Tech-savvy retailers keep looking for new and innovative ways to connect with consumers all the time. They bring in technologies that reshape retail in interesting ways.
2016 saw the popularization of beacons, magic mirrors. Intelligent Automation became the essential new co-worker for the new age retailer, according to an Accenture survey. Retailers were using using data tools seriously to boost revenues by personalizing shopping for consumers and helping them make smarter buys. Artificial Intelligence and chatbots were introduced – and became all the rage – to interact with consumers.
So what does 2017 hold for the retail industry, technology-wise? Retail Dive listed five technologies that will reshape the industry this year.
Robotics technology is already very commonplace in the retail sector, at least in the supply chain. Amazon has pioneered this technology. The e-commerce behemoth empowers a smarter, faster, more consistent customer experience through automation. Amazon Robotics – a subsidiary of the e-tailer – automates fulfilment center operations using various methods of robotic technology including autonomous mobile robots, sophisticated control software, language perception, power management, computer vision, depth sensing, machine learning, object recognition, and semantic understanding of commands.
Amazon already has around 45,000 robots working in warehouses and several retailers and other brands are making this migration.
Recently, Hudson’s Bay Company committed to expand its use of a robotic fulfillment system and Lowe’s already is in the midst of rolling out a customer-helping robot into the aisles of 11 stores in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Retail Dive says in 2017, the industry is bound to see use of robots in retail expand beyond the supply chain, and perhaps into aisles and checkout counters of brick-and-mortar stores, and maybe even into home delivery.
Companies continue to advance their drone delivery projects, and some may even be ready to edge their way out of the lab, and expand into larger pilot programs. Flirtey and 7-Eleven (both US-based retailers) have already made several dozen drone deliveries in the Reno, NV area.
Amazon was awarded a patent in February 2017 for a system in which a package would be “forcefully” propelled from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and would be helped to land by tools including a parachute.
The company completed its first successful drone delivery in the U.K. in late 2016. In New Zealand, Domino’s along with Flirtey launched the first commercial drone delivery service to deliver hot pizza, while offline retail giant Walmart too has plans to use drones to check warehouse inventory.
E-commerce Anti-Fraud Tools
Retail Dive suggests that this is the next big thing in retail technology that promises to take the industry by storm this year.
Payments companies like MasterCard and Stripe have already installed new anti-fraud tools that leverage artificial intelligence machine learnings capabilities to identify fraud signals and patterns, and potentially predict fraud before it happens.
Forter’s “2016 Fraud Attack Index” showed a 69.9 percent rise in attacks against apparel websites and goods. Luxury goods were also targeted, with an average fraud rate of $5.91 at risk out of $100 of sales.
Retail Dive says in 2017, more payment companies will use AI capabilities to fight fraud, as well as using other methods — including tokenization agreements — to mitigate vulnerabilities as they show merchants they are taking steps to battle e-commerce fraud.
Blockchain and bitcoin
The blockchain is an undeniably ingenious invention. By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology is a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed.
The blockchain is like a full history of banking transactions. Bitcoin transactions are entered chronologically in a blockchain just the way bank transactions are. Blocks, meanwhile, are like individual bank statements.
Based on the Bitcoin protocol, the blockchain database is shared by all nodes participating in a system.
Wal-Mart is one of the first retailers to plan an international implementation of blockchain as it looks to impose better tracking of its pork and produce transactions in China. More retailers, especially the largest international ones, may be ready to use blockchain for similar applications.
Finally, Retail Dive says virtual assistants will be the in things this year.
A virtual assistant is a software agent that can perform tasks or services for an individual. As of 2017, the capability and usage virtual assistants is expanding at an exponential rate, the most widely used ones being Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Apple’s Siri, with Facebook’s M expected to be available to hundreds of millions on Facebook Messenger in 2017.
Apple’s Siri may have initiated the era of digital assistants, but Amazon has taken it further by giving its Alexa virtual assistant more to do than just answer questions. Alexa has brought us to a point where refrigerators can order groceries for us. Amazon’s leadership in this area has drawn global brands like LG to produce appliances enabled with Amazon’s technology.