Retail is becoming increasingly tech-savvy as the fast-evolving industry looks to keep up with consumers’ growing demand for more convenient, engaging and frictionless ways to shop.
Brick-and-mortar stores are increasingly using innovative technology to improve areas such as payment and check-out solutions, data analytics, and customer-centric marketing.
Some of the most exciting technologies were showcased at retail tech trade fair EuroCIS, which returned to Düsseldorf from May 31 to June 2 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
So what exactly were exhibitors so excited about? FashionUnited attended the bustling fair, and in this article has compiled a list of four exciting tech solutions that look to improve the fashion retail sector.
Gone are the days when tags simply show the price and size of a garment. New smart tags are becoming increasingly popular in the fashion industry to help customers and retailers alike. “An RFID chip is basically a licence plate to an item,” said Stefan Linz, senior sales manager Northern Europe at ITL Group.
Linz explains that the main benefit of RFID tags remains the ability to more accurately and quickly count inventory, but they also facilitate a broad range of other services, such as smart fitting rooms, instant in-store checking of product availability, and discrete security systems.
And smart tags are also valuable for customers, allowing them to instantly and effortlessly access a wealth of information about a particular brand or product, something Linz said is increasingly becoming a must-have for brands. “With the direction the fashion industry is going towards sustainability and traceability, we’re seeing more and more customers asking for QR codes or NFC tags,” he said.
NFC tags (which require a tap of a phone to access information) and QR codes (which require to be scanned by a camera) can both be used to show the history of a garment, its sustainability credentials, and provide information and facilitate circular services such as authentication, repair, and resale. However, while NFC tags are small chips made using metal, QR codes are simply a small print, often using ink, so various companies at EuroCIS noted that QR codes remain a more sustainable option.
Another interesting technology that will likely become more widespread in the fashion retail industry in the coming years is the use of automated robots that can take over the costly and time-consuming job of counting inventory and give shop staff more time for other tasks, such as tending to shoppers.
One company working on such a robot is MetraLabs. The robotics solutions manufacturer has built a robot called Tory, which takes inventory using RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology, and which can be used in-stores after hours, or even while shoppers are in-store during the day.
The robot recognizes and captures 99 percent of all RFID-tagged articles, is 10 times faster than a manual inventory count, and can run for up to 18 hours before needing a recharge, according to MetraLabs senior software architect Christian Reuther.
Additionally, the robot can be equipped with a multimodal user interface with speech and touch input, allowing customers to ask it where to find a particular product or department. Tory is currently used in hundreds of stores across Europe and Australia, including Decathlon, Kmart Australia and Adler Modemärkte.
And new innovations are also finding their way into changing rooms. Smart mirrors are becoming increasingly popular in fashion retail, streamlining the shopping process and merging the physical and digital to allow consumers easier ways to compare, browse and style fashion without various trips back and forth from the store floor to the changing room.
Digital signage company Scala was one of the exhibitors showcasing a smart mirror at EuroCIS. Sensors in the Scala changing room recognise which products a customer is holding using RFID technology. The product is then pulled up on a screen on the mirror, allowing shoppers to see complementary products, browse other looks from the store, and check availability, all without leaving the changing room. Shoppers can also take a short video of themselves wearing the product while doing a 360 turn so they can see what the garment looks like on them from all angles.
H&M Group is just one of the many fashion companies to introduce smart mirrors into its stores. The group announced this month it would be trialling smart mirrors in Cos stores in the US.
Footfall/People flow trackers
Monitoring the behaviour of shoppers inside stores is incredibly valuable for retailers. Knowing how customers move around the store, to which items, and for how long they stay, can help fashion companies maximise sales. One company specialising in technology to do just that is Swiss tech company Xovis, which develops, produces and distributes 3D sensors and software. The Bern-based company’s sensors can be mounted to measure important KPIs, for example footfall, zone dwell time, customer journey, and conversions per customer and/or square metre.
Using tracking technology, fashion retailers can more effectively rearrange their products to place the most popular items in high traffic areas and ensure customers see more of what they want to see, and less of what they don’t. By knowing, for example, which order of items shoppers like to browse in stores, retailers can rearrange their products, or the layout of the store itself, to ensure the highest chance of purchases. Xovis said that with one German partner, it was able to increase sales conversion by up to 15 percent using its technology.
EuroCIS 2022 figures
A total of 9,070 trade visitors from 88 countries, and 345 exhibitors from 33 countries attended the 2022 edition of EuroCIS.
“These figures are reason for optimism and anything but foreseeable after the compulsory, pandemic-induced break in 2021 and the postponement from January to June 2022,” said Elke Moebius, the project director at EuroCIS, at the close of the event.
She continued: “With its trade fair activities EuroCIS has provided a powerful impetus for the industry.”
Moebius said exhibitors have been “avidly” enquiring about participation options for next year when EuroCIS will once again be held as part of EuroShop.