Five technologies transforming retail in 2019

Five technologies transforming retail in 2019
Mercato Solutions’ Cristina Ionita explains how virtual assistants and AI will revitalise the industry

Elly Yates-Roberts |

While it has been tough for some high street retailers, 2018 was a year of change for both the consumer and retailer.

In the first half of 2018 we saw 4,400 net closures across the UK high street, making rising costs, technological disruption and consumer behaviours the main factors to reinventing structure and strategic thinking.

More personalisation and thought-provoking ideas have come into play and created diversity amongst consumers. Retailers learned that in order to stay competitive they have to satisfy all of their customers' needs, from Generation Z (born: 1995-2012) to Baby Boomers (born: 1946-1954).

Looking back at how fast the tech industry has grown, we have predicted a few technologies that will transform the retail sector in 2019.

1. Personalisation with artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is set to change the retail industry. Between 2013 and 2018, AI start-ups raised US$1.8 billion across 374 deals, according to a report by CB Insights.

Virtual assistants are software solutions designed to automate and enhance sales processes by identifying and converting leads faster and easier. The ability to customise products and services in real time and cross-sell increases engagement rates and customer loyalty.

2. Be more than a store
We are witnessing an evolution of the UK high street. The retail sector will become more competitive online and in-store. The new year predicts many exciting changes in-store such as grocers trialling cashless supermarkets, fashion vendors experimenting with smart apps and retailers investing heavily to improve offline customer experiences. 

Selling online in-store is another concept that interests retailers. Replicating the same online experience in-store with the help of new digital technologies will keep the customers coming back.

3. Omnichannel retail strategies
According to G2 Crowd, the ultimate goal of omnichannel retail is to funnel customers from all channels into interacting with or purchasing from a brand. Selling across all channels, including website, marketplace, stores and social commerce is the modern approach that focuses on accessiblity and the overall customer experience.

Brand consistency and great user experiences are crucial to staying competitive in the retail sector. Low-code platforms like KnowledgeKube help retailers achieve omnichannel strategies with smart apps that run across all types of devices. Deploying apps on mobile, web and other connected devices has never been easier.

4. Machine learning
Human intelligence can be replicated in the form of machine learning to analyse big data and automate processes to improve performance. By discovering patterns, companies can create consumer-focused applications that can predict and recommend products and services in real time.

Forecasting new customer demands are essential in retail. By analysing data that looks at demographic information, socioeconomic factors and previous purchases retailers can estimate spending habits and make recommendations. Therefore, this allows them to optimise pricing and anticipate customer needs, keeping them relevant and competitive in their markets.

5. Voice-activated assistants
Voice interface or virtual assistants are software agents that can perform tasks and services for customers. People often call them chatbots and they can interpret human speech and respond to questions in a humanised manner.

In 2019, chatbots will become the new foundation for customer service requests. Gartner predicted that 85% of customer engagement will be done without human intervention. This is a natural fit for retail as it automates customer assistance with purchasing related decisions, whilst retaining an approach that customers are comfortable with.

Cristina Ionita is the digital marketing executive at Mercato Solutions

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