With 2016 still in its infancy, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for the year. As retailers have had time to wind down after the busy holiday shopping season, there's an opportunity to look at what’s to come in the year ahead. The team at Demandware has been busy making a few predictions for the coming year in retail. Take a look at our top three below:
Machine Learning Will Drive Voice-Based Intelligent Assistants
Rama Ramakrishnan, Chief Data Scientist
Machine learning will expand beyond shopper personalization to positively impact merchants and marketers in the form of a Siri-like intelligence assistant that pops up occasionally with insights and recommendations. Swiping, typing and tapping will in many corners become a thing of the past, replaced by voice commands. For example, a voice agent could recommend that retailers run a buy-one-get-one sale on women’s sandals to clear out excess inventory, and even suggest the optimum time of day to promote the sale. Personalization will be woven so deeply into the fabric of the shopping experience that consumers won’t know they’re being targeted.
In-Store Payment Will Evolve Dramatically
Eric Olafson, Senior Vice President of Store Solutions
Retailers will implement mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems, beacons, sensors and other touchless technology that, as the McKinsey Global Institute puts it, will make checkout feel like stealing. In-store payment methods will evolve dramatically. For starters, chip-and-signature cards will fail to catch on in a big way because A) they only marginally reduce the risk of fraud, B) retailers will weigh the cost of implementing this 20-year old technology against the fraud liability risk and decide it’s not worth it and C) retailers would prefer to invest in mobile payment technology, which minimizes the need for credit cards altogether.
‘Omnichannel’ Will Become an Antiquated Term
Alan Bunce, Senior Director of Product Marketing
"Omnichannel" will become a passé, dated term as the number of shoppers buying products from multiple channels, on multiple devices, outstrips those who only shop in channel. Omnichannel will be replaced by a more apt term like unified commerce, which refers to a single commerce platform that gives retailers a unified view of customers, inventory, etc., across all channels.
It’s pretty clear that our industry experts expect a shake-up in the e-commerce landscape this year. With advances in technology such as big data and analytics and the need for increased personalization in retail, artificial intelligence and machine learning are in prime position to make a statement in 2016.
In step with advances in machine learning, payments technology has infiltrated the retail space and brought significant changes to the in-store customer experience. We’ve already begun to see the proliferation of mobile payment options such as Apple Pay, and expect to see more technology companies entering the mPOS space.
These predictions both point to new opportunities for retailers to offer a more personalized, seamless shopping experience for consumers both online and in-store. Eric’s prediction perfectly encapsulates this trend. With mobile, wearables and new advances in retail technology for shoppers, retailers will have no choice but to be available whenever and wherever customers are. We’re optimistic about the future of retail and excited to see what 2016 has in store!
Rob Garf is the vice president of industry strategy and insights for Demandware, a cloud-based e-commerce platform provider.
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