The 2002 motion picture Minority Report is famous among marketers for a particular clip that demonstrates what the future of marketing would look like in the year 2054. The sixty-second scene shows the protagonist - played by Tom Cruise - walking into a Gap store, immediately greeted by a virtual host that has identified him via retinal scanner. The host then begins marketing specifically to Cruise, attempting to engage him in a direct conversation.Back in 2002, this idea seemed far-fetched, but as we know now, technology has progressed so quickly that interactions like these are already close to becoming reality. After disrupting retail via ecommerce, technologists are now focusing on bringing an even greater level of innovation to the physical store, and it’s becoming increasingly less likely that we’ll have to wait until 2054 to see the future of brick-and-mortar digitally transformed. Here are six technologies we think every storefront will have by 2025.
Accenture predicts that there is a three trillion dollar reward for businesses that can offer personalization to customers. Personalization will be the focus of every leading retailer in the next ten years, and biometrics will play a huge role in that movement.
Current tools like fingerprint readers offer customers the piece of mind that comes from enhanced security measures. However, that’s just the beginning of the technology’s potential. Biometric identification and recognition will help tailor and personalize the customer experience for every individual shopper.
By 2025, marketers will be required to deliver rich, bidirectional, interactive campaigns to stay competitive. The reason behind this is simple: technology is raising the bar on consumer expectations. Users spend 47% more time with interactive media than they do with one-directional advertising, and while this consumer preference hasn’t become a demand yet, it soon will.
Most signage is still surprisingly antiquated - a cheap, flat poster in a metal frame; a buzzing neon sign, or a scrolling set of pictures displayed on a flat-screen TV. But innovators like Virgin Media are introducing a highly-engaging user experience to their signage that is delighting and impressing store visitors.
Interactive signage will allow retailers to produce eye-catching visualizations that transcend simple one-dimensional promotions. These new devices will draw visitors in and walk them deeper into the customer journey, providing first-contact personalization and education. In short, rather than simply initiating a visit like traditional signage, interactive signage will initiate a sale.
Today, 3D printers may seem like an odd choice for this list, but by 2025, they will be a mainstay for many brick-and-mortar stores. These printers will allow retailers to offer a tremendous amount of personalization and customization to shoppers in a way that is both scalable, cost-effective.
Imagine, for example, if you could walk into any Verizon store, and in addition to walking out with the latest smartphone, you could also purchase a customized case imprinted with a photo of your significant other or family. Love the necklace in a display window but wish a few details were a little different? An in-store 3D printing service will allow retailers to make their core products specifically for you.
As economies of scale bring prices down and the software behind these devices matures and delivers a more easy-to-use interface, retailers will need to capitalize on the immense tailoring a 3D printer can offer to customers - as well as the enjoyable experience it can deliver - by getting shoppers more involved in creating personalized versions of the products they love.
Robots that Deliver
Drones have enormous potential for a retail market that is increasingly prioritizing speed and convenience in the customer journey. While it may be a little longer before drones land on doorsteps, by 2025, the technology will be mature enough to solve at least one of the challenges physical locations face with inventory management: sharing stock.
Currently, when a customer walks into an electronics store, for example, to buy a hot item on sale, if the store is out, the customer has two real options: 1) have the store order the product online and ship it to them, or 2) drive to another location that has the item in stock. Drones can solve this by simply flying the item from the other location right to the one where the customer is. By the time the customer is done with their other shopping, they can walk out with the item they wanted without waiting for it to ship or being inconvenienced. Drones will provide retailers with the ability to easy shift inventory to match consumer demand.
Humanoid Robots as Personal Shoppers
Personal shoppers have been a favorite feature for consumers and can be found in some surprising stores. But while customers love them, the personal shopper is hard to scale due to cost.
You can already see robots wandering the aisles at several major retailers like Lowes, and even top-tier shopping centers like Westfield Mall in San Francisco - they perform tasks like stocking inventory and greeting guests. However, with the advanced progress of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, sentiment recognition, and natural language processing, it’s only a matter of time before humanoid robots become a viable option for retailers that want to offer personal assistants to customers visiting their stores.
Augmented Reality Mirrors
AR mirrors are fundamentally transforming the way consumers explore fashion, both in store and in the home. When synchronized with customer-focused big data and imaging analytics, the augmented reality mirror offers much more than a way to visualize and socialize a shopper’s potential new look. As retail recommendation engines become increasingly sophisticated, AR mirrors that leverage these engines become the perfect medium to make tailored suggestions to customers, allowing them to immediately and accurately imagine themselves immersed in a store’s entire catalog.
Imagine being able to stand in front of a mirror at your favorite clothing outlet, and swipe left and right to swap outfits that are digitally projected onto your reflection; outfits that were selected for you based on insights derived from billions of retail transactions recorded and analyzed and matched to your personal preferences and buying behavior.
The Technology Trailblazers Have Already Started
Retailers that are thriving all have one thing in common, and it’s not their investment in online shopping; it’s the early adoption of innovative technologies in their physical stores. Technology trailblazers like Sephora, Lowes, and Adidas are incorporating what are currently state-of-the-art tools to augment the in-store customer experience.
By starting today, these brands have given themselves several huge advantages over their competition. First, the demonstrable impact on brand recognition and revenue each of these companies have experienced. Second, and just as importantly, they have given themselves the time to learn, experiment, and optimize these new technologies before they become must-haves in the market. By the time other retailers are just starting to explore how these technologies work, brands who adopted early will be experts and wielding these incredible tools to maintain and protect their competitive edge. By 2025, these early adopters will be in the strongest market position and reap the rewards of their foresight.