While the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to exit the picture, people are still restricted and trying to stay indoors as much as possible. Although there are bits and pieces of retail shops opening, the traffic was never the same as pre-COVID19. Be it in Singapore or other countries, the physical retail industry is still heavily affected.
Having stayed home for the past few months on lockdown has also changed the buying habits and preferences of people. People are getting used to online transactions and realise the convenience of not having to even leave the house while still being able to shop at countless online stores.
Having said that, it is safe to assume that post-pandemic retail shopping would take a huge transformation and lean toward a more digitally-inclined experience. Below is a list of technologies that could play major roles in helping transform the retail industry moving forward.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) renders robots more conscious, through training them by practice. This presents the in-store retail sector with the ability to close the divide between the emerging and traditional economies. Retailers are altering in-store climate for improving consumer service and rising revenue. Customers could also use tools and functions provided by the store to find the product they are looking for more easily. For example, they could send in a photo and the machines could locate and give the shopper the exact location of the product. Machine Learning (ML) which means that the machines would learn on their own after a prolonged period of analysing data. ML could be used with AI to better customer experiences and locate products easier.
Predictive analytics is the use of past metrics to determine a future action or behaviour of the customer. It is already in use for many websites such as the recommended items section when you are about to check out. They use past data of the items that you have browsed to find similarly styled or matching items to recommend to you. With the hit of the Covid-19 pandemic, predictive analytics is now more important than ever because it is a key to finding out customer’s needs and wants now, in the changing buying environment.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
With the help of Augmented and Virtual Reality, customers can now try on whichever product before buying, without the need to be physically present in the store. Some brands have already been using these features in their applications. An example is GOAT, a shoe reseller for latest fashion sneakers. They have a feature in their mobile application whereby you could try on a shoe by just putting your phone camera onto your feet. The VR function who then show you how the show would look like on your feet, allowing you to try it on virtually. If it is to your liking, you could purchase or make a reservation straight away via the same app. This example shows how much more convenience AR and VR could bring to the retail industry, and it is only going to get better.
With the highly contagious COVID-19 virus, reducing human contact would always be at the forefront of retailers minds, even after the virus has passed. In the future, there might be the use of robot staff in the physical stores instead of humans, and this seems logical because many duties such as stocking shelves, cashiering and greeting customers could be easily done by these robots. This would also reduce physical contact with human staff and perhaps could ensure a safer shopping experience for shoppers in the post-COVID19 world.
This is not a foreign term to us in Singapore. Many applications such as Grab and Fave allows us to already do cashless transactions. Countries such as China, Korea or Japan have also been doing cashless transactions as a whole country through the use of only mobile phone applications for a while now and it is foreseeable that Singapore would follow suit in the near future.
This evolution in the retail industry is no longer a surprise to many and the real question to focus on is actually how we can help retailers in Singapore convert and evolve smoothly into this new technology-based retail industry. Just like any change, there would be those who embrace it and reap the rewards which come with their fast adaptation, and there would be those who hesitate and is resistant to change. These laggards would not only have a lot of catching up to do, but also lose sales daily as our economy progresses more and more into the digital space. This hard truth is a tough pill to swallow for many, so we at SGI, try our best and use our expertise to help out the retail industry by guiding them for their digital transformation.
If you need any help or advice in transforming your retail business into an automated and digital business, we will be more than happy to have a consultation session with you. Feel free to contact us at email@example.com and we could guide you step by step on how you can avoid being left behind in this change.