A leading expert has unveiled the retail sector’s most over-rated digital trends and pointed to the top trends that every retailer should be tapping into to future-proof.

With the rapid changes in digital technology shaking-up the retail sector, retailers are constantly bombarded with buzzwords like omnichannel and blockchain.

But many of these touted digital developments are over-hyped, Associate Professor Sean Sands, co-director of the Customer Experience & Insight group at Swinburne University told industry leaders in a keynote at a CXI event on Tuesday, with blockchain and same-day shipping both underrated.

While blockchain can be useful to minimise fraud, overall it was over-rated, while same-day shipping is over-indexed relative to opportunity, he said.

But conversational communication and click and collect are among the industry’s most under-hyped trends, he said, while Artificial Intelligence, voice technology and visual are the three areas retailers should be focusing on if they want to thrive.

Retailers should be honing in on these three key areas if they want to thrive amidst digital disruption, Professor Sands said.

  1. AI

AI is one of the first and biggest areas of opportunity for the retail sector, according to Professor Sands.

With a 55 per cent growth in people using search engines to search for ideas, not products, the importance of idea-oriented products is rising as AI enables retailers to optimise search results to make their brand stand out.

AI should also be utilised to provide a personalised experience for retailers to meet consumer demands with one in three people expecting a personalised experience and 38 per cent saying they expect AI to improve customer service.

  1. Voice

Retailers should also tap into the growing market of voice-based AI, Professor Sands said, with 1 billion voice searches a month and rising. It’s this channel which will continue to rise and present opportunities for retailers, he said.

“This channel has significant opportunities to grow, looking at $40 billion by 2022. Opportunities around curation and discovery as well as commerce are huge,” he said.

Voice-based AI could enable retailers to better understand the emotions that consumers have around products to better inform their strategies, according to Professor Sands.

  1. Visual

Utilising visual digital channels such as Snapchat and Instagram-swipe are also areas of immense opportunity for retailers.

The Air Jordan Snapchat campaign which used social commerce in augmented reality to sell out a limited edition model of sneakers in 23 minutes is one success story, Professor Sands said, with many opportunities for retailers to geo-fence using these technologies to create an interactive experience.

As digital technology and AI rapidly changes, retailers are faced with the challenge of an uncertain future. But tapping into these under-rated trends and thinking about engaging those with expertise in AI is foolproof.

“We never know what the future is going to look like, but we can utilise AI and machine learning to predict consumer behaviour and think about outsourcing to acquire AI,” he said.