The retail industry faced a multitude of disruptions due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As some retailers shut down, most had to pivot business models and adjust to social distancing norms and movement restrictions. Besides, shopping behaviors changed radically, with more customers opting for online purchases.
As retailers struggle to maintain their in-store footfall, technology came to the aid. The retail industry is in turmoil with the sudden emphasis on redesigning stores as per physical distancing regulations and mushrooming contactless payment systems. Retailers aim to offer personalized and swift shopping experiences when most customers are hesitant to visit the stores. Shop owners are starting to invest in testing shop layout and product placement through Emotion AI platforms to analyze real-time customer responses.
These transformations pave the way for a new post-pandemic market where physical and digital experiences will blend seamlessly. The trends from 2020 will shape the retail industry‘s future. Following are the three tech trends in retail that will dominate 2021 and beyond.
Brick and Mortar Shops Are Going Online
The retail industry is getting digital by the minute. While e-commerce was expected to double by 2023, the pandemic accelerated the growth leaving physical shop owners no option but to maintain their sales by embracing omnichannel strategies.
Approaches like ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline), Buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline) have gained huge traction post-pandemic. With social distancing norms in-place, the number of people visiting shops at one time has reduced. Many customers are opting for these newfangled ways to shop to avoid crowds and minimize wait time in stores. However, many retailers with no online presence quickly established one in fear of missing the bus. Now, retailers are trying to engage customers on an emotional level to become a frontrunner. For an enhanced shopping experience online and increasing in-store conversions, retailers are employing Emotion AI companies to delve deep into customer’s behavior as their newly formed websites go live. Emotion recognition technologies like facial coding and eye tracking are offering actionable usability insights for recently turned e-retailers.
From rapidly changing customer behavior to logistical issues, retail businesses across the globe are affected by COVID-19.
Here’s an infographic displaying the challenges faced by the retail industry, and how new technologies are helping retail brands run the business smoothly and keep the ‘economy’ rolling.
Contactless Technologies: A Must-Have in Post-Covid-19 Future
Retail shops were donning cashless payment systems long before the pandemic hit, but the demand surge is new. National Retail Federation’s research indicates that one in five customers made their first contactless transaction during the pandemic, and 57% will continue to do so.
Meanwhile, cashier-less and staff-free shops are also getting popular due to pandemic-induced safety concerns. Shekel Brainweigh Limited’s recent survey suggests that 87% of customers will choose stores with self-checkout or touchless options, and the retail industry is obliging. Major retailers like Amazon, Apple, and Whole Foods are leading the way for enabling contactless shops. Shoppers appreciate the convenience of checking out without standing in a long queue, especially in post-Covid-19 times.
Apart from these, to minimize the manual involvement during in-person shopping, Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) – enabled technologies are picking up pace. Leading brands like Amazon and IKEA are utilizing ARKit-assisted applications to allow the customers to visualize how the furniture will look in the customer’s house by moving their mobile camera in real-time. Companies like American Apparel, Lacoste, and Uniqlo allow customers to try clothes in virtual fitting rooms.
Since social distancing is a must today, AR and VR-led technologies can do the trick. Besides, buyers will have immersive shopping experiences without interacting with a staff member.
Optimizing Shopper’s In-store Experience with Emotion AI
Many direct-to-consumer and digitally pure-play brands like Glossier, Warby Parker, Bonobos, Away, Vasper, Koio, etc., recently established physical presences. Several digitally native apparel, furniture, and fashion companies are opening stores since these products sell well with physical shopper interaction. Real estate experts indicated a surge in this trend by 2025, but Covid-19 has slowed those openings. Still, offline experiences from previously online-only brands will increase in 2021.
However, these digital-first retail brands face a colossal challenge to bridge the gap between digital to real and humanizing the shopping experience. With consumers’ growing tendency to do quick shopping, use contactless technologies, and spend less time in stores, retailers are increasingly looking to tap into consumer emotions to drive sales. Thankfully, Emotion AI solutions can contribute immensely.
Studies suggest that retailers have only 5-6 seconds of buyers’ attention at the shelf level before making a purchase. These figures and changing consumer priorities during Covid-19 indicate that efficiently placing the products matters.
For instance, Affect Lab’s emotion AI solution ShopperEQ allows brands to optimize the customers’ shopping experience when in-store. How does it do that? The Emotion AI technologies such as facial coding, eye-tracking, and planogram testing, along with pack A/B testing, provide retailers with actionable insights and recommendations. Companies can better position their products, offer eye-catching designs to consumers, and realize higher returns on their display investments.
Furthermore, as retailers prepare for the post-pandemic market and redesign stores, they can employ emotion recognition technologies to gain an in-depth perspective. If shoppers’ emotional responses skew negative, or people appear confused, it might be time to place your products differently.
With Emotion AI technologies such as facial coding, shop owners can test their store’s Product noticeability with intended customers. Retail brands can also figure out if shoppers are happy about certain flavors, shelf placement, and in-store layouts.
What’s Next in-store for you in 2021?
Be it contactless payment, Emotion AI-enabled shop optimization, or AR/VR-led retail experiences; these technology solutions will remarkably transform the way consumers interact with the retail industry. The pandemic has brought about a sea change in the way shoppers choose. To keep up with the shift, retailers must adopt digital approaches.
To enhance shopper’s satisfaction, Emotion AI can offer innumerous opportunities for change and improvement. And who knows, maybe bridging emotional gaps in physical stores will trigger the right emotions in consumers with no intention to buy, and your sales propel like never before. Affect Lab’s Emotion AI Solutions help retail brands to deliver superior in-store shopping as well as online shopping experience.