The internet, technology and digital have already revolutionised the way consumers shop and the way retailers operate. The retail sector will be transformed further still in 2018.

Here are 5 of the top tech trends to transform retail in the year ahead.

Drones

Consumer expectations have never been higher. The need for speed when it comes to the whole shopper experience has never been so important. Consumers demand a quick and seamless shopping journey, but often it is the last leg – delivery – that becomes something of a stumbling block for retailers.

Even some of the biggest names in retail, such as Ocado, have confessed that sales growth is being held back because of a shortage of delivery drivers. The answer could come in the shape of ground drones. It is predicted that we will see deliveries carried out by drones in city centres more and more in 2018.

Analysts expect that consumers will be prepared to pay a premium for such a service. The on-demand economy is such that it seems likely that the expectations of consumers will increase so much that wanting something delivered wherever you are within an hour of ordering seems a likely next step. Ground drones, realistically, are the only way that retailers will be able to deliver to these expectations.

In-store tracking

Online personalisation is nothing new for retailers. Now many are exploring how a similar experience might be created in-store for shoppers. Obviously, an app that were to track in-store location and send notifications when shoppers are in a particular position would be extremely beneficial to shopper and retailer alike.

From the point of view of the retailer, tracking movements of shoppers could provide valuable insights that might inform rejigging of store layouts. In-store tracking technology will definitely become more widespread this year.

Augmented Reality

Up to now, augmented reality (AR) has largely been little more than a retail gimmick. However, if the AR development kits recently launched by Apple and Google are anything to go by, technology could soon see AR transformed from an in-store gimmick to an integral part of a mobile shopping experience. Ikea and Burberry’s mobile apps are currently leading the way – others are sure to follow.

Voice

Voice-enabled online ordering is only in its infancy, but experts predict that voice-enabled technology has the potential to become the user interface that naturally follows on from the smartphone. It has the power to disrupt the way consumers shop in 2018 and over the next few years.

Many believe that the idea of typing on a screen will become outdated in a matter of a few years. Tesco and Walmart have already partnered with Google to offer voice-ordering. This is the shape of things to come. Rest assured, voice will become vital in the retail experience very soon.

Blockchain

Supply chain technology, which enables retailers to track their products via a secure ledger, is usually discussed in terms of the grocery sector. International shipping and the need to adhere to best-before dates make deployment of blockchain technology in supermarkets ideally suited – but it is by no means the only sector of retail that could benefit from such technology.

As a way of increasing trust with consumers, the supply chain transparency that blockchain technology offers could be very appealing to fashion retailers.

Retailers that deploy technology offering both efficiency and an exceptional shopping experience will be the big winners in 2018 and beyond.

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