Over the past decade, we’ve seen a steady state of disruptive technologies, driven by advances in mobile computing, social media, and cloud-based services. Apple wasn’t the first to digitise music, but it combined several technologies to make it easy for consumers to buy and access their music anywhere, anytime.
In doing so, Apple not only fundamentally changed the retail model for music, it made consumers wonder why all purchases couldn’t be as simple. Now retailers need to tap into these rapidly shifting consumer expectations by embracing the next wave of disruptions.
The combination of mobile computing and big data analytics are enabling more direct connections with consumers. In the US, retailers as diverse as Macy’s and GameStop are already beginning to deploy location-based beacon technology in stores, providing shoppers in or near their stores with access to location-specific deals or other promotions via smartphone apps.
Global consultancy Accenture recently produced a report identifying its top five retail disruptors and here at Aurora Lighting we have been working to make our Gooee-based lighting infrastructure suitable to help drive and support these key disruptive technologies.
1. Internet of Things (IoT)
Intelligent devices—from shipping containers to shopping trolleys—are already a part of our daily lives and expected to continue to grow at an accelerated pace. This collection of connected devices, known as the Internet of Things, is at the heart of what we are doing at Aurora and offers significant opportunities for retailers to make their operations more efficient.
For example, smart stores with connected devices and sensors will give retailers a better understanding of consumers’ in-store behaviour to help them optimise marketing, merchandising and operations. Hugo Boss is using heat sensors to track customer traffic in its clothing stores, which helps managers place premium products in high-traffic areas. Premium chocolate brand Godiva installed smart meters in its stores to count shoppers, which helps the company optimise staffing levels and record interest in its window displays.
There’s no shortage of buzz around wearable computing devices. Ownership of consumer wearables–intelligent eyeglasses, watches, footwear, fashion—is expected to double year over year by 2016.
Wearable devices that complement a person’s actions allow companies to equip their employees with the technology they need to do better work, potentially improving operational efficiency. In retail, wearable devices such as Google Glass could help store employees look up product information in real-time while interacting with customers.
3. Cognitive Computing and Machine Learning
The software that empowers all of these connected devices is evolving in parallel. With an influx of big data—and advances in processing power, data science, and cognitive technology—software intelligence is helping machines to make informed “decisions.”
Fashion retailer Uniqlo, for example, has piloted Magic Mirror technology from Sharp that allows customers to virtually change the colours of clothing they’ve tried on while standing in front of the mirror.
Adidas created a virtual shopping window at its NEO store in Germany that lets consumers drag products into a shopping bag on the window and download them to their smartphones, where they can complete the transaction using Adidas’ e-commerce system.
4. Digital Fabrication
The adoption of 3D printing is accelerating and poised for massive growth. Many retailers and manufacturers are already exploring ways to leverage 3D printing and other types of digital fabrication to defer production to the latest point possible in the supply chain to meet individualised demand.
5. Digital Payments
For the past decade, companies such as Google and PayPal have struggled to drive widespread adoption of their digital payment and electronic wallet technologies. However, according to Accenture’s survey of more than 4,000 consumers in North America, consumer adoption of mobile payments is already on the rise.
NFC-enabled contactless mobile payments have garnered a lot more attention—and traction—since Apple’s launch of its Apple Pay solution and digital payments could also drive incremental sales. Combining mobile payment systems with iBeacon technology, for example, could create a seamless experience from promotion through checkout.