Technology is expected to help improve the customer experience.The retail industry has changed dramatically over the past few decades, and the pace of change shows few signs of slowing. One of the ways retailers are seeking to distinguish themselves from their competitors is through the experience they create, and many of the changes coming to the retail sector this year revolve around improving that experience.Here are five of the top trends affecting the retail industry in 2019:BOPIS becomes standard – There’s no doubt that brick-and-mortar stores face significant challenges from online merchants. One of the ways retailers are working to meet those challenges is by offering new services to their customers, and one of those services is “buy online, pick up in store.” BOPIS marries online shopping with the instant gratification of the brick-and-mortar store by allowing shoppers to purchase items via a retailer’s website and pick those items up at the store, often within hours of purchase. According to trade journal Retail Touchpoints 90 percent of retailers will offer BOPIS by 2021.IoT devices help deliver a personalized experience –Other changes coming to the shopping experience involve personalization, and digital technology is helping with those efforts. “Internet of Things” devices such as beacons, facial recognition cameras, RFID tags and other triggers gather basic information about customers and interact with their mobile devices, determining the content displayed on in-store digital signage networks and the types of promotions those customers receive. A recent study by Grand View Research predicts the market for IoT devices in retail will grow at a compound annual rate of 21.5 percent through 2025.Data drive decisions – One of the benefits of those IoT devices is that each interaction creates a record, and that information can help retailers make better decisions about products and promotions. Beacons can track customers’ movement through the store, helping to drive decisions about store layout. The timing of digital signage content can be matched with point-of-sale information to determine the effectiveness of that content, while shelf sensors can determine which products are attracting customer interest and which ones are being passed over.AR and VR help shape the customer experience – There’s no doubt that some experiences are difficult to envision in the store. How will that couch look in my living room? How will a remodel change the appearance of my home? To address those issues, many retailers are incorporating augmented reality, where a view of the physical world is supplemented by computer-generated images, and virtual reality, where customers enter into a completely immersive experience. Goldman Sachs forecasts the market for AR and VR in retail could top $1.6 billion by 2025.Mobile training tools make training associates easier – Although technology is certainly helping to improve the retail experience, at the end of the day the success of those efforts rests on the shoulders of front-line sales associates. Training employees to deliver an outstanding experience day after day is one of the biggest challenges retailers face, and they’re turning to digital devices to help meet that challenge. Technology firm Multimedia Plus, for example, recently debuted INCITE 5.0, the latest version of its mobile training platform. INCITE allows retailers to deliver video-based training materials via tablets or mobile devices without streaming, whenever and wherever employees have free time. Proprietary analytics tools spotlight areas of improvement needed for employees or groups of employees and identify opportunities to reward.Technology is providing retailers with more information about their customers than they’ve ever had before, while offering new and exciting ways to meet their needs. By leveraging that technology to improve the customer experience, retailers can look to 2019 as another opportunity for growth.