Shopping used to be one-dimensional. You would either go to the store, or buy something out of a catalog, and that was it. Today, there are so many different ways to shop that not only can the experience be more fun, it can also feel limitless. After all, you can also buy almost anything from anywhere and have it arrive at your door within days.
Over the years, new technologies have drastically improved the shopping experience. Process and products have been designed to cut costs and simplify sales for retailers, while making the consumer journey more enjoyable and meaningful for customers. We'll take a look at three specific technologies that have shaped the way tech and wireless retail works today.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology uses electromagnetic fields to relay information from tagged items (such as shipping containers or T-shirts) to reading devices wirelessly. It has been used for a wide variety of purposes, including highway toll collections. Retailers employ RFIDs to maintain control over inventory with precision. In short, RFID allows companies to locate specific commodities in much the same manner as barcodes do—but wirelessly.
The wireless connections allow RFID systems to provide more data than barcodes, and are able to do so with items that aren't even in sight. That means everyone from sales associates to corporate analysts can keep much better track of inventory. In the past decade, stores have been increasingly using RFID for omnichannel purposes. When customers are hunting down products across all channels, sellers need to be able to know their actual inventory in real-time in order to keep confusion and mistakes at bay. RFID helps them accomplish this goal.
RFID systems can serve as a kind of backbone for wireless retailers' omnichannel and interactive retail. When companies are confident of their stock, they can more easily offer it through interactive retail solutions such as in-store kiosks and tablets or smartphone apps. Retailers don't have to be there in person to ensure the items are available. Plus, when sales associates are freed from tracking down items manually, they may find themselves with more time to engage meaningfully with customers.
Augmented and virtual reality
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in retail is a topic we've talked about before. These new technologies were envisioned decades ago and have recently become very popular. In short, AR is software projecting out into the real world (think Pokémon Go). VR, on the other hand, involves users wearing helmets or goggles to enter an immersive alternate reality (like with Google's forthcoming headset). These new technologies have started to be used for interactive retail. For instance, some brands can now let customers virtually try clothes on before buying them, instead of trying them on in a fitting room.
It's easy to see how AR and VR can improve the omnichannel shopping experience. Digitally previewing outfits on one's phone or laptop allows buyers greater flexibility in figuring out which color or style they want. Digital tests could even capture new demand: some individuals might be reluctant to enter brick-and-mortar locations, but might be moved to make the trip once they're confident in the precise product they want. A benefit on the retailer's side is that once a shopper invests significant time in AR or VR, the patron becomes more likely to complete the purchase.
AR and VR are still new, but they are a sign of the times, especially with several popular games making use of the tech. With big wireless retailers like Samsung investing in these products, everyone else is cued to consider whether these omnichannel concepts are right for their companies.
Endless aisle is a product wireless retailers can use to integrate their brick-and-mortar locations into their omnichannel offerings. The basic idea is that by using a digital device, shoppers can access all of a wireless retailer's offerings, not just those currently in stock at a particular brick-and-mortar storefront. Patrons can use tablets to tap their way toward a purchase, and sales associates can provide additional assistance as needed.
In short, endless aisle is a way of bringing e-commerce into the offline store, and it's already reshaping retail, with one of the world's largest companies, Walmart, introducing the concept at some locations.
Whether it's RFIDs, endless aisle, or any other omnichannel solution, getting started with new technologies is a big step for wireless retailers to take. iQmetrix can simplify the transition and ensure your company stays up to date with the latest retail technology.
Ready to learn more? Check out whitepaper, Best Practices for Bringing Endless Aisle into Your Retail Strategy.
Photos: Shutterstock / ESB Professional, Shutterstock / Montri Nipitvittaya, Shutterstock / hedgehog94 / Shutterstock