Brick-and-mortar retail stores are leveraging emerging technology in new and innovative ways to create memorable and immersive shopping experiences. The National Retail Federation recently announced its new Innovation Lab, which showed off some of the shiny new tech stores are starting to use, including augmented reality and artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, robotics and facial recognition.

The Rise of “Retail Entertainment”

Far from a gimmicky technology play designed to grab headlines, the use of these new technologies is designed to lure shoppers away from the comfort and convenience of online shopping and into stores for a truly differentiated experience not achievable from the confines of home.
Adding these features is creating a new in-store retail concept, “retail entertainment,” NRF senior vice president for retail strategy Cristina Cersoli told FOX Business. Cersoli predicted the rise of retail stores adopting the latest tech will create a job boom, especially around advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.
Big-name retailers like AT&T, Walmart, American Eagle, Home Depot, Fossil and Adidas have started taking the plunge, teaming up with technology startups for help implementing these new technologies into their stores and fine-tuning their use for maximum impact and customer benefit.

Next-Gen Retailers Changing the Game

Such in-store digital makeovers undoubtedly appeal to the tech-savvy millennial generation, whose shopping habits vary widely even amongst themselves, not to mention from previous generations. Some retailers are up-ending the retail model as we know it to stand out from the pack and engage this new breed of shopper.
Wedding registries are big business, and Zola is one company putting a unique spin on a long-established retail segment. Zola offers curated showrooms, digital exchanges, which allow couples to exchange gifts even before they arrive, and even a mobile “Registry on Wheels,” where couples can record their own love story and sample some of Zola’s more than 50,000 available products.
Brand loyalty is a fickle thing, and one company is looking to move away entirely from label-based shopping. Brandless sells its food, health and beauty products directly to consumers for a small ($3) monthly membership fee, all of which is non-GMO, organic and fair trade, according to NRF. Every product they sell costs $3, and they showcase the savings their customers accrue by not paying what they call the “BrandTax,” a premium of between 40-370% buying national retail brands over their products.
Retail is changing rapidly, and innovative companies using new technologies and business models are shifting gears, attempting to predict where the arc of that curve will end up.

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