The Retail Tech Revolution on Both Sides of the Counter

We have seen a retail revolution as consumers over the last decade. You don’t need to leave your house to try on a new outfit. Simply strap on a VR headset and enter a virtual boutique. Browse the virtual shelves until you find the perfect dress. Head to the virtual checkout and order it for next day delivery. There’s a problem. It’s out of stock – you’re going to have to visit the store. That’s one problem which a virtual shop can’t yet solve.

Still, none of it would be possible without the leaps in technology on the other side of the counter which are so easy to take for granted.

Keeping up with the need for speed

As VR experts REWIND explains, marketing can now be as exciting and immersive as gaming thanks to huge advancements in virtual reality production. Shoppers can make use of virtual reality car showrooms, virtual reality house viewings, one-click buying and click-and-collect ordering as part of a normal shopping trip.

But flashy tech innovations like VR and even the imminent arrival of drone delivery all have one overriding theme: convenience. With same-day delivery, rapidly-replenished stock, and quick-fire responses to customer queries, speed is a central part of the new shopping experience.

But how did shops manage to meet the buying public’s insatiable demand for a curtailed customer experience? Advances in consumer-facing technology have certainly helped: mobile points of service (POS), have sped up the payment process in some stores by forgoing the traditional checkout, and giving shop assistants their own mini pay terminal.

JC Penney made a commitment to bringing mobile POS to every one of their locations in 2012, and many other retailers have followed suit. But the biggest developments that have increased shopping speeds have happened behind the scenes.

Radar keeps high street shelves stocked

Though news stories about online shopping eclipsing its brick-and-mortar cousin are ubiquitous, the overall forecast for retailers in the UK is still good. This means that, though it may be difficult for real-world stores to compete with e-commerce, they could still be hugely rewarded.

With the increased demand for speed and convenience, ‘out of stock’ signs could be seeing a lot of use. Yet they aren’t. Most stores are handling the push for faster sales with ease, thanks to a tagging technology called RFID.

RFID tags are placed on products and emit radar signals to indicate their location. This allows store managers to keep on top of the quantity of items which are in stock. Though online stores might still have an edge, this technology definitely keeps the high street in the competition.

Robots work in warehouses

We’ve taken the increase in online shopping for granted, but it relies on some of the most elaborate behind the scenes retail technology of all. As online retailers chipped away at the high street’s shopping share, they needed to find a way to physically deliver all of their orders. Amazon found the solution in automated warehouses and, as experts OCS Retail Solutions explain, the evolution of warehouse tech transformed shopping completely.

A small startup called Kiva pioneered a technology that replaced human warehouse workers with automated machines. These robot pickers maneuver around warehouses, bringing stock to delivery vans much quicker than any human could. Kiva’s inventions were so impressive that the company was bought out and is now known as Amazon Robotics.

Complex databases make same-day delivery possible

Even with the increased speed of the warehouse-to-truck process, receiving an order, compiling it, and getting it to a customer’s house within 24 hours is still a huge feat. That’s where SAP comes in. In simple terms, SAP is a database, updated and read in real time by several departments within one company.

It is particularly important in retail, as is allows warehouses, supplies, sales floors and websites to communicate and collaborate without the need for phone calls or emails. In the lightspeed world of modern retail, this is crucial. As experts Eursap explain, SAP can be configured for same-day delivery, granting customers their number one wish.

Though VR shopping and mobile POS may be the most obvious and impressive retail tech developments from a customer’s perspective, the technological innovation going on behind the counter is what really gives us the shopping experience we crave.

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