That technology moves pretty fast these days is perhaps the understatement of the year. For small- and medium-sized retailers competing against giants, it can be tough to simply keep up with change—let alone get ahead of the curve. Which developments should you ignore, and which should you embrace?
For the latter, retail analyst Doug Stephens and social-media expert Amber MacArthur have some suggestions. In a recent installment of their The Future In Store video series, the pair identify four key trends that all retailers, regardless of size, should note. Here are some highlights:
1. In-store customer monitoring—in real time
Bricks-and-mortar retailers have long mourned their inability to compete with e-tailers when it comes to mining data about customer buying behaviour. They may soon find relief in technology, reports Stephens. One company, Nomi, has developed software that uses a retailer’s wireless networks or in-store sensors to identify visitors’ mobile devices, then tracks those devices as they move through the store. This allows the retailers to look for patterns and make real-time changes to promotions and merchandising. “Some might wonder if this level of in-store tracking isn’t just a little bit creepy,” says Stephens. “Others would say it’s no different than what we currently experience when we shop online.”
2. Augmented-reality shopping
Fancy, a “blog/wishlist/magazine/store” that curates clothing, household items and other products for consumers that is working to integrate its tech with Google Glass, allowing users to snap photos of their surroundings and instantly receive suggestions for what items to buy to complement the space. “Using this app while you’re wandering around a store may raise some eyebrows, but the truth is, augmented reality shopping is here to stay,” says MacArthur.
3. The fast-growing sharing economy
For some time, experts have pegged the sharing economy as a trend to watch. Today, a series of new apps—including U.S.-based NeighborGoods—have emerged to help people borrow, sell and buy such underused equipment as ladders and tools. This is something retailers should pay close attention to, says Stephens: “As we become increasingly networked, this sharing of things only gets easier and easier. One power drill can now get used by dozens and dozens of consumers. And that has the potential to reshape our entire economy.”
4. Pinterest as a merchandising tool
In a case of life imitating art, or life imitating web, U.S. retailer Nordstrom (which is soon to enter Canada) has started using its Pinterest page as a merchandising tool. The chain now prominently features “Top Pinned Items” in its in-store displays. “The company is no stranger to social-media marketing, leveraging numerous platforms to promote their products, but the Pinterest presence on shelves is a definite first in the retail space,” says MacArthur.
Here’s the video in its entirety:
What potential do these trends have for Canadian retailers? Have you had experience with any? Share your thoughts by commenting below.