Image Source LSN Global

According to Malcolm Gladwell, a tipping point is a ‘magical moment in which an idea or trend crosses a threshold. The social media or behaviour tips and spreads like wildfire. It is a moment of critical mass, the boiling point’.

Last month, Forbes published a piece centred around the question ‘Will This Be the Year That VR Finally Goes Mainstream? Fast Company reported that sneaker bots and machine-human stylists have motivated brands to explore possibility surrounding artificial intelligence. Following CES in Las Vegas in January, we have been exploring how 2017 is the tipping point for Retail Tech.

To reinforce this projection, department store Neiman Marcus is implementing technology innovation into a core value. Five years ago, the luxury retailer launched its iLab, a playground for technological experimentation. Not too long ago, the brand implemented interactive mirrors in 21 stores. The mirrors offer educative tools such as shoppable personalised tutorials surrounding beauty topics. The decision to place technology at the heart of the retailer’s strategy demonstrates the how 2017 is the year of Retail Tech.

According to LSN Global, this year will witness a breakout for technologies that make buying faster and more simple. Thus trading on convenience will make tools such VR and AI successful. Voice-activated artificial intelligence (AI) services such as Amazon’s Alexa will transform the purchasing journey, making the current norm of tapping and swiping of mobile pay redundant.

Whilst technological innovations are impressive and open to exploration and experimentation, fundamentally the implementation of such tools and devices needs to elevate, improve or enhance the consumer’s existing experience.

As such, retailers need to be cautious to not just jump on a technological bandwagon. Rather, they must shrewdly consider how the application of technology resonates with consumer values and thus translate these into tangible touch points.

To be truly innovative, it is essential to move beyond seeing AI and VR as technology, but rather see them as tools to deliver touchpoints that resonate with consumers such as storytelling, education, emotive content or convenience.