It believes retail has been among the most vibrant markets for innovation in recent years, with considerable investment in ecommerce, mobile and supply chain technologies. Yet many of the retail technologies deployed are still far from mature.
“The next stage in evolution will focus less on new and more installations, but instead on changing business processes and consumer behavior to actually embrace and utilize many of these technologies,” said Tony Rodriguez, chief technology officer, Digimarc.
“Retail innovations in the year ahead will focus less on sizzle in the media and more on behind-the-scenes technologies aimed at the nuts-and-bolts business of inventory availability, supply chain management, fulfillment and distribution center efficiency and artificial intelligence to help anticipate consumer demand.”
He added technologies such as conversational AI and shape shifting stores will usher in a new world of commerce, disrupt the retail industry and transform how consumers experience traditional brick-and-mortar shopping.
Here, Rodriguez gives us his five predictions on innovative technology that will impact the industry in the year ahead.
Incentivizing Mobile Checkout
Already many national retailers, including Kroger, Sam’s Club and Walmart, have introduced mobile in-aisle checkouts, which allows shoppers to scan and go without visiting a traditional checkout lane. Now, though, getting people to actually use this cost-effective and time-saving technology will be the next battle. Expect to see major national retailers begin to offer meaningful discounts and aggressive coupon offers for those consumers willing to download their app and use it on a regular basis to get in and out more quickly – and reduce retailers’ reliance on costly, and hard to find, labor.
A very controversial topic as early forays have had poor adoption. However, retail dynamics are changing rapidly, and voice shopping is expected to jump from $2 billion today to $40 billion by 2022, according to experts. With the voice recognition technology improving, conversational commerce is already a part of our homes and is likely to soon infiltrate our commute. This trend received a major endorsement late in 2018 when Microsoft acquired XOXCO, a software product design and development studio known for its conversational AI and bot development capabilities. And, Amazon has already committed to introducing Alexa for cars with the Echo Auto device expected in 2019.
Dynamic, Personalized In-store Pricing
Not only does dynamic and personalized in-store pricing become the norm, shoppers begin to expect it. The emergence of electronic shelf labels lowers the barrier to entry for grocers and allows them to leverage the massive amount of sales and customer data they have been collecting to drive in-store traffic and increase customer loyalty. Customers can now scan packages and labels, something they’ve become accustomed to with scan-and-go programs, to receive personalized savings. As a result, grocers can increase sales, reduce waste and compete with e-commerce offerings.
Shape Shifting Stores from AI-Powered Insights
Retail modularity based on data and AI-driven insights, could lead to dynamic rearrangements within the store. This already happens to a degree with seasonal changes such as moving barbecue items to prominent positions as summer approaches. But now it will be possible for more granular changes. For example, the baby food and Hamburger Helper moves to the end cap on Sunday-Tuesday, but chips and beer move to the end cap on Thursday-Saturday. Roll away a couple of center-store fixtures on the weekend to make room for the olive bar installation. Flip the store layout by day of week.
Retail as Entertainment
Retail as entertainment, and co-op partnerships. Already exurban strip malls and other commercial real estate take advantage of synergistic lessees: The burger joint is adjacent to the big box hardware store. But soon co-leased spaces will proliferate. The grocery store that is attached to the bowling alley will share a prep kitchen. The deli provides upscale meals for bowlers, and the bowling alley – or movie theater or arcade or mini golf or barber shop or craft cocktail bar or whatever else – provides entertainment for the retailer as a co-operative all-in-one destination. Think about a premium movie theater complex and upscale grocer such as New Seasons Market literally in the same building. Also, branded shop-in-shop concepts. For example, the grocery store growler fill station is owned/branded as Deschutes Brewery inside New Seasons.