What Technologies Are Redefining Shopping this Holiday Season?

What Technologies Are Redefining Shopping this Holiday Season?

By Jesse Bereta

Holiday shopping was once a straightforward process. As technology changes the world around us, simple activities like shopping are becoming simplified. Social media and online stores are having a significant and growing influence on the holiday market, year after year. The majority of us will incorporate our computers and mobile devices in the way we shop this year, in one way or another. Retailers are beginning to capitalize on this trend, taking it beyond advertising and delivery services. Technology is revolutionizing the consumer experience for customers and retailers alike.

Here, we will cover some of the newest and most innovative technologies that are taking the holiday shopping experience to a whole new level.

Contactless near-field communication (NFC):

One of the biggest complaints from consumers regarding shopping today is the long wait times and lineups. Retailers are now offering a modern approach to purchasing, with tech first developed by significant investors like Visa and Nokia. With NFC technology, a customer can enter the store, take the product, and walk out the store. A terminal will automatically process the transaction by connecting to your smartphone. NFC is the technology that gave rise to Apple pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay.   While this tech is relatively new, a few stores have incorporated it as an overall concept, such as the French supermarket, Casino, and the UK furniture and homeware retail design company, Made.com.


Another technology is being used to cut down on purchasing time and long lines. Biometric technologies are offering digital payments by scanning fingerprints or using facial recognition. Biometrics can also be applied to behaviour, allowing to validate an individual’s identity simply through the way he/she walks or the specific gestures he/she makes.  Most notably, this technique is becoming widely available through Apple’s Pay With Your Face promotion.

Smart shelves:

Un-stocked shelves and un-updated pricing can cause burdens for consumers and has been produced mostly by human errors. Computerized shelves can keep track of how many items are left and display the most up-to-the-moment prices. Retailers and consumers can access the information to know precisely what is available. In addition to increased timeliness, this also allows retailers to save on costs. Smart shelves are quickly becoming popular, launching in stores such as the Sunglass Hut, Kroger, and Jo Malone.

Online price tracking tools:

If there is one thing consumers want, it is to know that they are getting the best deal that they possibly can. Fortunately, many apps and websites are now providing shoppers with an up-to-date price guide that will compare prices online and in brick-and-mortar stores to find the lowest price for all the gifts on your list. You can download apps like CamelCamelCamel, or SlickDeals right now.


Another complaint of shoppers is the needless wandering as they try to locate items within a store. With beacon technology, the customer can enter the item into the store’s app, and be given a real-time map highlighting a beacon that transmits where the item is located. Major retailers like Target and Woolworths are already implementing this tech.

In-store virtual reality:

Probably the most drastic change in retail shopping is the incorporation of virtual reality. Renovation stores such as Lowe’s are offering VR rooms that will allow you to visualize a renovation before you even begin. Virtual reality dressing rooms in retailers like The Gap are allowing consumers to see what clothes will look like on your body and mix-and-match outfits without taking your shoes off.

How stores are investing in technology:

More retailers than ever are investing in websites and online shopping platforms. The technological gains don’t stop at easier access. Stores like Office Depot plan to use the advancements to provide stronger customer service by utilizing their existing locations as distribution centers. Walmart has invested heavily in smart pricing algorithms, which will change product pricing based on demand, area, season, time-of-day, or even the weather.  Online retailers like Shopify have joined forces with social media platforms to provide a ‘Buy’ button directly into posts.  As technology shifts, the retail experience for companies and consumers alike, keep an eye out as more retailers are expected to invest in the future.

The holiday shopping season has changed drastically over the last decade. Ten years ago Cyber Monday did not exist, never mind this list of retail advancements. At this rate, in the next ten years, our gifts will suddenly appear wrapped under the tree on Christmas morning. That should make explaining the magic of Santa Claus to our children much more difficult.

Happy holidays, and happy shopping!

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