What was once considered cutting edge, such as the ability to buy an item online and return it in-store, is now considered table stakes for any retailer hoping to remain relevant.
Over the past decade, we've seen a steady state of disruptive technologies, driven by advances in mobile computing, social media, and cloud-based services.
With such a rapidly evolving digital landscape, it's not enough for retailers to be looking at how technology innovation is disrupting their businesses today. They also need to be gazing into the future to understand—and begin planning for—the next wave of game-changing technology.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Intelligent devices—from shipping containers to shopping carts—are already a part of our daily lives and expected to continue to grow at an accelerated pace.
There's no shortage of buzz around wearable computing devices. Ownership of consumer wearables–intelligent eyeglasses, watches, footwear, apparel—is expected to double year over year by 2016.
Cognitive Computing and Machine Learning
The software that empowers all of these connected devices is evolving in parallel. With an influx of big data—and advances in processing power, data science, and cognitive technology—software intelligence is helping machines to make informed "decisions".
The adoption of 3D printing is accelerating and poised for massive growth. Many retailers and manufacturers are already exploring ways to leverage 3D printing and other types of digital fabrication to defer production to the latest point possible in the supply chain to meet individualized demand.
The payments landscape is undergoing a profound transformation. For the past decade, companies such as Google and PayPal have struggled to drive widespread adoption of their digital payment and electronic wallet technologies. However, according to Accenture research in North America, consumer adoption of mobile payments is already on the rise.
Retailers need to tap into these rapidly shifting consumer expectations by embracing the next wave of disruptions—or risk being flattened by it. A good place to start: Identify the emerging technologies that are most likely to disturb retail value chains.
Technology disruptions can fundamentally change value chains, destroying existing ones and creating others. Often, disruptions are caused not by a single technology, but several new and existing technologies that come together in innovative ways.
It’s impossible to predict accurately the impact of technology disruptions before they occur, but retailers can become less reactive by investing in three key areas strategy, culture and partnerships.