Technology Trends That Are Revolutionizing the Retail Industry

From globalization to localization, retail is a fast-evolving industry that impacts both buyers and sellers. To stay at the top of their game, retailers should familiarize themselves with a few key developments. Here are six ways that technology trends continue to revolutionize the retail industry.

Multichannel Retail

Man holding credit card in front of keyboard

Image via Flickr by danielfoster437

When customers demand to be able to shop on their own terms, retail companies can no longer rely solely on brick-and-mortar connections with customers. Instead, businesses have found a way to exist in multiple spheres at once, giving customers the flexibility to shop in a store, online, or a mix of both. Many retail businesses give customers the best of both worlds, allowing them to shop online and reserve items for a convenient in-store pickup. While this is great for customers, it also benefits retailers, as customers picking up items tend to make additional in-store purchases.

As shoppers grow more accustomed to the ease of shopping and searching for items online, though, businesses will have to take more steps. Some innovative retailers outfit employees with tablets, which they can use to help customers find items quickly in brick-and-mortar stores. Having this kind of technology on hand allows employees to place orders for out-of-stock colors or sizes at a moment's notice. The benefits here are twofold, ensuring that the retailer doesn't lose the sale and that the customer leaves happy.

Mobile Wallet

As retail embraces the digital age, many shoppers no longer want to carry around a pocketful of credit cards. Instead, they gravitate towards one of the many emerging mobile wallet products, such as Google Wallet. If a retail business has a well-developed mobile app, mobile wallet systems are easy to integrate, creating a single, convenient location for customers to shop, purchase, and pay. 

These products can also exist as standalone retail options, allowing customers to pay with their mobile wallet instead of a credit card or even cash. By giving customers the payment options they prefer, businesses will find that shoppers are more apt to make spontaneous purchases and quick decisions. If retail companies tie in coupons and other incentives into mobile wallet products, retail companies may find their clients even more eager to buy. 

Data and Analytics

Retailers have gathered key information and data points from their customers for years. From contact information to shopping patterns, retailers have in-depth knowledge of their customers. With opportunities for smart analysis at their fingertips, retailers now have no excuse not to use this data to their advantage. From competitive pricing and product management to seasonal retail needs, businesses have numerous avenues for their analytics.

Smart retailers can take this analysis a step further by digging into their customers' shopping habits and using these to drive additional sales. Once a business has a grasp on what makes its customers tick, it can target specific customers with customized promotions and deals. This strategy becomes especially important with brick-and-mortar retailers, as they strive to win sales in-house instead of online. Incorporating analytics into marketing strategies can help physical stores stay ahead of the curve.

Mass Customization

While the customer may not always be right, it's important to keep her feeling on top of any shopping experience. With the extensive data they've collected, retailers are making moves to implement this personal information in mutually beneficial ways. When retailers practice good customer relationship management, everyone wins.

The most innovative retailers will use data by creating complete profiles for each customer. This information about both clients and their shopping habits informs businesses as they decide how to engage individual customers effectively. Even large companies can create an atmosphere of personalization that keeps satisfied customers returning after each purchase.


Though buzzwords have trended toward localization over the past few years, it's becoming more and more critical for retailers to maintain a global presence. Globalization creates major space for growth, essentially allowing even a small retailer to connect with potential customers in every corner of the globe. To do this effectively, retailers will need to hire tech experts to support complex websites and logistics managers to keep track of inventory and shipping worldwide.

Of course, globalization doesn't have to equate huge and impersonal. Instead, it can go hand-in-hand with the trend toward mass customization. No matter whether a retail company is large or small, it can keep things personal with careful use of analytics and customer relationship management. When a New York City based client and frequent online shopper visits a retail outlet in Hong Kong, for example, he should be able to pull up his saved items in the retailer's mobile app and locate them in-store, even though it's half a world away.

Social Media

Globalization may give retailers a chance to sell products around the world, but social media serves as the ticket to exposing global clients to any brand. Many retailers will find the route of content curation and promotion most effective, as it allows them to advertise their products and services to an eager audience.

Offering incentives to shoppers who share promotions and sign up new customers via social media are some of the best ways to utilize this medium. Retailers on the cutting edge of social media marketing can also take advantage of powerful new tools that allow shoppers to make purchases directly in social media platforms.

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter both incorporate "buy" buttons into their platforms, making the path to purchasing that much easier. Similarly, a new plugin for Instagram takes full advantage of this image-heavy platform by allowing clients browsing a brand's page to buy an item with a single click. These tools take social media to the next level, turning it into a sales arena where clients no longer just dream about shopping, but do it, too. 

In the rapidly evolving world of retail, technology advances quickly. Smart retailers will adopt the current best practices and staff accordingly, while always keeping an eye on the up-and-coming tech that will help their businesses grow and expand.

Contributed to by Kim Hale

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