Drones, Bots and the Future of Retail Technology

Drones, Bots and the Future of Retail Technology

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Whether you’re pounding the streets to get the most out of the Great Singapore Sale or hitting the internet for the best deals on Black Friday, the future of shopping will banish the drudgery and make shopping a sensory joy

virtual fitting room

Virtually the new norm: who says trying on new clothes has to be tedious? Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno

Browsing through your favourite e-commerce platform or retail outlet but nothing seems appealing? What if every advertisement you see could be so spot-on that you are constantly spoilt for choice? In the future of shopping, retailers will know you. Whether you’re browsing online or offline, everything will be about what you want and need.

With cloud technology and big data, retailers are already aware of your buying habits based on your shopping history. Very soon, online ads will feed you only items you are likely to like. Unsure if you like something enough to buy it? Artificial intelligence (AI) will help you make a decision, offering latest trends, reviews from your social networks or your personal history, including diet or allergies.

Even in public spaces, retailers will soon be able to cater to your specific interests, aided by wearables and augmented reality (AR). Imagine texting your friend in the train about a new handbag you’ve been thinking about, and as you alight at your train station, your glasses or contact lenses see AR projections of similar-styled bags across the station’s ad spaces.

Today, Singapore’s shopping mall developer CapitaLand is already working towards deeper personalisation across online-to-offline spaces with Sparkle, an AI chatbot integrated integrated in its CAPITASTAR mobile app.

Meet Sparkle,  CapitaLand’s fully automated artificial intelligence chatbot

Mall or Wonderland?

Forget theme parks for thrills  — in the future, the mall is where you will get a sensory experience like no other. Holograms at every aisle will redefine product discovery: if you’ve ever wondered how an apple arrived on the shelf, this technology will showcase its journey  —  from grower to grocer; it will even explain which colour of an avocado to choose based on when you’re planning to eat it.

Holograms spice up things at shopping malls

If you’re rushed for time (or just dislike queuing), you won’t even need to get undressed to see how you look in an outfit. Samsung has developed a virtual fitting room to drape virtual items over the user’s reflection. By using three-dimensional cameras, a floating image is contoured to shoppers’ bodies  —  the perfect solution to today’s ghastly overhead lights and ‘maximum four items in the dressing room’ limitations.


No Wallet, No Problem  —  You’re All You Need

Granted, you can’t have a seamless shopping experience with tedious transactions and long queues. In the future, you may need only to say, “Okay, buy that” to your mobile device to checkout your shopping e-carts. Amazon’s latest initiative, called Amazon Go, will soon allow you to walk out of a physical store, product in hand, with no need for manual checkout. Instead, your account is charged automatically.

While consumers may still not be fully at ease with biometrics like fingerprints or voice recognition, companies like Adyen, with its ReyenueProtect solution, are already addressing the security question. When it comes to putting away our physical wallets permanently, the question, really, is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

RELATED: Read about the future of payments Your Next Wallet is You.

No lines, no checkout  —  just grab and go

Say Goodbye to Shopping Woes

But what happens when you spot a defect on your latest splurge and want a refund? In the future, your robotic assistants will work out tedious tasks like refunds and exchanges. While mass development of such sophisticated robots is still some time away, the base technology is already available and primed to take any drudgery out of the shopping experience.

Today, drones are becoming increasingly commonplace, with companies like FoodPanda and SingPost already trialling drone deliveries. When combined with GPS trackers, you may even be looking at drones dropping off your latest purchase while you’re on the move!

retail technology remote control drones

Taking goods delivery to the next level 

Retail Therapy  —  Truly

As amazing as the future of shopping sounds, the fact remains that this future is highly dependent on consumers’ willingness to be tracked. Unsurprisingly, a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that while a large percentage of respondents felt that online tracking was an invasion of privacy, they still wanted relevant search results. Therein lies the dilemma  —  would you compromise your privacy for an intuitively personalised shopping experience?

It is only when today’s retailers begin to address the legitimate concerns of customers and help build a considerable level of trust, that you will be able to enjoy a rejuvenated shopping experience. One that is all about you  —  and an incredibly seamless and pleasurable journey. Retail therapy indeed.

Disclaimer: Adyen, Amazon, CapitaLand and SingPost are Temasek portfolio companies.



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