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Retail Service Drivers: 2017 Predictions

Expectations are higher than ever when it comes to customer satisfaction. With consumer tech innovations now offering real-time alerts for everything from discounts at shoppers’ favorite retail store to notifications about when a package is getting shipped, who can blame them?

In 2016, Apple’s unveiling of the new water-resistant iPhone 7 left the CE world abuzz. Meanwhile, the Pokémon Go fever engaged mobile gamers so much that accidents and injuries ensued as eyes were glued to smartphone screens (it was probably worth the risk to the die-hard fans catching their Pikachu).

How will 2017 top such an exciting year in the CE space?  

Continued Rise Of Bluetooth

In 2017, we will see the further adoption of Bluetooth technology for services such as mobile payment, push notifications and customization.

A Federal Reserve Board report stated that 39 percent of all U.S. mobile users—a whopping 4.8 billion of them—made a mobile payment in 2015, with estimates of that figure reaching roughly 70 percent by the end of 2016. In addition, it’s predicted that by 2017, there will be $60 billion in mobile payment sales.

With as many as 90 percent of smartphone users making mobile payments by 2020, we can expect the mobile payments industry to continue to evolve to meet the increasing demands of users.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a.k.a. Bluetooth Smart, will continue to have a major impact on mobile payments. The wireless personal area network technology takes place on either the consumer or merchant’s device where data is stored in a mobile payment account. Examples include PayPal Beacon and Apple’s iBeacon.

With BLE, the transmission is continuous and can be used in large areas so that customers can receive location-based actions on their device, such as push notifications and coupons. This is important as shoppers are becoming increasingly demanding when it comes to knowing when deals are happening for their favorite items.

To meet consumer demands of personalization and convenience, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) recently adopted the newest version of the Bluetooth core specification called Bluetooth 5, to help build an Internet of Things for everyone. Whether a user wants to utilize BLE technology as a heart rate monitor that communicates with a smart watch during a run, or listen to music through a shower head, Bluetooth makes lives more convenient.

Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco partnered with Aruba to install new beacons throughout the facility that enable fans to watch instant replays, get turn-by-turn directions using BLE wayfinding, and even order food — all from their own smartphones.

In 2017, convenience will be key.

Digital Opportunities For Personalization

Akin to convenience, personalization is becoming an expectation from consumers. We’re not talking the old-school style of greeting each customer who walks through your doors, but rather the utilization of technology to understand each customer’s individual shopping style. (There’s a reason those boots you were eyeing on your mobile phone always pop up again as you browse the internet).

PricewaterhouseCooper’s Total Retail 2016 report notes that customer expectations are soaring and retailers’ sales may suffer if they don’t meet the new personalized shopping experience standard moving forward. Enhancing personalization truly transforms a one-size-fits-all experience to a more custom-made one. Retailers can take advantage of a variety of technologies and apps to help drive sales in the New Year.

There are a number of digital opportunities for engaging with retail customers — from RFID tags to beacons and digital apps — and we’ll continue to see a more omnichannel approach to connecting with shoppers in 2017. More CE retailers will adopt customer strategies to better align with the challenges and opportunities afforded by digital technologies.

Throughout the holiday season, we saw a soar in the use of chatbots in retail, and that trend will continue well into the New Year. Chatbots are simple artificial intelligence systems that customers interact with via text. In retail, chatbots can act as digital shopping assistants, help guests plan a personalized shopping experience, and even help shoppers navigate crowded stores.

New data suggests shoppers might actually be ready to buy from bots as well, and that may catch on in 2017. According to research released from DigitasLBi and Harris Poll, more than one-third of U.S shoppers surveyed said they’d be willing to purchase something through a chatbot and spend as much as $55.80 on a purchase.

With expanded use of Bluetooth technologies, through BLE and beacons, combined with various channels of digital personalization, the wireless retail industry will have no shortage of innovation in 2017.

Scott Moorehead is the CEO of Round Room which owns and operates Redux, technology that saves wet phones; Culture of Good, a business that guides other companies on how to create a meaningful corporate culture; TCC, a Verizon retailer that operates over 800 stores in 38 states; and Wireless Zone, the largest independent Verizon Wireless franchise in the U.S.