In the last post, we looked at retail trends that you should watch out for in 2017.
This post is the second part of the series, and we’ll get right down to business with trend number 4.
#4 Augmented and virtual reality
When talking about the growth of mobile use in physical retail stores, you might encounter the terms ‘augmented reality’ and ‘virtual reality’. These are some of the features that are expected to make some waves within mobile engagement going forward. But what is it?
Augmented Reality (AR), or supplemented reality, means digitally adding visual elements to the reality we see around us. If you’ve ever tried Google Glasses or Pokémon Go, you know what I’m talking about.
Last year, we had a taste of how AR can be used by businesses through the ridiculously popular game Pokémon Go. Many companies took advantage of the trend, drawing traffic to their stores and interacting with customers.
A happy ice cream shop owner in Washington claims that the Pokémon Go wave actually saved his business. Meanwhile, a McDonald's in Japan experienced a 19 % increase in their sales due to the Pokémon trend.
Using augmented reality – in this case in the form of Pokémon Go – merchants can take the shopping experience to a new level. And, as mentioned in the previous post, this is crucial to your customers.
Maybe you’ve taken a ride on a roller coaster, walked the Great Wall of China, or skydived over the desert wearing so-called VR glasses? Then you’re familiar with the concept of virtual reality. What characterizes VR is that it completely excludes reality around us and replaces it with only digital elements.
However, this amusing technology is not only a toy; it’s well on its way into the business world.
IKEA has started using VR in some of their stores already. And, I have to admit, it looks like a pretty fun way to shop.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that AR or VR will be a fundamental part of retail anytime soon. However, based on the progress of smartphone use and mobile commerce, it’s likely that we will see a noticeable increase during 2017.
#5 Same day delivery
Another thing we can’t ignore: The impact of technology on delivery models.
When I speak the word ‘drones’, I imagine you rolling your eyes and mumbling “here we go again”. Nevertheless, even if drones are high-tech toys to most people, more and more businesses are becoming aware of drones and their potential commercial use.
Drones – essentially flying robots controlled by humans (seriously though, how cool are drones?) – are revolutionizing traditional commerce as you’re reading this. In late 2016, Amazon announced that they’re starting to use drones for delivering goods, and already in November last year, 7-eleven carried out 77 drone deliveries in the US.
Now, I’ll be realistic and assume that we won’t see full on Star Wars conditions with exclusively drone deliveries quite yet (even if the thought is pretty awesome, right?).
What we will see, however, is the technological answer to the constant consumer demand for getting goods as fast as possible. If it’s not drones, there’ll be other technological developments trying to optimize current delivery models.
#6 Beacons become mainstream
Have you ever tried walking past a store, and suddenly getting a message with a great offer from exactly that store? Perhaps you thought this was a crazy coincidence? If so, I’m sorry to disappoint you. You, my friend, have been exposed to a beacon.
In early 2016, the number of beacons worldwide was almost 5 million, and it’s further estimated that before 2020 there’ll be about 400 million beacons in the world.
So what’s a beacon? Think of beacons as small lighthouses that constantly send out the following message to nearby smartphones: “HERE I AM!”
Still with me?
Basically, beacons are small radio transmitters that communicate using Bluetooth technology. When a beacon senses a user’s smartphone nearby, the beacon will be able to send out relevant information by using a unique ID. When an app reads this ID, it can trigger an action, such as an offer, a message, or something similar.
The app also detects if a phone enters or exits a certain zone so that the app managers can map out which beacons the user has been near, when, and for how long.
Over the past few years, beacons have become quite popular within retail, sports facilities, car dealerships and a number of restaurants. The reason is simply that beacon technology gives retailers a unique opportunity to create customized offerings and communicate to a relevant (and nearby) audience.
A good example of how beacons can be used to drive sales comes from Macy’s on Black Friday 2015. Through activities such as mobile giveaway games and “walk-in-and-win” campaigns, they managed to increase in-store traffic and create an original customer shopping experience.
Beacons can be used in everything from indoor navigation to customer segmentation, retargeting, and loyalty programs. You can also combine beacons with information boards to provide the user with information about relevant objects nearby. For instance, you could send an offer on cosmetics to customers who’ve spent some time in your cosmetics department.
Does this sound a bit scary?
Don’t worry. You control whether or not a beacon can find your smartphone. They’re only able to ‘see’ your phone if Bluetooth is turned on. Simply turn Bluetooth off, and beacons won’t find you.
Also, the EU is reforming its regulations on personal data to better suit our digital age.
So why are we expecting an increase in 2017?
First and foremost, consider the bold move by Apple (to great joy and frustration) to remove the headphone jacks from their newest iPhones. Instead, one has to play music using – you guessed it – Bluetooth. This means that far more people will have Bluetooth turned on most of the day.
At the same time, the Internet of Things means that cars, smartwatches, and other appliances keep us connected to Bluetooth, all leading to the same conclusion: The potential audience for beacons is growing. Fast.
Another pivotal development to take into account is the launch of Bluetooth 5: A new and improved technology that doubles the speed and quadruples the reach and capacity of beacons. Naturally, this increases the commercial potential of beacons.
Are you considering getting started with beacons? In that case, I’d recommend you hire professionals to help you out. Not only is it a rather technical affair; there are rules and regulations you need to consider, so getting help might be a good investment.
So. What do I want you to take away from this post?
Remember this: It’s the same with these as premonitions and analyses as it is with all the other predictions in the world – that’s just what they are. Predictions. There is no certainty whatsoever that this is how it’ll go down, even if there are strong indications.
At one point in 1955, predictions said that rock ‘n’ roll would be dead by summertime. In 1903, 1948, and 1965, the same was said of cars, TV, and the internet, respectively. And let’s not forget about Google Glasses ...
My message is simply this:
Be aware of and open to new technology, and how it might help you improve the shopping experience for your customers.
If there’s one thing you can count on, it is that the shopping experience you give your customers is critical to your success.
Do you have any predictions, wishes, guesses, premonitions on what will happen within retail in the near future? If so, please share them with us!