As we approach the end of what might have been the most difficult year in memory, it’s time for retailers to look ahead, just beyond the immediate future. For physical store retailers, 2020 was particularly difficult. Social distancing requirements; city, state, and country-wide closures; stay at home orders, and a pandemic that never seemed to abate limited sales and hurt retailers.
Now, with the hope of a vaccine upon us and a possible return to normal, both physical and online retailers need to take a quick look ahead at the challenges ahead, to position themselves to overcome the challenges the future will being.
Competitors Optimized for Voice
If you haven’t paid attention to voice-enabled search, it’s time for a crash course in natural language processing (NLP). Google Home and Amazon Echo are everywhere, and their owners are using them to order products, research options, and track shipping. More and more shoppers are buying products online without ever seeing the product on their screen.
Retailers need to optimize their web sites for voice. Those who can prioritize voice optimized SEO will have a big advantage when Alexa and her digital friends come calling. According to research by Statista, by 2023 there will be over 8 billion digital voice assistances in use globally.
A Digitized In-store Customer Experience
We typically pay attention to digitalization changes for online shopping, but physical stores have begun integrated digital tools into their stores and shelves.
Ultra wideband real-time location systems (RTLS) and IoT technologies are making it easier for consumers to locate items in store. Not only does this help make the customer experience more efficient, but it also helps increase the value of shopping carts, as consumers find the products they need.
These technologies, which frequently are used through a mobile application, provide retail managers with data to better understand the way shoppers traverse their stores. Heat maps showing popular traffic paths and high-traffic areas can be used to improve in-store product placement and shelving recommendations. The real-time analytics stemming from these systems will enable more accurate campaign effectiveness measurement, queue management, and employee management. By 2023, we expect to see a significant increase of these systems in grocery stores, clothing stores, and other physical stores.
Ubiquity of Digital Pricing
Markets and Markets predicted the electronic shelf label market will be worth over $1.4B by 2023, and it’s easy to see why. Electronic shelf labels enable a huge ROI. First, by enabling price changes from a single location, retailers don’t need their staff members putting price tags on every item they sell.
Second, electronic price tags enable retailers to adjust pricing as needed. This allows physical stores to deploy dynamic pricing engines and make important pricing adjustments in real time. As competitor prices change, inventory levels go up or down, or products near their expiration date, retailers can easily adjust to price to remain competitive or more products off the shelf.
2023 seems a long way off, and a lot of retailers are feeling fortunate to have survived 2020. However, they need to focus on the long game, and start developing their technology today.