Automation can enhance the human shopping experience

Speculation of the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on the retail industry is rife, with some suggesting that machines could be exclusively responsible for the functioning of stores over the course of the next decade.

Given that digital trends like social media, mobile applications and automation are already reshaping the way retailers engage with customers beyond all measure, retailers’ priorities now need to be on adopting an equitable blend of both human assistance, and tailored technology, thus ensuring that customers across generations and genders are suitably catered for.

Emerging technologies cannot merely be introduced comprehensively across retail operations however without due care, attention and consideration being given to the wider implications.

It is critical that retailers duly account for the needs and preferences of the combined elements of the consumer market. Innovation for innovation’s sake is not the way to progress this technology, nor help it to realise its true potential.

Listen to the generation gap

Aggressively prescribing technology to an unwilling customer base is not the answer. The perils of this approach lie in retailers simply hoping against hope that shifts in digital trends will eventually win over sceptical consumers. This will only leave both the retail and tech industries banging their heads against an impenetrable wall.

It is no surprise that the younger generation are once again the leading and most vocal advocates of how and where tech can aid, and enrich the personalised shopping experience.

Our Sixth Sense of Retail report unearthed that over a third (35 per cent) of shoppers aged between 16 and 24 are openly calling for the introduction of more interactive store layouts such as touch screen technology, an increase in online order options, trolleys with screens and electronic window displays in high-street stores in 2017.

Investing in the right way

As retailers prepare to invest in the next wave of automation, delicate mastering of these trends is essential for bolstering market share. Providing shoppers with engaging and exciting new experiences will then allow retailers to use this data to provide a more in-depth form of personalisation to the time consumers spend on the shop floor.

Across the board, there is evidently an appetite for a more all-encompassing and engaging retail offering – whether through bricks or clicks, powered by technology. What is also clear however is the divide that exists between consumer expectations and preferences, which should be heavily considered by retailers seeking to increase market share.

The promising outlook for the retail industry will without doubt be determined by the judging correctly how to strike the right balance between humans and technology.

Now is the time for retailers – whether online or in-store – to begin harnessing and channelling data, leveraging the unparalleled growth of mobile, and bridging the gap between bricks and clicks.

For more information on the Sixth Sense of Retail report, you can download the full version on our website here.