Cutting-edge technology is revolutionizing the way the Canadian retail industry does business. Now more than ever, it’s essential for small and medium-sized retailers to keep up with the latest trends and embrace new technology—or risk getting left behind.
The world of retail has barely had time to catch its breath since the Covid-19 pandemic sped up the adoption of digital technology by almost a decade in a matter of months, ushering in everything from hybrid and omnichannel customer journeys to improved online retail experiences and payment methods.
This year, the retail sector is expected to see even more significant changes with the emergence of new technology-driven trends capable of revolutionizing the way customers actually shop. What does this mean for small and medium-sized retailers in Canada? Their answer could mean the difference between surviving and thriving in 2023 and beyond!
In our digital-first world, keeping up with the latest technology trends is more critical than ever for SMEs that want to stay economically viable. The future, after all, now belongs to businesses that can anticipate the needs and demands of their customers, improve their shopping experience and increase revenue every step of the way. Who doesn’t want that?
So, what are the top tech trends that Canadian retailers simply can’t ignore? Here’s a quick rundown of the four major trends changing the face of retail in 2023 and beyond:
1. Living the metaverse, VR and AR shopping experience
Have you ever wished you could try on clothes or see how furniture looks in your home before making a purchase? With the metaverse, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), you can.
The metaverse, a virtual shared space, coupled with virtual reality and augmented reality, is set to take the retail industry to the next level, providing customers with immersive shopping experiences.
High-end brands like Versace, Armani and Sephora are launching their stores in the metaverse, allowing shoppers to virtually try on clothes, makeup and perfume before making a purchase. IKEA’s AR app will even enable shoppers to preview furniture in their homes before purchasing.
2. Decoding data with AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the online retailing game, providing valuable insights into customer behaviour and preferences.
But that’s not all this technology can do. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can also help retailers optimize inventory management, improve customer service and create personalized experiences. With computer vision technology, retailers can even identify products on shelves, monitor inventory levels and analyze customer behaviour.
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3. Reinventing the shopping journey via omnichannel retailing
Gone are the days of a simple brick-and-mortar store! Smart omnichannel retailing aims to provide a seamless shopping experience for consumers across all channels, including e-commerce websites, mobile devices, and even physical stores.
This approach offers retailers the ability to interact with their customers, regardless of their location. From curbside pickup to same-day delivery and “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS), the possibilities are endless.
For Lululemon, making it easy for customers to pick up their orders with fast and convenient curbside pickups has been a boon for business. Today, 20% of its customers who choose to pick up their orders in-store make an additional purchase, boosting the brand’s in-store sales.
And this is just the beginning of the omnichannel story. In the future, retailers, big and small, will continue to create new and improved hybrid and omnichannel customer journeys that are even faster and more hassle-free.
4. Greening the retail industry for a more sustainable future
Yes, advances in technology have made our lives easier. On the flip side, though, cutting-edge tech has also heavily impacted the environment with increased carbon emissions, leaving an ever-larger footprint.
Sustainability, as a result, is a huge and growing concern. In response, retailers are rising to the occasion, incorporating environment-conscious and eco-friendly practices into their business models.
And just in time. This trend is not only essential for the future of the retail sector—it is gaining momentum with consumers who want retailers to take even greater responsibility for their impact on the environment.
From autonomous delivery vehicles to sustainable packaging options, retailers are answering the call, building brand loyalty, attracting environmentally conscious customers and reducing their carbon footprint.
According to a Retail Week report, “many retailers and brands are making efforts to be greener, and this is capturing customer attention. Consumers named their top five most sustainable companies in the industry as H&M, Nike, Primark, M&S and Amazon.”
Taking some small steps today could make you the next big thing in retail tomorrow
By embracing the top tech-driven retail trends of 2023, Canadian retailers can bring the customer experience to new heights, advance their operational efficiency and unlock new growth opportunities. But there are a few things to keep in mind before you take that leap of faith—especially if you’re a small or medium-sized retailer.
First and foremost, it’s essential to determine if these trends align with your business goals, target audience and overall strategy. Just because a trend is popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for your business.
Secondly, it’s important to approach new technology with caution—it can be costly and time-consuming to implement. Before making any investment, be sure to conduct thorough research, pilot tests and cost-benefit analyses.
Lastly, don’t forget that while technology is playing an increasingly important role in shaping the industry’s future and the shopping experience, it cannot replace the importance of human interaction and personalized customer service.
Even with the latest technology at your fingertips, building relationships with your customers and providing them with top-notch service should always come before stay ahead of the curve via the latest trends and tech advances.
With careful consideration, a well-built strategy and a willingness to adapt, you’ll be ready to take those first small steps toward the future of retail innovation, create an exceptional shopping experience for your customers and drive your business growth.