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Will Consumers Shop More if Retailers Embrace Technology?

Tuesday, 4 Dec 2012 | 11:29 AM ET
Michele Constantini | PhotoAlto | Getty Images

Embrace technology or die.

If you think information technology already plays an integral role in the retail industry, you'll soon discover that the true marriage of technology and retail is yet to come.

The store experience is about to change in ways you've never imagined, and you'll see evidence by the end of next year. Expect to see stores featuring what is known as "augmented reality." The goals of these tools will range from the practical — making shopping easier by providing new ways to gather product information — to the dazzling. Features such as holograms or virtual dressing room mirrors are novel and entertaining, and they will help bring customers into stores.

Mobile retail apps will morph from a tool to view a retailer's website on a mobile device to a portal providing new levels of information and interaction with a retailer's brand. They will help stores customize product displays and promotions for a specific customer.

Wow, you really care!

Many shoppers are using the Internet to compare prices and seek out the best deal. They may come to a store to touch and feel a product, only to purchase it elsewhere online.

There are a few ways retailers will work on solving this problem. One is to personalize the in-store experience by using loyalty rewards programs, then mining data about a shopper. Another is to offer exclusive products. We're already seeing these tactics, but they will become more obvious to shoppers in the coming year. This is especially true when it comes to using shoppers' past habits to offer experiences more tailored to their tastes.

Slow and steady still wins the race.

Sorry to say, 2013 will not be the year that brings "shop 'til you drop" back in vogue. Consumers have better balance sheets, but they are not going to wreck their progress, despite lower levels of consumer debt and higher home values. Expect another year of modest retail sales gains, filled with peaks and valleys.

I want it now!

Same-day delivery becomes the "layaway" of next holiday season. Retailers who want to compete will need to offer the service next holiday season. Wal-Mart has been testing it this year in select U.S. cities. Expect the discount retailer to look to expand the service for Christmas 2013. Other national retail chains will also attempt to keep up with this change.

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