5 tech features that will change your holiday shopping experience

As retailers gear up for the busiest shopping season of the year, companies are turning to new technology features like virtual reality to train employees and draw in shoppers.

Retailers like Walmart and Target are adding new technology to compete with online retailers like Amazon that offer convenience and quickness to customers. The fight to lure customers into stores is more important than ever for stores, as economists predict this will be the first holiday season that online shopping outpaces brick-and-mortar retail sales.

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Here are five tech features that will help your holiday shopping this year:

1. VIRTUAL REALITY Walmart is turning to virtual reality to prep new employees before the season. In 2016, Walmart opened six training academies in Ohio to teach associates advanced retail skills, leadership and specifics on how to run individual store departments.

Virtual reality allows Walmart to train associates in scenarios that are difficult or impossible to recreate in a store. Some of the these scenarios include the holiday rush on Black Friday, spills and disruptive incidents, said Brad Terry, Walmart’s e-commerce manager for the region.

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2. APPS Toys R Us vowed to turn stores into "digital playgrounds" with its new augmented reality app. "With the help of PlayFusion's proprietary computer vision technology, the app activates different AR games and play experiences on the screen of a customer's smartphone or tablet. With the app open, players use their devices to unlock experiences by scanning designated Play Chaser signage featured throughout Toys"R"Us," the company stated.

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3. PICKUP TOWERS Walmart has added its new Pickup Towers in stores across the U.S., including the Middletown store. The tower allows customers to order items online and pick up them up in stores for no shipping costs — and they don't have to wait in any check-out lines.

4. NEW DESIGN Target Corp. announced back in March that it would redesign its stores, investing billions of dollars in the next three years. The renovations include: dedicated parking where workers will bring out online orders; a second entrance will allow "time-starved" customers to easily navigate the grocery area, a wine and beer shop, self-checkout lanes and an order pick-up station; and circular center aisles that will have displays that engage customers with "compelling products in unexpected places."

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5. ROBOTS Walmart is also using robots to help stock shelves at 50 stores across the country. The robots, which stand about two-feet-tall and are outfitted with cameras, help them scan aisles and identify missing or mislabeled inventory across the store. The robots also check for mispriced items, and give the information to employees who fix the issues.


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