The retail industry has ultimately been focused on customer interaction and consumer experience. While the face to face aspect has somewhat diminished over the years, developing technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes the shopping experience a much smoother operation.
Evolving from Mom and Pop Shops
Retail stores, whether they were convenient marts or department stores began by offering goods or services to the customer in a face to face manner. In smaller towns, everyone knew your name and the items you bought were rather predictable from week to week. Yet, shopping quickly became a technological experience when barcodes were introduced onto products, requiring scanners. Soon after, an old-fashioned register was transformed into a computer that accepts credit cards and mobile app payments.
Online shopping provided the largest blow to brick and mortar stores, and by relation, customer interaction with employees. The newest forms of AI development have not only helped to make a more streamlined shopper experience but have been working to retain the feeling of human interaction.
Current Technology in Retail Stores
As convenient as mobile phone payments are for products, they are just as useful for the companies at which you use them. By scanning your coupon code or payment app at the register, the computer collects information about you from your phone to better tailor their products to your interests. In addition, companies like Walmart have already implemented a service that allows customers to order their goods by text message.
Companies who sell anything from shirts to eyeglasses have offered augmented reality to let customers try on an article of clothing virtually to see how it looks. After choosing a product online, many stores offer “Buy online, pick-up in stores” offerings. While this concept is not new, some outlets are beginning to look into self-driving cars that could bring a customer to the products.
Perhaps the technology that is lesser known is sensor data. Stores will place sensors called “beacons” around the store which will connect to a customer’s phone if the Bluetooth is enabled and the retail app installed. If these criteria are met, the store will be able to track how long someone is in the store, what they pick up, and discounts based on that information.
Cutting-Edge AI That’s Not Far From Reality
The goal of AI technology in the retail industry is to improve customer engagement to ultimately make a higher profit than was made before. These AI systems are offering shoppers more opportunities to shop without cashiers, manufacturers to increase efficiency, and companies to answer customer questions with personalized automated responses. The top 5 AI trend in retail are:
While some of this technology is still in the works, there has been a split reaction to AI systems.
Mixed Reactions to AI Shopping
While the new technology is meant to mimic a human customer interaction, that may not be completely possible in every situation. Human conversation is still the primary method for customer service and speaking to someone directly can be easier than using technology to get across the question you need answered. A Google study reports that 61% of mobile users call a business when they are in the purchasing phase and 59% call because they want a quick answer. Still, traditionalists stay strong as 57% were reported as simply wanting to talk to a real person.
Many are excited about the prospect of the new technology as robots like Japan’s “Pepper” have increased foot traffic and sales overall. Yet the overall consensus seems to be that consumers would like a mixture of human and AI interaction based on a survey from Capgemini. The biggest factor in deciding between humans and robots was the type of product in question. The more expensive the product, the higher the demand for human interaction.
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