Can Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Slow Down E-Commerce Sites By Using Their Own Tools Against Them?

Today’s retail landscape is drastically different from that of previous generations. E-commerce, automation, and technology have changed the role of brick and mortar stores leaving more and more consumers buying products online. The U.S. Census Bureau found that e-commerce, as a percentage of total retail sales, accounts for 10 percent of all sales. The Bureau estimates it’ll be 15 percent within the next decade.

In an order to reverse this trend, physical retailers are making sure e-commerce outlets are not the only ones using technology to get ahead.

Retailers are incorporating robots in their physical stores to welcome visitors, answer questions about products and show what items are in stock. A retail shop in California uses SoftBank’s robot, Pepper, as a customer service representative. The pilot program saw a 70 percent increase in store foot traffic.

Brands are also leveraging mobile apps that use artificial intelligence to help reinvent the shopping experience.  Sephora’s app uses AI to recommend products that match a user’s skin tone. Shoppers do not have to try on products to see what looks good and what does not – the app does it all for them.

While advanced technology can be great for consumers, it also has adverse effects on the retail workforce. McKinsey estimates that job loss due to automation in retail could be anywhere from 400 million to 800 million people by 2030. Robots as customer service reps, payment kiosks and mobile apps are all replacing human jobs.

Shopping online allows consumers to shop when it’s convenient, read reviews, find the best price and compare products. E-commerce gives more power to consumers at the touch of their fingertips. Retailers need to adapt their business models to better incorporate technology into their retail experience.

The industry is not seeing a full retail apocalypse just yet, but retailers need to be aware of how e-commerce and technology are drastically changing the industry.


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