If you want to see the future, you don’t need a crystal ball. You just gotta follow the money.
Wicked-smart entrepreneurs build cool startups to solve a problem. Wicked-smart investors bet their money on cool startups they believe are most likely to succeed.
Analyst firm CB Insights recently identified 150 startups working on 18 different retail technology opportunities or problems – from customer loyalty and digital displays to augmented reality and touchscreen dressing room mirrors.
Now, some of these startups won’t affect small retailers for a long while. But they’ll be here sooner than we realize.
After all, who’d have thought 10 years ago that we’d soon accept credit card payments on our smartphones using a Square Reader? Or that online marketplaces like Scott’s Marketplace would be as important to revenue as our own websites and brick-and-mortar stores?
So, let’s follow the money to gaze into 18 predictions for the future of retail technology.
1. Pardon Our (Virtual) Dust
Store owners will use Augmented and Virtual Reality to visualize and test new product displays, store layouts, and more without hanging a “pardon our dust” sign.
2. Taking Loyalty to the Next Level
Customers will sign up for and access Loyalty and Rewards Programs from their smartphones or from tablets installed next to your cash register.
3. A Sign(age) of the Times
In-store signage will evolve from traditional paper shelf talkers to Digital and Interactive Displays that can be updated in real time.
4. Dressing Rooms From the Future
Dressing Rooms will feature interactive touchscreen mirrors that let shoppers request a new size, adjust the lighting, and receive similar or complementary product recommendations.
5. Gathering Data on Guest Browsing Behavior
Stores will offer Free Wi-Fi to price-checking customers – and harvest a bunch of valuable data on guest browsing, competitive pricing, and more.
6. Retail Robots at Your Service
Robots (!) and Chatbots will support (or replace) human labor by checking store shelves and guiding customers to requested products.
7. Finance on the Fly
Customers will apply for Instant Financing – from loans to installment payment plans – through their smartphones.
8. Inventory Management Goes to the Cloud
Owners will use cloud-based Inventory Management software to track products as they flow in and out of their stores.
9. Understanding Shopping Behavior Through Smartphones
Customers’ smartphones will open countless opportunities to understand shopping behaviors and push product promotions via Location Analytics and Proximity Marketing.
10. On-Brand Music
Innovative new Music Systems will help you stay on brand without meticulously curating the perfect Spotify playlist.
11. Combined In-Store and Ecommerce Data
Omnichannel Analytics Platforms will combine in-store and ecommerce data so you have a complete 360 view of inventory, prices, promotions, and more.
12. Packaging Technology Gets an Upgrade
Manufacturers will distribute more info than ever – from usage instructions to cross-selling calls to action – via Packaging Technology like scannable QR codes.
13. Brick-and-Mortar Evolves
The definition of “brick-and-mortar” will continue to evolve thanks to temporary Pop-Up Stores and Showroom Kiosks that let consumers try IRL before they buy online.
14. Targeted Shopping-Cart Ads
Tablets or digital displays affixed to Shopping Carts will push specific advertising to shoppers based on their location in their store.
15. Receipts With a Personal Touch
Smart Receipts will enhance the checkout process by driving buyers to leave an online review or to claim personalized offers based on their shopping histories.
16. Shelves With a Brain
Manufacturers will have a fuller view of products after they leave their facilities thanks to Shelf Monitoring solutions that monitor product displays, track promotions, and more.
17. Seamless Tracking for Store Managers
Store managers will track merchandise, process payments, schedule employees, and handle other functions using one-stop-shop Store Management and POS Systems.
18. Enhanced Service
Retail employees will use Workforce Empowerment Tools to communicate with coworkers and access customer profiles to deliver better service.