Over the last decade, retail technology has moved at breakneck speed towards ecommerce.
Today, a vast 27.2% of the world’s population now shops online.
As technology has evolved, retailers find it practical to grow their business and provide better customer service.
And most importantly, retail technology has helped retailers improve their bottom line with increased sales.
So, as a retailer, what can you do to gain all those benefits and keep your finger on the pulse of technology?
Well, firstly, it’s a good idea to know what’s coming around the corner.
That’s because 2022 looks set to be a year of some incredible technologies making their mark in retail ecommerce.
Today we’re going to explore new retail technology solutions for 2022 that are already creating waves and making headlines.
We’ll go through some of the top retail technology trends in 2022 that we think you should consider as a retailer.
And as usual, we’ll give you our jargon-free, unbiased recommendations.
13 retail technology trends to watch in 2022
1. A-commerce technology
You might not be familiar with the term ‘a-commerce’ yet, but you’ve likely encountered it in some guise already.
A-commerce simply means automated commerce, and it involves automating as much of the customer’s purchasing journey as possible.
And it can come in a variety of different guises.
The more you can automate, the less time, money and effort is spent, which is always good for profits.
One form of automated purchasing that is already being successfully implemented in ecommerce is subscription-based purchasing.
Take, for example, everyday items like milk and bread that customers need to purchase every three or four days.
Those customers can subscribe to a retailer’s platform, and the retailer ensures the bread and milk are delivered every three days to the customer’s home.
Retail marketing can be complex and time-consuming, but thankfully, as technology has evolved, we’ve found ways to automate a lot of it through a-commerce.
From social media scheduling tools to cart abandonment email marketing software, ecommerce retailers have a variety of powerful automation tools available to them.
A-commerce will allow retailers to access data streams on their customer’s shopping habits, interests, behaviours and a host of valuable information to enable you to understand them more.
Ultimately, using a-commerce tools like marketing automation will help retailers encourage more purchasing but in a controlled, automated way.
Take, for example, a customer who regularly buys from an ecommerce retailer.
Usually, data suggests this customer, whom we’ll call Sam, purchases something every two weeks.
But data now suggests he hasn’t purchased in three months.
Automatically, the a-commerce platform will send Sam an email with an incentive, such as a freebie or money-off discount code to entice him into purchasing.
It’s not just the traditional customer-facing areas of a retailer’s business that can be automated.
A-commerce can be applied to every facet of your retail business, for example, staff reminders to check ID, automatic re-ordering of low stock levels, and so much more.
2. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) experiences
In our recent guide, ‘19 retail ecommerce trends to watch in 2022’, we spoke about some of the retail ecommerce trends to expect in 2022.
One of the trends we highlighted in that piece was the mainstream arrival of VR and AR experiences in retail ecommerce.
And one of those companies you’ll probably hear more about in 2022 regarding their impact on retail is an Israeli software company, Eyezon.
Eyezon is promising to “revolutionise the checkout process in physical stores by making it completely friction-less. We use deep learning and advanced computer vision technologies to track shoppers inside the store and accurately determine what products they picked up. No scanning or tills required.”
VR and AR are already helping ecommerce retailers sell products online.
Take, for example, Curry’s, whose irresistible tagline, “Love to see how our electricals will look in your own home before you buy?” encourages you to use their impressive Point and Place AR.
And in 2022, you can expect to see AR and VR technology rolled out into more ecommerce retailers, with the likes of trying on clothes virtually arriving.
3. Contactless payments
If we could pinpoint one thing that the pandemic hastened, it would unquestionably be contactless payments.
After all, social distancing measures, work-from-home regulations and table service has meant that human-to-human interaction has been dramatically decreased.
With customer and staff safety of paramount importance during a global pandemic that shows no signs of abating, you can expect to see more retailers adopting contactless technology in 2022.
So, apart from what we’re already seeing through contactless ‘tap and go’ services, what else can we expect?
You can expect to see more retailers implement shopping and payment apps, which allow customers to scan products as they move through a store and pay through an app.
