Technologies Transforming Retail

Contactless shopping helps to make the checkout process more seamless, efficient and convenient by eliminating hassles like long checkout lines or inconvenient hours. Still, half of all retailers still do not accept contactless payments, even though “touch-and-go” spending is expected to increase by more than 300 percent over the next four years, according to British bank Barclays. Analysts at Technavio, a market research firm, however, predict that the global retail self-checkout market will grow steadily over the next four years, posting a CAGR of almost 18 percent by 2021.

“In the retail industry, the act of paying is often treated as something that is detached from the experience. You have a great shopping experience and when it’s over, it’s ‘time to pay.’ But the act of checking out of a store is part of the experience,” said Stephens. Many retailers already have the capability to eliminate checkouts, but whether they choose to do so or not is “a branding decision,” he said. “How you choose to approach that depends on the brand story you’re telling, the positioning of your brand, and ultimately, the experience that you’re trying to craft and curate.”

“In 2018, there will be two types of stores: one for convenience where shoppers will go there, to get something. The second one has a lot to do with experience. For a retailer like Primark, convenience is always more important. A luxury brand like Burberry might focus on the experience,” agreed Seara. “In the end, brands might even have two models. If you’re a big retailer with multiple locations, you might have a flagship on London’s Bond Street with all the experiences, as well as a click-and-collect place elsewhere that is convenient.”

Diners at KFC in China can now pay for their meals by using a facial recognition system. Walmart previously applied for a patent that would use facial recognition to identify varying levels of customer satisfaction. Union Pay has introduced facial recognition-based payment system. And JD.com has recently announced that it is opening hundreds of unmanned stores, which will use facial recognition technology to register payment for products.

Previously, facial recognition was used mostly to help with criminal investigations or unlocking smartphones. But, “the recent release of the iPhone and its FaceID technology has brought us closer in bringing facial recognition to the masses,” said Beringea’s McCormick. “In 2017, there were huge developments from retailers around the world that would suggest that facial recognition technology is on the brink of mainstream adoption.”

According to Fung Global Retail & Technology, the global market for facial recognition applications brought in revenue of $178 million in 2016, making the second most adopted biometric technology after fingerprint scanning. Technavio predicts that the global facial recognition market will grow at a CAGR of close to 23 percent by 2021.

Not only could facial recognition technology offer convenience, but it can also provide insights on a consumer’s purchasing decision process by identifying individuals and developing personalised experiences for them. “Imagine a major customer at a store. He would walk in and sales associates — if they were well trained — would recognise him and know what he likes,” said Burke. “But if he goes to London or Paris, or maybe he went for a jog and went into a different store, they won’t recognise him at all. He wouldn’t get the right service and therefore won’t buy anything.”

A facial recognition tool linked to cameras in high-end stores could allow the staff to improve their service by gaining insight into customer’s online and offline profile. “Facial recognition can give all the background on a customer’s past purchases, his shipping addresses, where he travels; it logs everything,” said Burke, who found in his personal experience as former senior vice president of fashion and public relations for US multi-brand retailer Bergdorf Goodman, the technology also makes companies less reliant on its staff, particularly in retail, which has one of the highest turnover rates in any industry.

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