The rise of online shopping has induced a plague upon brick-and-mortar stores. After all, why would you travel to the shops when you can browse from the comfort of your sofa? The culture shift led to more than 5,855 store closures in 2017, the highest level since 2010.

If retailers want to lure consumers back onto the high street, they need to create a physical shopping experience that can’t be matched online. Thankfully, digital transformation is hitting various industries – from manufacturing to banking – and retail is no exception. Today’s retailers have a unique opportunity to facilitate a new tech-driven, customer-centric shopping experience.

Here are three innovative technologies that have the potential to transform the in-store shopping experience:

Chatbots

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making its mark on retail, particularly online. Due to the inherently trackable and quantifiable nature of consumer activity on websites, the volume of e-commerce data makes it the perfect ecosystem for leveraging AI. It’s credited with transforming Amazon into a retail powerhouse by enabling detailed customer recommendations and unbeatable delivery efficiency.

However, physical retailers are also beginning to see the benefits of incorporating AI into their stores through the use of chatbots – the pairing of natural language processing and AI – to tailor the consumer experience.

In-store, AI-driven chatbots can become personal shoppers, helping consumers to find what they’re looking for based on a few straightforward questions, and can even make personal recommendations. By incorporating chatbot technology into the physical store environment, retailers can create a more efficient and enjoyable shopping experience by reducing queues and friction.

Augmented Reality (AR)

AR is being increasingly adopted in the retail sector, with investments into the technology expected to increase by 18% this year. AR enables retailers to incorporate computer-generated sensory, such as sound or video, into the in-store experience. This enables brick-and-mortar stores to offer something that no e-tailer can – a virtual experience in a real-world environment – and most importantly, it can provide customers with a new incentive to visit a physical store.

This year, fashion retailer ZARA implemented AR into its mobile app. Customers were encouraged to hold up their phone to mannequins and watch them come to life on-screen, before sharing the experience on social media. The campaign provided a strong example of how AR technology can create an immersive in-store shopping experience, encouraging consumers to not only purchase products but also experience them.

Facial recognition

Facial recognition technology is being increasingly used and implemented across the retail sector to improve store efficiency and the customer experience. Camera and video software is able to detect what individual consumers are searching for and, crucially, how long for, in order to help make the shopping experience and store layout more efficient.

The software can even be used to recognise members of store loyalty programmes, activate loyalty accounts, and even recommend products based on their previous purchases. Emotion detection technology is also starting to make waves, and it has the potential to evolve in such a way that retail environments will adapt elements like background music, lighting and messaging, to meet consumer needs.

In a progressively crowded market, it is more difficult than ever for brick-and-mortar retailers to stand out. But thanks to technological advancements, physical stores have the potential to create new and meaningful ways to interact with their consumers and offer an extraordinary shopping experience.

Kerry Ritchie By Kerry Ritchie, Senior Account Executive