This cuts out the need for a checkout line and a bonus of avoiding people standing too close together.
Powerful apps will also enable customers to select and pay for items on their smartphone and collect items in-store and avoid large numbers of people congregating around.
If you’re a retailer with no contactless payment infrastructure in place yet for at least the ‘tap and go’ payments, now is the time to consider seriously.
4. Artificial intelligence (inventory management, marketing, product copy)
Again, thanks to Covid-19, there has been a clear evolution in the adoption of AI (Artificial Intelligence) within the retail industry.
And that looks set to continue in 2022.
Expect to see a greater emphasis on AI inventory management systems that aim to enhance the system through AI-based tools.
Users of the technologies will enjoy significantly more accurate demand forecasts.
And inventory management isn’t the only area that will be transformed through the intelligent use of AI in 2022.
Retailers will enjoy more intuitive AI-driven operations software that’ll help provide a much more streamlined, hassle-free online experience for customers.
Marketing, including product descriptions, will also enjoy a re-birth through AI, with software taking over the more mundane tasks associated with marketing and promoting your company.
5. E-commerce and local e-commerce
Although it’s now firmly established in our everyday life, it’s crazy to think that e-commerce hasn’t been around that long.
After all, Amazon only started in 1994, and eBay only began in 1995.
But in the three decades, since those ecommerce giants started, ecommerce has slowly begun to mature into the worldwide hit it is today.
And in 2022, thanks again to the pandemic, e-commerce looks set to dominate the retail industry even more.
Local e-commerce will also mature in 2022, with online retailers focusing on how to reach local customers.
As a result of smaller businesses adapting to e-commerce, platforms like Shopify will grow. Google will reap vast advertising spend from smaller retailers keen to appear on local search results for products.
6. Cyber security software for retail
As retail e-commerce grows, so too makes the threat from hackers, unfortunately.
Indeed, according to Forbes, 78% say they “lack confidence in their company’s cyber security infrastructure”.
And with cybercrime projected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, it’ll come as no surprise to you that cyber security software for retailers will make a significant impact in 2022.
Companies like Imperva, which offer retail and e-commerce protection, have this advice:
“The ongoing global pandemic has accelerated eCommerce growth and pushed more consumers online. More consumers mean a larger threat landscape and ensure that cybersecurity issues remain a significant, ongoing challenge for the retail industry.”
It’s against this backdrop that you can expect to see more companies like Imperva offering cyber security software that protects your most important data and digital infrastructure.
7. Voice commerce
“Hey Siri, turn the TV on.”
“Alexa, switch the heating on.”
It seems like we’ve had our Echo Dots and Apple Homepod Minis for a lifetime, but believe it or not; this is still relatively new technology.
Both were only released in the last decade and, in truth, have only matured into something quite useful for customers in the previous 24-36 months.
As a result of the improvements in Siri and Alexa-enabled devices, voice commerce has now become something retailers cannot afford to ignore.
Expect to see more people shopping online through voice using smart speakers like Homepods and Google Nests.
To date, it hasn’t entirely caught on in significant enough numbers, but in 2022, voice commerce is projected to grow to a value of $40 billion in the US alone.
8. Chatbots for selling
Over the last couple of years, ChatBots haven’t exactly ingratiated themselves with customers.
You know the type we’re talking about; you visit a website, want to speak to a human and end up back and forth with a bot that leaves you even more confused and irritable.
But thankfully, ChatBots are evolving, and technology has improved enough to allow chatbots to do the work of your best salesperson and ‘sell, sell, sell’ on your behalf.
Whether it’s an AI ChatBot or one that pops up on a retail website, expect to see ChatBots come of age in 2022 and become a welcome part of your sales team.
9. Pricing technology
Unlike most other industries, you’ll know that retail is one of the most challenging when it comes to supply chain issues.
Take, for example, the Suez Canal blockage fiasco earlier this year.
It laid bare the vulnerabilities facing the retail industry, with the blockage estimated to be holding up $9.6billion of trade every day.
It’s against the backdrop of retail vulnerabilities and supply chain issues that pricing technology will make a welcome appearance in 2022.
