The Future of Retail is Up Close and Personal
The future of retail will be shaped by a growing appetite for hyperpersonalization in the design, manufacturing, distribution and marketing of products and services. In the future, the possibilities offered by our growing intimacy with data — gained from our wearables and under-the-skin technologies, to our smart homes and even our DNA and genomics — will open up much deeper options for hyperpersonalization across industries, especially retail.
From the steps we take to our biometrics and heart rates, our data will tell stories of nuanced behavior, such as the time we spend with people or on specific activities, daily rituals, how we decide what’s for dinner, what we eat, and more. Such enhanced contextual awareness opens up possibilities to tap into our emotional states, unique biology and other data for hyperpersonalized experiences, products and services in retail.
Changing Perceptions of Reality
The advent of technologies designed to hack our human senses are changing our perceptions of what's real in the physical world from our experience of reality.
What we see, hear, touch and even feel is redefining our understanding of truth and the information we process in a retail environment. Not only do we absorb vast amounts of data, but we're active producers in creating it.
With the growing investments in facial recognition technologies and emotion recognition technologies (with companies like Affectiva, Decooda and Sensing Feeling), we’ll see emotion recognition applied to a more nuanced understanding of a customer’s emotional engagement in physical stores and beyond. Furthermore, developments in the haptics space, such as Tanvas’ haptic feedback technology that lets you feel different textures on a touchscreen, can bridge physical and online retail experiences. Similarly, Ultrahaptics is using ultrasound waves to create 3-D objects in mid-air that users can tangibly feel. One application of this is the creation of invisible, touchless interfaces that could be controlled with gestures while receiving tactile feedback.
Premium Human Interaction
Also resonating in the retail space is the growing tension of trust placed in automation vs. humans. With nearly 45 percent of retailers planning to use artificial intelligence by 2020, the proliferation of emotion-recognition technologies and voice assistants are actively changing how we communicate and blurring the lines between human and machine.
The signals we absorb from human interaction validate whether we see an experience as trustworthy — e.g., shopping in a specific location. According to the neuroscience of engagement, the “feeling” of trust is part of that process.
“When you're being spoken ‘with’ instead of ‘at,’ it shapes whether you see this information as valid,” said Dr. Fiona Kerr, industry professor of neural and systems complexity at University of Adelaide. Human interaction will still play a pivotal role, even in an automated world of retail.
The Face of Access
These technologies outlined above are bridging physical and online worlds, but also separating them. The beauty industry, for example, is at the forefront of using technologies that ultimately change the way we see or experience one another. Augmented reality app Makeup Genius, which is used to superimpose graphics on your face to test makeup shades before buying them, has been downloaded 17 million times.
As we work and share our lives in physically remote locations, the persona one uses to communicate remotely could literally have a different face, if not a more beautified one, with technologies designed to enhance appearance on video conferencing calls. Innovations like these are gradually shifting ideals of how we perceive, understand and communicate with one another further from reality.
At the same time, with increasingly advanced facial recognition technology, our faces are becoming identifiers that could be used to access — or deny access — to certain locations like stores, airports or sporting events.
When you are your own data, how far will you go?
For more, download sparks & honey’s culture forecast report Truth, Trust And The Future of Commerce.
Anna Sofia Martin is the editorial director at sparks & honey, a cultural consultancy.
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