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Each year, we take a look at the major digital transformation trends hitting every industry. Next up: digital transformation trends in retail for 2020.
First, I want to go over some of the hits and misses we chose for 2019. While we did see major and necessary improvements in omnichannel retail and cognitive computing, I’d say we still have some work to do with cardless checkout and smart beacons. Yes, those technologies are still percolating and will likely continue to mature in the coming year. But for 2020, I see some more significant digital transformation trends in retail moving the industry forward.
2020 will be the year where it is virtually unnecessary to see, feel, or test a product in person before you feel confident enough to buy it, thanks to augmented reality. We recently saw Toyota launch a new AR program that allows users to try out 10 of their cars without ever picking up the keys. Just as importantly, in my opinion, consumers didn’t have to download an app to try the experience–something that can be a huge deterrent for those of us burned out on downloading apps just to see if they’re worth downloading. Toyota is not the only company using this feature–far from it. Companies like Target, Lowe’s and Amazon have found that augmented reality may be especially helpful in decreasing the number of returns they see from online shoppers. Indeed, while e-tail will hit $5 billion in value by 2021, it is estimated that 25 percent of purchased items are sent back. Augmented reality could mean retailers keep more of their sales because consumers more fully understand what they’re buying at point of purchase.
Now, Now, Now
Amazon Prime taught us that shoppers are no longer willing to wait more than two days to receive their products. But Amazon’s recent shift to free one-day shipping shows that they’re getting even less patient. Studies show that 88 percent of consumers are willing to pay for same-day (or faster) shipping. We can see from the rise of apps like Instacart and Shipt that people are drawn not just to the convenience of grocery delivery, but the ability to get what we need in two hours or less. Amazon Prime Air even promises delivery in 30 minutes or less! Clearly, consumers are shopping at the speed of digital transformation and expect their products to be delivered just as quickly. I know I’ve personally abandoned my shopping cart when I realized there were no expedited delivery options available. The question now is whether smaller retailers will be able to keep up with the expense. Mom and pop shops: take heart.
Make It Easy–and Personal
Today’s consumers don’t just want their products fast, they want to be able to get information about them quickly. They want to go to your website and be able to compare prices, styles, delivery dates, see your recommendations of things they may like even more–preferably all on one screen. That’s why AI is so important in digital retail. Consumers are constantly dropping hints at the types of things they like and want–and how much they want to pay for them. The savviest retailers will be gathering that information and using AI and deep learning to make the shopping experience as easy and personalized as possible.
In digital transformation, consumers love a seamless experience. That’s why technologies like visual search and social shopping are going to skyrocket. Being able to take a photo of a dress you see someone wearing on the street — to be able to click the purse that your favorite social media influencer is holding in her latest Instagram post — those are the things that are going to keep e-tail booking in 2020. Again, AI is taking the lead in these technologies, making things like visual search possible.
A Mix of Reality and Virtual on the Spatial Web
Even beyond augmented reality, we’re going to see an increasingly confusing mix of digital/virtual and reality in the coming year, especially in retail via the spatial web. And I’m not just talking about virtual changing rooms. I’m talking about users being able to place themselves in their favorite brands’ advertisements, being able to model their favorite brands’ clothing, and an increasing coordination of virtual experiences that will intertwine on the spatial web. For instance, a newly engaged woman may try on her wedding gown virtually, and see herself walking through one of many possible wedding locations. A man who recently purchased a motorcycle can try on new gear and see how it feels on the motorcycle he’s just purchased. We may even see people paying for these virtual experiences, which makes the ideas of “retail” and “reality” themselves even more confusing.
Yes, in 2020 the digital transformation trends in retail will also continue to see smaller stores work to compete for a piece of the pie against Amazon, which is crushing the market. But these new technologies, when used well, may be enough to lure their customers back home.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.