August 5, 2019

5 Ways the Future of Retail is Already Here

We examine some of the futuristic retail technologies that have already arrived.

We often take technology for granted, from AI voice-controlled assistants in our homes to being able to access endless amounts of information via the phones in our pockets. Systems and technologies that once would have seemed unfathomable are now becoming increasingly commonplace. Here, we examine 5 examples of how the future of retail is already here.

1. Visualisation
Augmented Reality and VR are becoming incredibly prevalent, even within our shopping experiences. Some furniture stores offer to place images of their products overlayed in your home, and many make-up brands offer customers methods to see what they would look like by using certain brands or colours. In some malls in China, bathroom mirrors allow you to experiment with different looks, and if you like it, you can purchase those items from a vending machine immediately.

2. Digital Receipts
The first receipts of transaction began around 7500 BC and came in the form of balls of clay to represent the completion of a trade. These evolved over time into the physical receipts we know today, and these have endured for decades. Currently, UK retailers hand out around 11.2 billion receipts a year, costing at least £32 million. Green America’s 2019 ‘Skip the Slip’ report found that in the US, the number of receipts produced results in 3 million trees being cut down, 9 billion gallons of water used, 302 million pounds of solid waste created and 4 billion pounds of greenhouse gases emitted.

But digital receipts are now surging in popularity to solve these problems. Receiving one’s proof of purchase by email eliminates the environmental and material costs and provides a lasting and convenient proof of purchase, so you won’t have to hoard hard-copy receipts in case you need them in the future.

3. Mobile Self-Pay
Mobile phones are increasingly becoming a key part of the shopping experience. Studies show that 83% of consumers use a mobile while shopping in the UK. They are often used to compare prices, look up sales and access review data. What’s more, there are now many different ways to pay using your phone; Apple or Android Pay are both widely available, and Alipay and WeChat are growing in popularity.

MishiPay’s self-checkout app solutions take this technology a step further, enabling shoppers to use their own phones to scan product barcodes or QR codes, and then pay at the click of a button. The apps store your receipts, suggest personalised purchases and enable you to beat the queues at the tills in the store and buy at your convenience.

4. Facial Recognition
Facial recognition is increasingly being used by retailers, primarily to manage theft. Cameras monitor people entering a store, then runs their facial profile through a database. If the shopper is a “subject of interest”, the system can alert the store team and advise them to monitor the shopper.

Systems like this face some resistance, especially in the US and Europe, due to privacy and data protection concerns. In Germany, Echion trialled 40 supermarkets and 100 branches of Deutsche Post with facial recognition technology involving a camera and a screen to scan the customer’s face to determine age, sex and general demographic. The store would then play ads targeted towards that demographic. Despite assurances that the data is only stored in the system for 150 milliseconds, the trial was eventually closed due to those privacy concerns.

5. The Enduring Power Of Stores
In a challenging retail environment, stories of stores closing are commonplace in our newsfeeds. And yet, a number of online-only brands are opening their first brick and mortar stores. The likes of Made.com and Casper have opened multiple showrooms, and online beauty brand house The Hut Group have recently announced that they will be opening their first showroom later this year, in Manchester. This shows that physical stores continue to have huge power in retail; they are the only place that a customer can be truly immersed in a brand – where they can touch and feel the product and fully understand the retailer’s proposition.