From products designed by artificial intelligence to virtual reality systems that help shoppers picture merchandise in their homes, retailers are deploying technology like never before this holiday season, betting that they can win business back from the default of online shopping.
These innovations run the gamut, including sensors and cameras that can monitor in-store movements, smart fitting rooms that suggest a blouse or pair of shoes to go with the jeans you’re trying on, and robot sales associates that not only remember the dress you bought for that work party, but also to ask how the garment worked out.
To entice shoppers away from their screens and into stores, retailers are looking to technology as a way to “create new and different in-store experiences,” says Shari Wynne Ressler, founder of SKU, a retail-focused accelerator in Austin.
As the all-important holiday shopping season comes to a close, retailers are paying attention to whether these tools are enhancing traditional marketing and sales campaigns to favorably impact the bottom line. So far, e-retail sales are on track to at least meet last year’s tally of $94.4 billion, according to Adobe Digital Insights.
Retailers hope technology can boost sales, getting shoppers to commit to buying more, says Jill Dvorak, senior director of digital retail at the National Retail Federation in Washington.
“Retailers are using [artificial intelligence] in how they make recommendations, how they design products, and how to get into the supply chain to make more of what customers are buying in real time because there is a demand for it,” she says.
Need further proof of just how important tech innovations are to retail? The world’s largest retailer announced earlier this month that it is changing its name from Wal-Mart Stores to Walmart (NYSE: WMT). “We felt it was best to have a name that was consistent with the idea that you can shop us however you like as a customer,” Doug McMillon, the company’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “As time goes on, customers will increasingly just think of and see one Walmart.”
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