Forrester's future retail store features facial scanning, wearables and smart countertops

Retailers should not be afraid to fail, but be ready to fail fast, the analyst advises

Wearables, smart countertops and facial scanning are just some of the technologies that retailers should be looking at implementing in their stores over the next few years, according to Forrester analysts.

In a report, 'The Emerging Technologies of the Digital Store', Forrester admitted that while concrete success stories about digital in-store initiatives were rare, it said that retailers should be looking to integrate certain technologies into stores because of the opportunities they give to retailers.

These range from enabling them to offer a personalised store experience, freeing up their sales staff to engage more with customers and using to their advantage the trend of customers using their mobile phones to research products while they shop.

Forrester said that proximity technologies, such as Apple's iBeacon and augmented reality (AR), are things that retailers should be looking at now.

Technologies in the near future

But in a few years' time, RFID chips, video conferencing to connect customers in-store with remote product experts, facial scanning technology to enable a personalised service, smart countertops that provide extra information on products and wearables in sales, service and back office divisions, should all be areas that retailers pay attention to, the analyst said.

It provided some examples of real-life cases of these technologies already being explored by retailers.

Innovative high-end fashion company Burberry, for example, embeds RFID chips into its merchandise to unlock personalised marketing content for consumers when they log on to the Burberry website on their mobile device.

In addition, supermarket Tesco has used basic facial scanning software to deliver real-time, personalised digital signs based on the gender and approximate age of the consumer, while home improvement retailer Home Depot uses videoconference stations in its store to allow customers to interact with a remote kitchen expert to design a kitchen.


Even further in the future, 3D printing of 'on-demand' goods and personalised products, and interactive robots that do mundane tasks to free up sales assistants could be ones to watch, Forrester said.

How to choose what to implement

For any of these technologies to work, they need to be fully integrated with retailers' enterprise systems, namely the e-commerce platform, point of sale (POS) system, order management system (OMS), campaign management system and web content management system, Forrester said."No in-store digital experience can be effective by itself," the report authors said.

Retailers should also be aware of "gimmicky" technology that is shiny and exciting, but doesn't actually improve a process or customer experience.

Finally, businesses should not be afraid to fail.

"Failure is expected, but it must happen fast. It's critical to pilot before you invest in nationwide rollouts," Forrester said.

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