Five retail tech innovations for a post coronavirus world
As coronavirus lockdowns ease in many countries, retailers know it will not be business as usual. Here are some technologies that could help them during their reopening phases and beyond.
Over the next three years, every major retailer will accelerate the use of micro-fulfilment centres inside their stores (and among clusters of stores) to fulfil orders for food, groceries and other products.
That’s the view of Brittain Ladd, a supply chain consultant who has also worked at Amazon, Deloitte and Capgemini. “Target and other retailers have seen a spike in consumers wanting food and groceries during the coronavirus crisis. Two of the lowest margin categories for a retailer,” he says.
“The coronavirus becoming a seasonal disease much like the flu and requiring stores to close, is a possibility. Warehouse workers and front line workers becoming ill and dying, as well as walking off the job, will increase, destabilising operations.”
To meet their labour needs, retailers have increased pay, hurting their bottom lines. This means that they will heavily invest in automating their warehouses, Ladd reckons.
“I estimate that by 2024, retailers will require 50% fewer workers to run their stores and warehouses than they do today,” he concludes.
2. Augmented reality
Augmented reality is also one to watch, according to Ladd.
“Jeff Bezos says that what customers want are speed and choice. I agree with his comments. However, over the next several years, even when autonomous vehicles and possibly even drones if they’re adapted by grocery retailers, supply chains and last mile delivery will only be able to increase in speed incrementally,” he comments.
If that’s the case, what technology can be utilised by consumers to significantly increase shopping for groceries (and other retail products)? “I believe the answer is AR. By 2030, I believe it’s possible that consumers will choose to shop via AR,” he says.
This is due to increased speed. It will allow consumers to set foot inside a virtual store where they can purchase the same products they physically shop for today..
“Consumers can pick up products, read labels, ask questions, and make a purchase all while sitting in their favourite chair wearing a VR headset or by 2030, maybe VR glasses,” Ladd states.
3. Virtual queuing systems
Asda is trialling a virtual queuing system as part of social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.
This allows customers to log in to a queue remotely and wait in their cars to enter stores. It is being tested out at Asda’s store in Middleton, near Leeds.
Expect to see more retailers follow suit as lockdowns are eased and retailers grapple with a host of post-coronavirus world issues.
4. Mobile self-checkout solutions
Decathlon is rolling out MishiPay’s mobile self-checkout solution across its 81 German stores.
The technology is now live in stores in Berlin (Berlin Hauptbahnhof), Munich (Munich Connect), Cologne (Marsdorf), Schwetzingen and Plochingen, with more locations being added every week.
Customers can scan and pay for items using their smartphone, automatically disabling the RFID security tag to leave them free to exit the store.
Decathlon Deutschland’s Leader of Store Digitalisation, Stefan Hertkorn, says: “We are always looking for innovative ways to improve the in-store experience for our customers, and we have found that they are really enjoying using the MishiPay app.”
“What’s more, the solution has clear customer benefits in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling shoppers to use their own device for the entire shopping journey instead of needing to touch store hardware, and eliminating the need to wait at a checkout.”
5. Live video platforms
Go Instore has partnered with Brompton Bicycle to launch Live In-Store Expert, which matches in-store Brompton Junction product specialists with online customers via a HD live video platform.
Andre Hordagoda, Co-founder and CEO, Go Instore, says. "Brompton is an excellent example of retailers adapting to this new way of living and shopping.”
“Online purchasing hasn’t paused during the coronavirus outbreak, it has increased, and retail needs to continue to adapt to keep commerce going and keep their staff working safely. This isn’t just the short-term solution for retail, it is the future."
The service is currently available in the UK only and is open between 10:00 - 16:00 BST, Monday - Friday. Further details can be found here.
Scott Thompson - Founder, Retail Technology Innovation Hub