Technology has become a strategic imperative for all sectors and retail is not an exception. As retailers across the world scramble to lure customers and improve operational efficiencies, deploying the right digital technologies is essential for differentiation and survival, according to leading data and analytics company, GlobalData.
The company’s report ‘Technology Trends in Retail, 2018’ mentions various digital solutions that drive greater personalization and a smoother shopping experience across online and mobile platforms, as well as in brick-and-mortar stores. These solutions include artificial intelligence (AI) for customer service, analytics and smart supply chain management, but also interactive tools based on augmented reality and the latest digital payment methods. Improving last-mile delivery is another major challenge for retailers this year, which requires shorter delivery windows and innovative approaches such as small self-driving robotic vehicles.
Andreas Olah, Lead Analyst for Digital Retail at GlobalData, says: “Personalization can drive customer loyalty and the ability to collect more data about their behavior and preferences. By establishing what customers are likely to be interested in through the latest analytics and AI technologies, retailers can upsell more products and avoid going out of fashion.”
Furthermore, retailers are deploying a large number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in their stores and warehouses to engage with clients and collect data through sensors, cameras and Bluetooth beacons. However, since most IoT devices are connected via open networks, they become increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. Which is why GlobalData foresees cybersecurity and data protection capabilities to emerge as key differentiators for technology solutions in 2018.
Retailers are expected to invest substantially in smart supply chain and inventory management capabilities this year to achieve cost savings, eliminate unnecessary steps in distribution, keep lower inventory levels and thereby assert greater control over their suppliers.
Olah continues: “Supply chain management systems are expected to get upgraded, with the addition of greater automation and predictive analytics, which is also increasingly powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.”
Retailers are also embracing digital payment technologies including digital wallets, mobile readers, integrated apps such as WeChat, as well as blockchain to provide a seamless omnichannel experience to customers.
In addition, GlobalData predicts that as shopping habits change and digital technologies advance, the automation of customer service based on AI and robotics - combined with augmented reality experiences and new store formats - will evolve further in the retail sector over the next few years.
Not to mention that new technologies will find their ways into retailers’ daily business. Ocado Technology, for instance, the technology division of the world's largest online only supermarket, could come to their rescue, when talking about online fraud. The tech company just revealed the world's first AI-based fraud detection system for online grocery purchases.
The new system relies on an advanced machine learning algorithm, using TensorFlow and the power of Google Cloud, that’s part of the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP), an end-to-end solution designed to power all aspects of a retailer's e-commerce business. Ocado Technology developed a mechanism of predicting and recognizing incidents among millions of other normal events, using data collected from past orders, including cases of fraud. The engineers then implemented a deep neural network using TensorFlow and uploaded the whole fraud detection system to the cloud.
In any case, Olah concludes: “Instead of jumping on every trend bandwagon, retailers need to be judicious while selecting digital technologies, which should match customers’ specific needs and the retailer’s brand identity to address existing problems and challenges. In addition, customers should be allowed to choose their preferred channels of shopping and be encouraged to interact with certain digital tools, rather than be forced to use them.”