So, what form might that take?
Expect to see more electronic shelf labels that make it easier for retailers to update prices quickly, effectively and in a more climate-friendly way.
We’ll also see personalised pricing technology coming to the fore in 2022, with intuitive algorithms offering promotions to a pre-set number of shoppers.
10. Smart carts and self-checkouts
Covid-19 has impressed on the retail industry the need for safety, contactless options and convenience.
And while the likes of Tesco’s ‘Scan as you shop’ technology has been around a couple of years, 2022 looks set to be the year that smart carts and self-checkouts go mainstream.
That’s because giants of e-commerce – Amazon – are now licensing worldwide.
As we ease into 2022, you’ll notice a lot fewer cashiers and a lot more convenience for shoppers who will nostalgically look back on checkout queues as a thing of the past.
So, in practice, what will that look like?
Samantha walks into a retail outlet, scans in at the entrance on her phone via an app and begins shopping.
As she lifts items and places them in bags, the retail technology automatically recognises this and adds them digitally to her basket.
Once Samantha is finished shopping, she simply walks out the door (without going to a checkout), and her payment is automatically taken.
11. Social commerce
In our recent guide, ‘What is omnichannel for retail? Omnichannel retail explained’, we spoke about omnichannel sales gathering pace.
No longer is retail sales confined to in-store, websites and apps.
Increasingly, we see a move towards omnichannel sales, and this has accelerated throughout the pandemic.
So, what is social commerce?
Sprout Social offers a good explanation:
“Social commerce is the buying and selling of goods or services directly within a social media platform. This model moves social media beyond its traditional role in the discovery process by encouraging users to complete the entire purchase process without leaving their preferred apps.”
In 2022, we’ll welcome social e-commerce to the mainstream, with the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and various other social media platforms offering purchasing solutions right from their apps.
12. Tools for omnichannel marketing
Omnichannel selling isn’t just a nice-to-have in 2022; it’ll be a bare minimum.
Customers are using their smartphones and tablet devices multiple times a day, and they expect to be able to carry out all their daily tasks on them.
As a result, we expect omnichannel sales to increase in 2022 dramatically.
And to manage the rise in omnichannel sales, you’ll see lots of new omnichannel marketing software that’ll streamline the process and save retailers time.
The likes of Shopify and BigCommerce already exist as tools for omnichannel marketing.
But expect these big hitters and new smaller companies to improve their offering to allow a genuinely cross-platform experience for a seamless and straightforward customer.
13. Remote try-on.
The feel and look of a new dress or new shirt while you look in the mirror and admire yourself is one of life’s simplest – but greatest – pleasures.
But unfortunately, Covid-19 has changed that in recent times and the enjoyment of trying on new clothes has been taken away from us.
But, as Forbes memorably put it in a recent article, “Virtual Try-On Is More Than A Pandemic Trend And These Brands Are Reaping The Rewards”.
And in 2022, you can expect to see a lot more fashion retailers offering remote try-on experiences for customers.
Yes, it might not match the delight of the physical experience in-store, but it’ll allow customers to check how a piece of clothing looks on them.
And the benefits for retailers are apparent; a customer who tries before they buy are less likely to return it, saving the company money and time.
Another benefit of remote try-on technology will be that it is contactless, again prioritising the safety of staff and customers throughout the global pandemic.
So what next for retail?
The retail landscape is constantly changing.
And thanks too, in large part, the global pandemic, we’re going through another period of significant change.
Those changes aren’t in what we sell but rather how we sell and how we operate.
The beauty of retail technology is that it’s not something you’ll be forced kicking and screaming into, but something you’ll accept has clear benefits for your company right from the off.
If there are two things you can do as a retailer in 2022, it’s to focus on customer experiences and ecommerce.
Ecommerce isn’t suddenly going to disappear and how a customer interacts or engages with your company is more critical now than ever.
After all, it’s your primary way to differentiate yourself from all those big, well-resourced brands and still compete successfully in a hyper-competitive retail industry.
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