Looking ahead: Retail technology trends

Important technology trends in the year ahead that should be on retailers’ radar to stay competitive and continue down the digital transformation journey – online and in-store.

Technology has made it easier than ever to sell online.

As a result, there’s an estimated 12 to 24 million e-commerce stores globally and 2.14 billion online shoppers. 

With 58.4% of Internet users buying online each week, and 30.5% of those purchases made from mobile devices, analysts expect the global e-commerce industry to grow to $8.1 trillion by 2026. That’s up from $5.7 trillion in 2022.

The economy’s ups and downs and rising inflation are impacting every industry. But whether retailers adopt new technologies or not, consumers are looking for goods – and retailers can’t slow the momentum if they want to survive and thrive in 2023.

Here are important technology trends in the year ahead that should be on retailers’ radar to stay competitive and continue down the digital transformation journey – online and in store.

Think like a consumer and anticipate their needs

How do you engage your customers? What you do next year won’t be the same as last year. Customers are savvier. Google and Bing are at their fingertips, and they can easily research and purchase what they want and where they want to buy it.

New competitors are popping up each day, addressing the needs of customers in innovative ways.

Personalize the customer journey

It’s becoming a norm: an online store greets us by name if we’ve previously visited the site. Retailers unable or unwilling to personalize the customer journey will see diminishing customer loyalty as consumers continue to respond to personalization of the shopping experience.

Through natural language programming (NLP), we now have the technology to apply personalization on a larger scale, such as Nike’s customized sneakers and Stitch Fix’s personalized clothing selection. These ultra-personal touches engage customers on an emotional level and inspire brand loyalty.

Companies that can provide these experiences of personalized tastes can capitalize on the demand for personalized and unique products and experiences.

Create hybrid and omni-channel customer journeys

It’s no small task: To continue to thrive in 2023, retailers need to create customer journeys that combine the best of online and brick-and-mortar shopping together. This means understanding your customers. What do they like, how do we serve up customized experiences in the store and online?

Just as an e-tailer would understand our past buying behaviors as we shop online, how do we create a similar immersive experience in-store and online?

Customer journey mapping, a visual representation of the steps a customer takes to complete a specific action, can be one way to discover the customer’s journey. The more steps that are involved to complete the action, the more detailed the customer journey map.

With the goal of improving the overall customer experience, customer journey maps help companies maintain a customer-centric mindset, identify issues and spot what needs to be addressed. Customer journey mapping tools are found in many CRM systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Mixed reality shopping driven through immersive experiences

Innovative technology such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) create enhanced customer journey experiences. Using VR in-store can be a strategic method for boosting sales, such as setting up VR-enabled kiosks and providing customers AI enabled humans to walk the customer through an immersive experience. Interacting with the product before purchase enables customers to build an emotional connection. Retail brands must invest in the tools, and product multimedia content, but for hard-to-sell or high-value items this can be the perfect sales tool.

Virtual try-ons, AR, VR and the metaverse drive these immersive experiences, creating exciting and personalized shopping experiences. Giants such as Nike, McDonalds, Adidas and even Cheetos have established a presence in the metaverse. In 2023, we’ll see an increase in retailers’ virtual try-ons and virtual dressing rooms. Large retailers such as Hugo Boss and Amazon already allow customers to virtually try on clothing using digital representations of themselves.

Tools such as Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 AR headset blends the digital and the physical to create immersive experiences for customers. The retail leaders who take advantage of this technology can win big – with innovation as the key to keeping customers’ interest and registers ringing.

Contact-free autonomous shopping and delivery

COVID-19 has left a mark on us all, and the trends that were catapulted to the forefront in 2020 are here to stay. The consumer journey will continue to require the ability to remain totally contact-free, cashless and autonomous. Consumers are demanding more streamlining and efficiency in the way they pay for goods and the way services are delivered. Buy online, pick up curbside or delivery to your door have quickly become the expected option.

Technology such as AI and advanced analytics make all this possible by automating the required complex inventory management processes. AI powers the way we “think” with intelligent robots and automation in stores and warehouses. In 2023, we can expect to see more automation with fully autonomous warehouses and delivery drones.

Take steps to overcome disruption in the global supply chain

Perhaps the biggest lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic for retailers is that the global supply chain isn’t immune to disruption. Even two years out, many countries are still navigating changing restrictions on travel exports, and memories of empty shelves still haunt retailers’ and consumers’ minds.

The “just-in-time” supply chain will not return to its prior efficiency, and so retailers must continue to adapt by warehousing essential inventory when possible, diversifying supply chains and selecting manufacturers closer to their consumer base.

Mazars helps retailers consider the right technology

Using the latest cloud technologies, Mazars Microsoft solution advisors work with clients to innovate and collaborate about market factors and emerging technologies by building end-to-end business applications that positively impact organizations.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 integrates cutting-edge customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning capabilities with cloud technology to provide a comprehensive, multichannel management platform that grows along with your business. Learn how retailers can succeed in 2023.

Ready to learn more? Connect with Mazars to get started.

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The information provided here is for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, legal advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal or other competent advisers.

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