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Emerging technologies in the retail sector

The retail industry is advancing fast. The fact that many consumers now prefer to shop online means their expectations of the in-store experience are even higher and should match, if not exceed, the technological advancements they enjoy online.

Such technologies have emerged in this sector to ensure the in-store experience is keeping up with the online experience.      

I have outlined a few examples of these emerging technologies below:

Beacon technology

Beacon technology launched in December 2013 and is a new communication channel for retailers. It works through a transmitter being able to detect nearby smartphones. Once you have downloaded the relevant retailer’s app, this technology can pinpoint your exact location allowing retailers to send special offers as you walk past their goods. A push notification with a one-off sale offer could be sent straight to your mobile if you walk out of the shop without buying anything to tempt you back in for example. Or if you are browsing in a department store in the shoes section, you could be sent a discount code for a particular shoe as you walk past. Or if you’re doing your food shopping, a notification could be sent to you as you walk past items that are on your shopping list. Retailers including John Lewis have already invested in Beacon technology.

Virtual mirrors

These allow you to see how something looks on you virtually without having to enter a fitting room or test a product before buying. Each mirror has a built in 3D camera and can superimpose virtual outfits or looks onto you. For example, Superdrug’s virtual mirror allows you to try out different hairstyles and colours. This allows for a more ‘seamless’ shopping experience, removing the time it takes to try and test products before you buy.


These are cashless payments meaning that money exists purely as an online account rather than physical cash. Instead of counting your pennies or tapping in your pin number, all you have to do is wave your smartphone. In other words, a quick and easy payment putting an end to queuing.

These emerging technologies work to save us as consumer’s valuable time. Beacon technology allows retailers to communicate directly with consumers in real time. With virtual mirrors there is no need to spend hours in the fitting rooms or spend time taking back unwanted items. E-wallets work to minimise the need to waste endless amounts of time in long queues. Although these technologies are still finding their feet in the industry, there is no doubt they will aid the shopping experience in the near future.

by Lauren Harris, Research Assistant

This entry was tagged Communication, Retail & leisure, Retail, Consumer, Shopping and posted on April 13, 2015

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