases such as training.
Retailers must keep an open mind when looking at new technology, adopting the solutions that fit their needs and the demands of their customer base. While some advancements have yet to prove themselves on a wide scale, early adopters may have the opportunity to prove why these technologies can generate a better customer experience.