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Get ready to ride the next retail tech wave

Tom Jones
Tom Jones

For what seems like an age, the retail industry has talked about the ‘year of mobile’. Well perhaps that time has passed, with a swathe of new terms including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and ubiquitous computing now en vogue.

During London Tech Week, Tech London Advocates (TLA) held an event entitled Emerging Retail Technologies which showcased the latest innovations set to disrupt the industry, including augmented reality apps like Hive and Design, and Streamoid, a chatbot offering real-time fashion advice.

Introducing the event, TLA retail tech lead Simon Liss explained the current adoption curve we are experiencing and why mobile is on the wane with AI and similar technologies set to dominate.

Indeed, the retail industry is evolving from concepts such as “multichannel” and “omnichannel” to “merged retail” because connected devices will be everywhere, not just in the form of the mobile phone. This will help to bridge the online/offline divide which is potentially the biggest challenge for retailers.

The Internet of Things (IoT) essentially means tiny sensors can be attached to any object and make them connected to the world. In this regard, humans will become a retailer’s shop window with passers-by able to scan clothes they like and order on the spot.

Such advancements are already a reality and progressive retailers, such as B&Q in China, have developed virtual reality applications enabling shoppers to immerse themselves in products and learn a new skill in store such as decorating.

But as with all useful technology, it’s less about what it is called or the latest buzzword and more about what it does for the consumer. If vendors can focus on that, then they can steal a march on the competition rather than jumping on the latest bandwagon.

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