From the rise of data analysis and personalisation to voice recognition applications, new technologies are continually changing the retail landscape.
ith brands and retailers feeling an increasing pressure to stay ahead of the competition, the retail technology sector in the US represents a significant and growing opportunity for Irish exporters. The scale of that opportunity is huge, with the US retail industry already estimated to be worth $2.6trn (€2.1trn), according to the National Retail Federation.
While the US has long been a hub for digital technology, innovation is now poised to transform the ways in which consumers shop. This month, US retailer Nordstrom acquired two retail tech companies, integrating new tools to further improve customer experience. These acquisitions enable Nordstrom sales associates to communicate with customers outside of the store, offering style advice and personalised product recommendations, while strengthening Nordstrom's ability to send consumers customised mobile messages.
With US giants such as Nordstrom and Amazon viewing tech integration as the future of retail, we have begun to see Irish companies target growing opportunities in the US.
Hannah Webb, head of retail technology for Enterprise Ireland in the US, comments: "Retail technology companies in Ireland understand the challenges that US retailers face. They provide highly advanced platforms and innovative solutions that address issues, such as how to track online to in-store purchases, how to manage data analysis, and deliver enhanced customer experiences."
Three such companies supported by Enterprise Ireland are VisitorM, Pointy and Voysis. Limerick startup VisitorM bridges the gap between physical and digital customer experiences. Touchscreen stations allow customers to provide feedback on their in-store shopping experience at the point-of-sale. VisitorM's technology is soon to be used by shoppers in the US under a new deal with established clothing retailer Old Navy.
A second innovative Irish startup, Pointy, makes it easy for local shops to display their full product range online, enabling them to be found by local consumers on search engines .
The solution helps retailers to reach a much wider audience and drive in-store visits. In the US, more than 2,000 retailers across 50 states currently use Pointy, with the company on track for adoption by 1pc of all US retailers by the end of 2018.
Irish startup Voysis helps retailers to respond to Alexa and Amazon's position in the market. The brand-specific platform that Voysis provides adds voice capabilities to websites and apps, delivering a more conversational experience to consumers.
Voysis aimed to replicate the experience of speaking to an in-store associate, allowing their solution to be just as helpful and knowledgeable about what the consumer seeks while shopping. With the prediction that, by 2020, 50pc of all searches will be voice searches, solutions like Voysis are shaping the consumer experience now and informing the future of retail, according to comScore.
Showcasing Irish innovation and building strong networks with keys buyers are important steps to growing business in the US. With support from Enterprise Ireland, these companies and others from Ireland's retail tech cluster have the opportunity to present their solutions at major US trade shows, such as NRF Big Show, which attracts 40,000 attendees, and Shoptalk, attracting 8,500 attendees.
David Andreasson, director of finance and operations at Voysis, comments: "At Shoptalk, one of the largest retail conferences in the world, brands immediately saw the value of what we provide and the experiences that are brought to life through the Voysis platform."
With retail evolving rapidly, brands and sellers, from the established to the emerging, will continue to source innovation and technology that will help them compete into the future. As Irish technology companies continue to target the US retail market, they will succeed by promoting strong and highly differentiated value propositions.
Eva Murphy Ryan is market executive for education and technology at Enterprise Ireland's New York office