Technology's pervasiveness will continue to grow, reshaping how consumers define shopping.

FREMONT, CA: Technology is rewriting operating models across the economy, but nowhere more so than in retail. As consumers, they see how our changing behaviours and preferences are reshaping the retail landscape as a whole. The pandemic's disruption has flipped the sector on its head, bringing with it unprecedented technological advancements. As a result, if retailers wish to remain relevant and profitable, technology should be a strategic imperative. The future retail experience will be driven by physical innovation and advanced analytics, allowing retailers to reimagine their operating and revenue models to meet changing consumer expectations.

Experts estimate that although these trends emerged due to necessity, they'll persist in the retail industry in 2021 and beyond. Some of them are:

Virtual fitting rooms

Virtual fitting rooms powered by augmented reality technology are one of the most intriguing retail innovations. Because a “try-before-you-buy” approach is difficult to implement during a public health crisis, augmented reality is uniquely positioned to assist customers in making purchasing decisions by virtually ‘trying them on.' Customers can use their smartphones to 'try on' products such as jewellery and cosmetics through the use of virtual fitting rooms.

Stores without employees or cashiers

Due to the continuing importance of social distancing for public health protection in 2021, cashier-less and staff-free stores are an important retail trend to consider. Indeed, many customers have expressed increased interest in stores that offer contactless or self-checkout options over the last year. RFID tags, computer vision systems, machine learning, Internet of Things devices, and facial recognition can all be used to accomplish the contact-free goal. Such technologies are incorporated into Amazon's Just Walk Out system, based on the Amazon Go Grocery model. In-store, Amazon's IoT network monitors what consumers place in their carts. When a customer exits a store, the store will automatically charge the customer's credit card on file. Additionally, there are ways to minimise cross-contact in stores by having customers scan barcodes and QR codes for pricing and payment. Consumers' smartphones can check crucial codes to obtain additional information about items without touching them.

Commerce Via Voice

In 2021, artificial intelligence and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) advanced further. With Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri as the market's leading consumer voice assistants, each has made numerous improvements to serve customers better. The trend toward voice commerce is demonstrating a vital capability for the retail industry. Consumer-owned IoT devices, like smart mirrors and smart displays, can deliver product content discreetly and beneficially.

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