Recent technological innovations have opened the way to new transformation opportunities in the distribution sector. This is why many traders have chosen to devote time to demystifying current technologies, before being led by a new wave of innovation …

By embarking on this adventure, the brands have only one goal in mind: to create significant and evolving human experiences. Two questions therefore seem inevitable: on the one hand, how to eliminate the partitions which exist between different technologies in order to create resolutely new integrated realities (Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Extended Reality or physical reality); and, on the other hand, how to more intelligently align human and technological capabilities to enhance the value of each?

In this regard, 2019 will be a promising year for traditional brands, and the retail sector should be marked by several trends.

Omnipresence will become the new omnichannel

In the new distribution model, consumers will interact seamlessly with a variety of connected devices, everywhere and all the time. The concepts of store sales or online commerce will no longer exist and will be replaced by a single concept, that of “commerce”.

For most merchants, the “online” experience will drive the “offline” and vice versa. A large number of consumers will also be present on different channels. This is perfectly illustrated by the recent opening of an Amazon store in New York, which only offers the highest rated products on its website.

More and more merchants will adopt “channel-agnostic” strategies, in which digital marketing, content, data and analytics based on artificial intelligence (AI) will combine with commerce to continuously provide the customer with a personalized experience while throughout its life cycle. Customer service will be more and more automated, with live chat and virtual assistants using AI becoming the main communication channels.

Smart stores will bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds

The growth of smart stores will continue to accelerate in 2019. The store of tomorrow will be much more digital than today; many smart devices will work together on a single Internet of Things (IoT) platform to deliver ultra-personalized experiences.

If this technology remains largely invisible to the consumer, they will have the possibility of interacting digitally within the physical store in order to find an answer to their needs and preferences.

In a first phase, merchants will start by replacing most of the technologies currently used in stores with more interactive and profitable technologies, such as interactive mirrors and 3D scanners. In the longer term, some will adopt digital workplace strategies, which will truly optimize the combined forces of man and machine and work together in this type of environment.

AI lives up to its reputation

Optimized product research will undoubtedly be one of the most useful innovations brought by AI. Cameras will use neutral networks to understand images without entering a search query, simply based on the photo, sent by the consumer, of the product they want. The consumer will then be redirected to a point of sale offering this article.

The accuracy of voice search by AI will also progress considerably. As the sophistication of algorithms powering virtual assistants increases, consumers will be able to ask more emotional questions (such as “should I …?”) And get personalized advice.

Such personalization will constitute one
the priorities of certain major brands in 2019. It will be based on the
browsing habits to adapt experiences and offer
specific recommendations at the right time.

Content will continue to reign supreme

The retail sector will become more and more immersive, with high-quality content disseminated by mixing AR, VR and MR. If virtual reality already has a head start in the distribution industry, augmented reality will gain popularity and be the big winner of the year ahead. It is expected to reach $ 120 billion by 2020. However, AR will continue to evolve in 2019. Its next version will use the principle of dual cameras, as well as 3D sensors to create even more realistic experiences.

Voice will replace screens

From here to
2020, 30% of internet browsing will be done without the use of a
. As merchants and consumers
become aware of the unique possibilities offered by voice technology,
seems inevitable that the voice will eventually replace the screens as the main
customer interface. Over time, these platforms
conversational will take on more human characteristics, and
integrate large sensory channels to allow the platform to
detect and respond to emotions, based on voice or even
facial expressions.

If it is impossible for them to remain indifferent to the latest technological advances, traders must beware of chasing after the latest fashionable object. They will have to favor a global approach in order to understand how to articulate these different technologies within a broader vision to transform customer experiences and create unique value.

As traders try to stay afloat in the face of the digital tidal wave, the main objective in 2019 will be to make technology more “real”, more human and more scalable, while bridging the gap that separates the world. physics and the digital world.

About the Author :

Scott Clarke, Chief Digital Officer and Global Consulting Leader for Retail, Consumer Goods, Travel and Hospitality, Cognizant.

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