Retail is undergoing a massive technological transformation. In 2019 alone, spending on retail tech jumped 3.6% to reach $203.6 billion, according to Gartner.

This money was spent on a wide range of technologies. In one survey conducted by Retail Touchpoints, respondents, mostly senior retail executives, said they were focusing on new technology (61%), connectivity (52%), and mobile technology (52%) for the next few years. Employee hiring/retention, product merchandising, and inventory management were the other areas mentioned.

New technology covers emerging tech areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and Machine Learning (ML). Mobile technology, meanwhile, covers areas such as the development of mobile applications and mobile payment solutions.

Further Transformation Awaits in 2020

The technological transformation is predicted to rumble on in 2020. Indeed, stakeholders say they will spend even more money on retail tech this year. The following are some of the top tech trends to expect in the industry;

  • Online and offline working together

Industry experts predict that e-commerce will continue to grow at the same high rate. However, unlike in the past few years, it won’t be at the cost of brick-and-mortar stores anymore. Instead, online and offline retail will find ways to coexist profitably.

Online retailers will expand into the physical realm by opening physical shops. An excellent example here is Amazon 4-Star Stores and the many pop-up stores you might have come across recently.

Traditionally brick-and-mortar stores will also find ways to bridge the online-offline divide. Walmart is already doing this by allowing shoppers to walk into the nearest physical store, select items – even those not present at that particular store, and have the items delivered to their chosen Walmart location. 

  • Deep retail driven by AI

As mentioned earlier, retailers have been investing heavily in AI. The technology allows marketers to mine lots of data about consumers, especially via smartphones and browsers. Retailers will begin to reap the fruits of the massive AI investments properly in 2020.

According to marketing research firm Tractica, AI revenue will touch $36 billion in 2025. At some point, the technology will save marketers over $340 billion annually, thanks mainly to more efficient processes, especially in the supply chain.

Buoyed by the high revenue figures, retailers will then choose to spend even more on AI. Industry experts predict increased investment in areas such as 2D/3D computer vision, AR and VR sensor technology, natural language processing, and robotics.

  • Voice search and personal assistants

According to OUTERBOX, more than 79% of digital consumers in the US made a purchase via voice search in the final six months of 2019. On Google, voice searches now make up 20% of all searches. Gartner predicts that the figures will continue to rise, with voice searches likely making up 30% or more of all online searches in 2020.

Aside from Google Voice, a growing number of consumers also voice assistants, with Amazon Echo and Google Home becoming particularly common in the modern home. A recent study by Digital Commerce 360 found that 20% of the people who own these devices use them primarily for commerce-related searches.

It means that retailers must soon find ways to make their services readily available via voice searches. And they will in 2020.

  • Intensified geolocation marketing 

Geolocation marketing technology has proved an invaluable tool for retailers. It allows marketers to reach targeted customers with highly personalized offers, including dynamic pricing and customized promotions. It’s also possible to create breadcrumbs that lead customers to specific products in a store.

Tim Zimmerman, research vice president at Gartner, says that the trend is bound to intensify in 2020. “The customer’s smartphone provides multiple opportunities for geotargeting,” says Tim. “Indoor options include Wi-Fi, UWB, and BLE, while for the outdoors, you can use cellular and GPS data.”

He predicts that in 2020, retailers will combine geolocation with AI to deliver even more personalized marketing.

  • Digital wallets to drive consumer behavior

Digital wallets have become a big part of e-retail. They allow consumers to make online payments conveniently and safely without the need for credit cards. The use of digital wallets also means that users don’t have to give out their credit card information.

In 2020, the wallets will gain one further use among retailers – influencing consumer behavior. Retailers will seek ways to tie the wallets to loyalty and reward programs to learn more about consumer behavior and spending habits.

An excellent example is in-car payment technology that integrates with grocery stores and restaurants. These integrated wallets drive engagement and can be used to influence consumer behavior to the benefit of retailers.

  • Automated warehouses and robotic store assistants

2020 will also be a year when efforts to automate the warehouse intensify. Automated warehouses improve inventory control. Using smart robotics and advanced computer systems, automation allows retailers to keep reliable, up-to-date stock data in real-time.

Accurate data, in turn, helps with stock-flow management. Retailers are also able to predict demand better as well as make more informed decisions to improve the store’s bottom line. In the end, the retailer can expect reduced wastage, improved productivity, and a higher ROI.

In the spirit of automation, you can also expect to see more robotic store assistants in 2020. Order fulfillment automation will also become more popular.

  • Extended reality through AR and VR

Finally, 2020 will also be the year of experience commerce. The degree to which customers enjoy themselves when interacting with your store, both offline and online, will determine whether you make the sale and, more importantly, retain the customer.

One of the ways retailers will improve their customer experiences is through extended reality. Through AR and VR, the top brands will allow potential customers to not only browse but also “try” the items they’re thinking of buying.

Clothing retailer Tilly is one such brand that already allows shoppers to “try on” clothes and accessories before making a purchase decision. Living Wine Labels from Treasure Wines Estates and IKEA’s ARKit are other extended reality retail programs that leverage AR and VR to boost customer experience.

Get On Board with United Perfectum

As you can tell from the above discussion, the changes are coming thick and fast. Within a few years, the digital commerce landscape will be completely different. UP specializes in the development and implementation of cutting edge business technologies. Partner with us today, so you never have to worry about lagging in retail technology.