Retail technologies for the millennials

shutterstock_149746190The scenes of futuristic movies are fast becoming a reality in today’s digital world and no more so than in retail.

Tools like 3D printing, robots and wearable technology are getting retailers increasingly excited with visions of providing added convenience to their millennial customers through acquired behavioural understanding.

Take Asos for example which right now is investing in innovative technology companies as is prepares for what it calls the technological revolution of the fashion industry. Daniel Bobroff, investment director of Asos’ venture capital arm running the initiative said: “We feel like fashion tech is just at the beginning. There’s loads of tech from other sectors such as gaming which will have an untold effect on how you buy fashion in the next five years”. Bobroff believes that wearable technology in particular will help businesses to understand their customers even more and improve on the offer of personalised service. He adds: “The millennial audience are happy to give you data, but only if you serve them. You should know what they want and when they want it”.

The latest top predictions that technology futurists expect to see making an impact in store are:

  • Interactive changing rooms that deliver clothing to you at the touch of a button.
  • 3D printing used to offer additional personalisation when buying goods.
  • Internet connected clothing and beacons that guide you through the aisles.
  • Wearable devices such as glasses or technology integrated into body parts.
  • Robots in store and behind the scenes, and avatars used to help research products.
  • Seriously easy payments perhaps through RFID.
  • Personalised screens that project the products it knows you’ll like.

Customer experience futurologist at BT Global services, Dr. Nicola Millard, believes that there is a blurring between the physical and virtual space, and with this the technology focus should be on convenience. “We are seeing convenience driving a lot of behaviour. Given that loyalty is dying, we need to look at technologies that can deliver convenience”.

Elsewhere in the retail…

3D printing is on stage at John Lewis as the retailer trials a new digital tool for its sofa service – a virtual try before you buy. The Any Shape, Any Fabric offer is using 3D printing and RFID tagging to bring people’s sofa choices to life at the point of purchase. Shoppers in store can now select the shape of their sofa from a range of 3D printed models on cards and then pick the fabric from swatches.

Wearable technology and smart gadgets in the home are also on the agenda for e-tailer Amazon.  It is reported to be testing cupboard based wi-fi devices that can be used to order household groceries and the like, as well as wearable devices in line with the new Apple watch coming next year.

Meanwhile the concept of robots is looking more desirable as retailers consider them to do the jobs we humans would rather not.  Jobs that are dirty, dangerous or just downright dull on the robot’s to do list. Backing the idea, Tesco’s chief information officer Mike McNamara agreed that “it won’t be long before robots are carrying out simple retail tasks”.