IEEE experts present their vision on how technology will play a crucial role in the future development and innovation of the retail industry, giving you in the following an impression on how you might shop in the future.
Eye-tracking and heart rate monitoring: Identify what customers want and desire
Expert members within IEEE, the world's largest professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, believe that a shoppers' eyes and heart will be a window to their wallet. Retailers will begin to harness eye-tracking technology and heart rate monitors for brick and mortar stores in order to gain a better understanding of their customers' shopping preferences.
Eye-tracking technology will allow retailers to identify where their customers' eyes go in certain aisles or departments within the store, which will better inform them on where to merchandise certain products. In addition, heart rate monitors could help retailers recognize the level of customer excitement towards a product. Retailers can monitor which products are causing the most excitement, and, if leading to sales, can have a better understanding of which products they should more-heavily promote.
"Changing heart rates in a retail setting can usually be linked to changes in emotion, with an increased heart rate being indicative of excitement," stated Christopher James, IEEE Senior Member and professor of biomedical engineering and a director of Warwick Engineering in Biomedicine at the School of Engineering, University of Warwick, United Kingdom. "In order to monitor changes in heart rate properly, the customer would really have to 'connect' with the merchandise to show changes that are discernible beyond normally physiologic fluctuations associated with day-to-day life."
3-D Printing: Reinventing the way we shop
IEEE experts also believe there are vast opportunities for 3-D printing. As this technology becomes more advanced, customers will no longer need to go to physical stores to buy an item. Customers will be able to buy an item directly on a company's website, as usual, but once the transaction is confirmed, the company will send a file or barcode allowing the customer to print the product directly from their personal 3-D printer. Products could include clothing accessories, automotive parts or musical instruments, just to name a few.
"3-D printing is becoming more applicable for a range of products and will continue to push the boundaries for a number of industries, including retail," stated George K. Thiruvathukal, IEEE member and professor of computer science at Loyola University, Chicago. "We are still in the early stages of 3-D printing and although there are still many barriers to mainstream consumer adoption, there are great opportunities that this technology could lend towards education and the Do it Yourself (DIY) movement, such as promoting the ability to create and innovate."
Mobility & Merchandise: The rise of the modern wallet
Electronic payment technology is quickly becoming a preferred option for purchasing items. Technology companies are making it easier for customers to make electronic payments through their cell phones, which are beginning to be integrated by major retailers.
"Many components that enable NFC-smartphone electronic payments have been steadily falling into place," noted Kevin Curran, IEEE Senior Member and reader in computer science at the University of Ulster, Ireland. "Millions of consumers are becoming familiar with the idea of electronic payments and now it is becoming a common use case for individuals to use their phone's fingerprint authentication sensor to make payments - the phone really is becoming the modern wallet. As near field communication (NFC) technology becomes standard in more phones, so will the availability of electronic payments with retailers."
Optimized delivery times: Your purchase is only a day away…
Until consumers are able to print their own products on a regular basis, one-day delivery will become commonplace. The market is still in its infancy with companies currently testing and developing processes. Receiving purchased products via the Internet will become even more streamlined, with more major retailers being able to accommodate deliveries within a few hours. Based on data about shopping habits, retailers will be able to gauge which products are purchased most often by region and can secure inventories appropriately so that delivery time can be optimized.
"Top online retail companies have pioneered the use of flying autonomous drones to deliver products to customers," stated Tom Coughlin, IEEE Senior Member and founder of Coughlin Associates. "Although this technology is still in the development phase, drone deliveries could allow fast delivery of time-critical items to remote locations. Greater use of unmanned aerial vehicles will depend upon resolving safety concerns, and will likely cost more than delivery through conventional channels."
In addition, IEEE developed an interactive infographic, which includes the technologies listed above as well as further considerations, to showcase what the future of retail will look like both physically and digitally over the next few years. You can view the infographic by visiting IEEE Transmitter.