The Evolution of Tech in Retail

By 
Jackson Lewis, Assistant Editor

Technology

BOSTON -- These days, consumers aren’t just looking for cheap prices. They’re also looking for an enjoyable shopping experience. With this need in mind, retailers of the future could offer personalized in-store digital assistants to help with shopping. Customers could have the ability to video conference with store associates from home and technology will develop to better ensure secure transactions both in-store and online, according to a report from Boston Retail Partners.

Here's a look at four ways retail is headed toward a technological future …

Digital service in the physical world

Mobile app technology

“Within three years, 75% of retailers plan to use Wi-Fi and 71% plan to use mobile apps to identify customers in their stores,” according to the study. These tools will allow retailers greater opportunity to customize the experience of each customer shopping in brick-and-mortar units.

The report points out that, while even traditional POS systems can identify customers at checkout, it’s too late to influence their purchasing decisions at that point in the shopping process. Tools to automatically identify customers and their purchase history before checkout are the next step in providing a one-of-a-kind shopping experience to help increase sales.

Apple Pay takes the lead

Apple Pay

While only 36% of U.S. merchants currently support Apple Pay, 22% plan to accept the payment service within the next 12 months. Another 11% plans to implement the system within the next one to three years and the remaining 31% are taking a “wait and see” approach, according to the study. PayPal is close behind Apple Pay’s level of use, followed by MasterCard PayPass and Android Pay.

The report envisions a future where POS systems can be mobile or stationary, depending on the needs of the consumer at the time. However, for this to happen, the study indicates that both customers and employees need to learn that human error or confusion is what usually causes mobile transactions to take longer than using cards or cash.

Simplicity means security

Mobile security

In addition to providing convenience, mobile payment options can also improve security. “Mobile payments in stores use tokenization so that the retailer never actually has the customer’s card number, which significantly reduces the security risk,” according to the study.

Mobile payment can also help soothe consumer fears that their personal data will be misused or stolen by a hacker, since tokenization keeps the specifics of their information from the retailer. “A secure environment becomes even more critical in this data-intensive world, as customers must have peace of mind that their data will not be stolen or misused,” the report said.

POS heads for the cloud

Cloud computing

The report predicts that future commerce platforms will link all in-store, online and mobile purchases seamlessly through the cloud, but implementation has been slow on this front. The study indicated that only “9% of retailers surveyed … offer a single commerce platform with 62% planning to implement one within three years.”

Despite the slow progress on this front, the report maintained that cloud computing still “offers the quickest and surest path to seamlessly connect all e-commerce, mobile commerce and in-store POS transactions to order management, inventory, marketing, financials, supply chain and customer service.”