IT Technologies and the Way We Shop in 2018
Consumer technology in the retail sector has come a long way in a short amount of time. While mechanical cash registers and manual inventory systems were the sole business model up until the 60s and 70s, electronic cash registers and calculators soon became the industry standard.
The 80s and 90s saw even more technological integration, such as computer-driven point-of-sale devices — including fixed kiosks and mobile hardware. Now, in 2018, technology has transformed the way consumers shop on a day-to-day basis.
On the Front-lines of New Technology
Although they don’t always realize it, consumers are often on the frontlines of new technology. In the earliest days of shopping, this might have involved switching from handheld baskets to wheeled shopping carts or the transition from an all-cash model to accepting checks and money orders. As a more recent example, the dawn of the millennium brought new focus to several new technologies, including:
- Self-checkout lanes: These lanes, which let shoppers scan and pay for items without having to wait for an available cashier, are the subject of much controversy. Although they greatly streamline the checkout process, the addition of new self-checkout lanes often results in lost cashier jobs.
- Online shopping: This is another controversial breakthrough. Although it gives consumers of all types — including those with disabilities and limited mobility — the chance to shop without assistance from others, some attribute online shopping to the decline of the brick-and-mortar retail industry.
- Augmented reality (AR): Augmented and enhanced reality is popular on many social media sites and smartphone apps. While it’s typically meant for fun, lighthearted uses, like adding cartoonish features to a digital photograph, shoppers use AR to preview new paint styles, rearrange their furniture and so much more — without committing to a purchase. Some of the first AR apps hit the consumer market in 2017, but others will likely follow suit in 2018 and beyond.
- ERP software: While there was a time when enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems were reserved for the largest and most prolific corporations, modern technology makes these solutions more affordable than ever before.
- Blockchain technology: Known for its association with the growing popularity of cryptocurrency and, specifically, Bitcoin, blockchain technology is touted by some as the next big breakthrough in IT. Despite the fact that blockchain technology experienced tremendous exposure in 2017, both negative and positive, it has to gain significant momentum in the retail sector. Experts still believe it has the potential to transform consumer shopping in the future — whether that occurs in 2018 or at a later date.
Not only do consumers and retailers all benefit from these innovations, but these breakthroughs often result in new shopping habits and tendencies — some of which wouldn’t be possible without next-gen technology. Some of these trends include:
- Flash sales: Modern technology lets retailers offer flash sales that only last for a short amount of time. For a greater impact, these sales often feature steep discounts on popular brands and items.
- Product reviews: Today’s shoppers benefit from having access to more user reviews than ever before. According to a recent study, nearly 75% of consumers use mobile devices to read online reviews and view product datasheets while they’re shopping.
- Alternative payments: Significant progress in the area of near-field communications (NFC) technology provides a viable alternative to the modern credit card. Platforms like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay give consumers more options than ever before.
Between new shopping trends and next-gen retail technologies, the whole experience is a vast upgrade — and one that’s nearly unrecognizable — when compared to a few decades ago. If history is any indication, new breakthroughs and innovations will continue to steer consumer habits and, as a result, influence the future business model on behalf of retailers across the globe.
Consumer Shopping in 2018 and Beyond
We’ve experienced so much new technology integration in the 21st century — and it’s only been a few short years since the dawn of the millennium. Innovations like blockchain technology and augmented reality, as well as new and exciting payment options, hold high promises for 2018 — but the next big revolution in consumer shopping will require a concentrated effort from shoppers and retailers alike.