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Retail technology: the future is here to blow your mind

Retail technology has changed dramatically in the last decade alone, giving retailers of all sizes more useful insight into what their consumers do and want.

retail technology

retail technology

Retail technology tackles big data

It is well known that retailers of all sizes have relied on data on their consumers, and in a recent study1 by The Control Group, new details about how retail technology has evolved brings to bear new details, including uses of infrared beams, infrared retina tracking, and even embedded chips. It all sounds futuristic, and it is, but the future is here.

Retail technology is redefining the retail experience which the Control Group (CG) says “will drive significant change in the retail experience by providing more immersive, personalized and cohesive brand experiences as well as new mechanisms for capturing, measuring, and understanding consumer behavior.”

The study notes, “Brick-and-mortar retail hasn’t changed drastically since the early days of the shopkeeper. It’s long been an experience based around tangible goods on shelves and a clerk behind a counter. Even if wooden boxes and coins have been replaced by cash registers and credit cards, the basic process of a retail purchase has looked pretty much the same for thousands of years.”

Further, “things are changing. We are experiencing a shift in retail that moves us from predominantly human transactions to technology-enhanced interactions. A few things have happened that will ensure a wholly different retail experience moving forward.”

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First, technology now automates the customer experience wayfinding, comparison shopping and point-of-sale transactions. Additionally, the study asserts that consumers have changed their attitudes towards privacy and expect more from the stores they patronize. Also, over half of all American shoppers shop with a smartphone on hand, and the online shopping experience has become more personalized and engaging than the offline experience, “but people still want to try on pants.”

Shopping has changed, people counting has evolved

Jonathan Spooner writes on the Control Group blog, “People counting technology got its start in the 1970s when one engineer in Montreal, Canada deployed a refrigerator-sized box with an infrared beam that counted every time the beam was broken as 1 person entering a store. Since then, the state of the art in people counting has evolved into an incredibly precise science of visual data interpretation.”

How has technology changed the tracking process? CG explains that systems today count people as they enter and exit retail stores, which can determine sex and age range by reading a person’s facial shadows and wrinkles. Other systems are said to use infrared retina tracking to determine a person’s emotional state based on comparing their image to a library of emotional facial reactions.

Because the technology has changed, as with any industry, there is a challenge in what to do with the massive volume of data being collected, so big data analytics tools have emerged to tackle the challenge and translate endless data into useful information. For example, CG notes that retailers can record the length of time between a customer entering a store and their being greeted, and other tools message the store manager when more than four people are standing in a checkout line.

“Future video/scanner systems will not only track people counts and movement but also capture their interactions with the merchandise via embedded UHF/UH RFID chips that can pinpoint the location of products and analyze this compared to the customer’s final purchase total,” CG notes.

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1 “Retail Technology 2013: The State of People Counting in Retail”

Written By

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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