New technology will make it more convenient and quicker for area shoppers to buy gifts in stores and online this holiday season.
Technology like scan-and-go, interactive apps and augmented and virtual reality will be put in action as the holiday shopping season kicks off officially on Black Friday for thousands of shoppers.
“Retail continues to be at the forefront of technology and the most beneficial thing to that is it makes the experience that much better for the consumer,” spokesman for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants Alex Boehnke said.
In-store sales are expected to grow slightly, but online sales are likely to jump between 11 and 14 percent this year, up to $166.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. The e-commerce spending has been increasing for years as consumer shopping habits shift and shoppers browse products from home.
To compete with online sales, Target, Walmart and other stores are marketing convenience and will have workers with hand-held devices in the busiest sections of stores again to help get shoppers out the door quicker with their purchases.
Stores like Meijer, Kroger and Sam’s Club have also launched scan-and-go programs over the last year that put the checkout in the consumers hands, using cell phones to track purchases.
“More and more stores may be adopting (technology) now, and then most importantly, more and more consumers may be comfortable using it,” said Riley Dugan, a marketing professor at the University of Dayton who studies retail.
Best Buy and other stores are offering daily text updates to shoppers about sales. Shoppers at Walmart can look up any item in the holiday ad within the app, which will direct them to where the deal is in the store, said Walmart’s Miamisburg manager Bud Klorer.
Stores have also ventured more into virtual and augmented reality than ever before. A few years ago it made a store unique to have it; now it’s a necessity, said Beck Besecker, CEO of Miamisburg-based Marxent, which has created augmented reality platforms for furniture at La-Z-Boy, Macy’s and many other retailers.
Augmented reality allows shoppers to go online to see how products look in their living rooms or their entire home.
“Especially for online shoppers … it makes things more convenient and you get a lot more done for the holidays, so retailers have been experimenting with new ways to do photography. It’s not just a still product,” Besecker said.
The technology is a benefit for customers and shoppers, Besecker said. Customers can get a better idea of how things will look, where products will fit into their homes and see what features the items have.
The augmented reality exists in apps like Target’s, where customers can hold their phone’s camera up to a room and see what furnishings, including Christmas trees will look like. Companies like Sephora and L’O’real Paris have augmented reality that show how makeup products will look. Clothing retailers like Gap, Nike and Converse use augmented reality to show shoes in different sizes and styles on the shopper.
“You’re starting to see a lot more experiential stuff in the stores, like 3D displays, much more immersive sort of interactive experiences, Besecker said. “The technology is getting fast and easy enough for everyone to participate.”
Walmart has used the virtual reality to train employees how to handle the major rushes that come during Black Friday sales.
One of the biggest changes again to holiday tech is getting gifts that are ordered with the click of a button even faster than the year before.
Last year, Walmart, Target and several other retailers for the first time offered free two-day shipping to keep up with Amazon’s standard. As Amazon has started offering more same-day and next-day shipping across the country, including in Dayton with the addition of a new delivery station in Kettering, other retailers have been forced to keep up.
That’s good for local shoppers like Brittany Lyons of Cedarville.
“I work a lot, so ordering online — I don’t do anything unless I order it online, not even Starbucks,” Lyons said.
Both Target and Walmart this year have said they’ll offer free shipping in as little as one day. They also expanded their pick up options, including some without leaving the car.
Kohl’s also has buy online pick up in store options that can be ready in as little as an hour, said store manager Brandy Gilbert, store manager of the Centerville Kohl’s.
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