Four Tech Trends Helping Retailers Connect with Their Customers
Syte explores the ways tech is changing the retail industry ahead of NRF
As we prepare for the National Retail Federation (NRF) conference next week, it provides a valuable opportunity to review some of the key challenges facing the retail space. At Syte, we are working hard to leverage technology to help retailers connect with their customers, so for us NRF provides an ideal moment to examine the ways technology is changing the retail industry. Here are four tech insights that are set to have major impacts on the retail space this year and beyond.
Mobile is the Great Filter
The mobile revolution has obviously impacted every industry and has led to disruptions in spaces ranging from transportation to healthcare. For retail, mobile has only accelerated the rapid changes ushered in by the ecommerce revolution.
But there is a deeper generational shift that is happening. For the youngest generations that have grown up in a world where smartphones are ubiquitous, the way they consume information has changed dramatically and has become overwhelming focused on visual interactions.
While generations past may have relied on word of mouth or conversations to share information, mobile users consume and share information visually. A user’s smartphone is the vehicle by which they both receive new information about the world, and share information around them. Often, that information takes the form of a photo or short video. Retailers should understand this paradigm and align their business strategies accordingly.
Retail AI is Visual AI
Artificial Intelligence has emerged as perhaps the most talked about technological trend of the past year. AI is set to transform nearly every technological experience we have, and retail is no exception. Of course, due to the massive influence of mobile technologies and their visual nature mentioned above, AI solutions for retail need to fit into that paradigm.
At Syte, we are focusing squarely on this part of the puzzle. Our solution brings together visual search, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to empower retailers and help them understand customer preferences. Our solution goes beyond rudimentary visual search solutions that simply identify what an object is. Rather, we want to help customers find items that are similar in style, design, and taste. This leads squarely to the third key insight.
Technology with a Sense of Style
The power of any retail brand lies in its ability to provide products that match the customer's personal sense of style and taste. This represents a challenge for artificial intelligence for the simple reason that today, well, it’s not so intelligent.
Rather, AI, as it’s commonly being implemented today, is much more focused on helping machines understand the environment in which we live. In that regard, the challenge for retailers as they look to leverage the emerging possibilities of AI, is finding solutions that can live up to the sense of style that the customer sees in the brand. This is not a small feature, as personal taste is unique and emotional. However, and quite paradoxically, only technology can provide this kind of solution at scale.
I think there is a certain amount of healthy apprehension in the retail space when it comes to technology. Retailers have seen large ecommerce platforms come in and present a serious challenge to their businesses. So, in that regards, the easiest thing for retailers to do would be to double down on the traditional experiences that made them successful in the past.
Of course, today everyone knows that this isn’t the solution and the massive shift to online shopping is viewed as ongoing and inevitable. That’s why now, more than ever, technology has so much to offer retailers. New and innovative solutions can provide traditional retailers with a decisive edge to compete with the e-commerce giants.
That sense of partnership is a driving force for us as we seek out new retail partners. Our focus is on providing them with a technological solution that is easy to implement, and can provide immediate and quantifiable results for our partners.
That core philosophy of partnership is also what has brought us into our strategic relationship with Microsoft. The support we have received cannot be understated and there is simply no competition in this regard. Microsoft has helped us develop new relationships with retailers and the vote of confidence we receive through our relationship is invaluable as we work to support retail businesses.
Our partnership with Microsoft also extends to support at events such as NRF. If you’re attending the event, we would love to meet with you there. You can find us at the Microsoft booth, number 2803, or you contact me at Ofer@syte-vc.com.
Technology represents both a challenge and an opportunity for retailers. Ultimately, the disruption that technology enables is just another form of a change. Understanding the course of that change is one of the most important steps any business can take as it prepares for the future.