The future of offline retail

Will AI shape the future of offline retail?

Living with COVID-19 changed consumer shopping behavior. A carousel of lockdowns shifted consumer focus to the digital realm. As pandemic restrictions are eased around the globe, the question remains – what will bring customers back into physical stores?

Let’s look at technology innovations that will bridge the gap between online and offline shopping, as well as make your next store visit more exciting.

Virtual reality will be just a reality for most of us

Virtual and augmented reality applications are some of the best in the retail industry.

Augmented reality brings online shopping to a whole new level. Even the simplest shopping task can become an immersive, feature-rich experience. Customers can virtually place a couch in their home to see the fit or place an imaginary iMac to better feel the aesthetic of it. 

If you’re not sure of what to virtually try on, an omniscient chatbot is always there for you. With the world of knowledge at its disposal, you can receive an individualized, expertly tailored solution without putting any effort into it. 

VR is also coming to a store near you. It could eliminate the limitations of physical store inventory. Missing a specific size or color? Try it on with a VR headset without leaving the store and have it delivered the next day. 

It seems that VR is bringing retailers closer to their customers, whilst adhering to every social distancing regulation there is. And as we’re about to enter the metaverse, the gap between online and offline seems to be diminishing fast. 

Frictionless checkout for smoother offline experience

We, as customers, have been spoiled with the seamlessness of the experience of online shopping. Social commerce is on the rise as purchases via smartphones have doubled compared to 2018. The experience is fast and smooth, with barely any effort from the user. 

Unfortunately, it seems that in-store shopping is still a little behind. Retailers have to catch up in creating a frictionless checkout experience. No-touch payments methods are widely accepted already, with 72% of consumers choosing the option most of the time. 

But it’s not just about the payment. Customers are willingly choosing non-traditional methods, from smartphone apps and extravagant smart shopping carts, to already widely accessible self-checkout kiosks. Anything to avoid the lines at the register.

Self-checkout is also becoming smarter with the help of AI. Solutions like Scanwatch are about to eliminate the need to browse the checkout menu if automatically identifying the items you have in your shopping basket. 

Better decisions with Artificial intelligence

There are more ways how AI will transform our retail experience.

As consumers get used to always finding what they need online, efficient inventory management and shelf space optimization become crucial to retain them in a physical store. AI is quickly becoming a standard staple for shelf-restocking and inventory management. 

Shelflow monitors shelf stock levels at all items and alerts the store staff when a supply of a certain SKU is running low. The staff have enough time to restock the shelf before the product runs out.

Another area for AI to shine is offline customer analytics. Online retailers have been able to analyze their customer behavior in detail for years. It’s time for the physical store owners to get the same level of behavioral insights.

With Computer Vision solutions any customer move or interaction can now be digitized and quantified, turning everything that happens in-store or on the shelves into intelligent and meaningful data. Any retailer can now utilize this intelligence for a better bottom-line result. 

Supply chain management is also to benefit from artificial intelligence in the near future. Obviously, efficiency and cost-saving have always been the name of the game. Machine learning is just taking it to the next level. And with a greater focus on sustainability from society’s perspective, we are sure to see more technology aimed at this particular issue. 

We wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that any initiative made by the retail chains – and any technology adopted by them – is making the customers’ lives easier. Whether it is online or in-store, choosing the items or paying for them – it’s all aimed at improving the retail experience. 

And with an abundance of smart technology, it is only a matter of time before these innovations will be a part of the store on your block.

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Vėjūnė Krašinskienė
Chief Operating Officer

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