To compete in a rapidly evolving world, retailers need to embrace the full breadth of current technological capabilities. That is, in essence, the thesis statement reached by the World Economic Forum in a recent white paper on the role of digital technology in industry.
The paper draws parallels between the current era and the advent of the industrial revolution, when electrifications and steam engines disrupted entire economic sectors. To avoid a repeat of that phenomenon – and to ensure that small businesses have a chance at evolving alongside trends –it’s imperative for business owners to stay informed and agile.
This article builds on the advice from that white paper. Below, let’s explore actionable information for how to use emerging technologies to disrupt your industry– in particular, how to leverage emerging technologies to improve the retail experience.
Traditionally, customer service has been a hurdle for retailers moving into a digital space. In a brick-and-mortar space, you can deal with customers one-by-one, answering queries, managing concerns and making recommendations. The simultaneity and irregularity of digital retail (i.e., you may have several mobile shoppers asking questions at once, sometimes at odd hours of the night) make person-to-person touches nearly impossible.
Artificial intelligence has the answer. Retailers have seen success deploying AI-powered chatbots, programs that replicate human speech patterns to engage in real-time conversations with customers. Businesses can hire a Toronto mobile app development company to integrate AI chatbots into their m-commerce apps; these bots can answer questions, handle complaints and recommend products based on a user’s criteria and past preferences.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Showcases
Another hurdle for retailers has been how to showcase products and services without the utility of physical space. How does a paint retailer showcase its palettes? How can a clothing retailer exhibit the fit of their garments? How can real estate agents or hoteliers offer walk-throughs?
Retailers and app developers turn to Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to address the problem. AR allows consumers to enhance their real-world physical space with computer-generated inputs. In the case of paint palettes, that means a consumer can hover their phone near a wall and see different paint colours superimposed on the space. VR, by contrast, creates an entirely immersive experience. In the case of luxury hotels, VR enables customers to walk through rooms and amenities before purchasing a stay.
Product Suggestions Driven by Machine Learning
The last notable emerging technology to mention is machine learning. Digital leaders in several industries have already harnessed the power of machine learning, a branch of AI that enables computers to “learn” and improve automatically – without human intervention.
Retailers can use machine learning to offer personalized product recommendations to customers. Essentially, as a customer browses, shops and/or engages with content, they leave little breadcrumbs for a machine learning program to follow – much the same way a retail employee might pick up on micro-cues and customer behaviour to get a better sense of a client.
Each of these emerging technologies – AI-powered chatbots, AR/VR and Machine Learning – allows retailers to tailor their customer service to an increasingly digital world. Retailers that incorporate these technologies can drive sales, boost retention and future-proof their business.
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