Consumer demand is at an all-time high. According to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), retail trade in Australia rose 19.2 per cent in August 2022 compared to the same period in 2021 and experienced a 0.6 per cent month-on-month increase of from July 2022.[1] Between increasing demand for same-day delivery, click-and-collect, and kerbside pick-up, today’s customers want more, now, and they want exceptional customer service while they’re at it.

To meet this changing need, retailers have embraced technology and moved further into the world of omnichannel environments, empowering consumers to shop online and in-store, almost whenever they need or want to.

At the same time, Australian retailers are battling rising operational costs and a shortage of skilled workers, which is causing fundamental changes for the industry at large. To mitigate these mounting challenges, retailers need to take their digital transformation to the next level and embrace new intelligent technology, such as augmented reality (AR), to better support frontline workers.

Using AR to drive retail success

AR is far from a new concept, with its history and use across industries dating back decades. However, it’s becoming increasingly accessible in the retail sector, with organisations of all sizes embracing the technology to deliver exceptional customer service across online and physical store environments. At a base level, retailers are readily embracing AR technology to help deliver more streamlined shopping experiences for customers by empowering shoppers to interact, customise, and engage with products in new and innovative ways.

While there is incredible potential for AR to be used by shoppers to enhance their purchasing experience, it can be equally powerful when used to help better support frontline workers. AR can be used throughout storefronts themselves and in the backend of retail operations, including in warehousing, to deliver more streamlined operations as well as quicker order fulfilment and more accurate inventory management.

The latest AR solutions can equip retail staff with vision-picking embedded in the likes of smart glasses. This empowers retail workers with unobtrusive, augmented vision that lets them carry out fulfilment tasks faster and more accurately. These hands-free solutions replace hand-held or paper lists and can be dynamically updated with real-time information that not only accelerates time to delivery, but also empowers retailers to better meet store and customer needs. By using AR-enabled smart glasses to support retail workers in stores and in warehousing operations, retailers can facilitate more streamlined order fulfilment for more efficient delivery. Retailers can also equip their workers with smart glasses for more efficient restocking and inventory activities, which can help streamline essential processes for stores.

Retailers can also use AR to support their workers with enhanced training. This is essential for an industry that regularly sees new members joining its labour force. For example, the ABS reports that the retail industry saw 216,000 new entrants in the year ending February 2022.[2] Smart glasses equipped with AR solutions for retail can aid onboarding and deliver unrivalled learn-on-the-job experiences. This can help reduce pressure on stretched management teams that have limited capacity to provide comprehensive training to new staff, especially leading up to busy trading periods.

TeamViewer helped global soft drink giant Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (HBC) overcome challenges in its bottling plants through the implementation of smart glasses. By using smart glasses, Coca-Cola’s employees from any of its 54 locations were able to contact experts remotely via video call and receive direct help to find a solution and restore operations with as minimal downtime as possible. In addition, management visits and training can now also be carried out remotely over video call.

As 2022 comes to an end, now is the time for retailers to look to the future and invest in solutions like AR to help deliver exceptional experiences for their staff and customers, especially as they head into the busiest time of the year. With record numbers of Australians shopping in-store and online, Australia Post is already predicting holiday surges ahead of its Christmas cut-off dates,[3] indicating a busy time ahead for retailers.

As such, it’s essential that retail organisations take the time to equip their staff with tools that will help them thrive through the busy season. For under-resourced retailers, AR can help them better support their staff while simultaneously improving productivity, tackling skills gaps, and increasing customer satisfaction.

Emad Afghani is vice president of sales Australia & New Zealand at TeamViewer.