Five Predictions for Retail Transformation in 2019
Gary Hawkins, CEO , Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART)
As we begin 2019, tomorrow is no longer going to resemble today. The pace of tech-fueled innovation continues to grow, bringing with it increasing change across the supply chain and greater impact on traditional retail operations and models. 2019 is going to be a year of even greater change. Here are five key areas to watch this year:
- Frictionless shopping: The Amazon Go store with its cashier-less shopping experience has gotten the industry’s attention and this year we will see a great deal of activity in this space. There are several tech companies working to bring similar capabilities to the retail industry along with cost-effectively scaling the technology to work in traditional supermarkets. I believe the proliferation of retailers’ mobile apps having some kind of self-shopping capability - the shopper scanning their products as they shop using their smartphone and then an expedited payment process - is an interim step to a completely frictionless shopping environment. The whole idea of the Amazon Go store is to make buying products as easy as possible; the shopper having to use their app to scan and pay makes it easier to buy but not as easy as just walking in, picking up what you want, and walking out.
- Automated fulfillment: Kroger’s partnership with Ocado to build and operate twenty automated grocery eComm fulfillment centers is on track. We are seeing several other retailers enter into agreements with Takeoff Technologies to build mini automated fulfillment centers that can sit in the backroom, automatically fulfilling high-velocity packaged goods ordered online. Walmart is working with a partner to build an automated fulfillment center that is designed to sit alongside their stores, fulfilling high-volume products. In 2019 we are going to see even more activity in this space as other retailers will be forced to follow these leaders as automation brings efficiency and lower fulfillment costs, opening up a productivity gap. We will be seeing other technology providers step into this space as the market expands.
- Automated delivery: Kroger’s partnership with Nuro to use automated, driverless delivery vehicles to deliver online orders to the shopper’s home is already in pilot. Udelv and other solutions will be gaining more interest as retailers begin to focus more attention on the final mile delivery. While many retailers have signed deals with Instacart or Shipt to handle actual delivery, we’re going to see growing interest in Uber and other services to handle deliveries and fast growing interest in automated solutions like Nuro and Udelv in search of cost efficiencies.
- Health & Wellness gets personal: The wearables market is growing fast as Apple’s Watch and similar devices provide even more functionality to monitor key health indicators in realtime. The explosion in health data coming from these wearables will become increasingly tied to food guidance, helping the individual understand what specific food products to purchase and consume based upon the individual’s health condition and realtime data. As an example, Dexcom recently released a device that provides realtime glucose monitoring for people with diabetes. The ability to use knowledge of an individual’s glucose levels at that specific time - for example, while they are standing in front of the shelf - will inform guidance to beneficial foods. This movement is already underway as the massive food and healthcare industries converge, driven by Amazon’s ownership of Whole Foods, PillPack, and other activity in healthcare. Kroger’s Opt-UP app enables the shopper to easily understand the quality of the foods they are buying and easily filter the store’s product selection based upon the shopper’s interests, needs, and preferences. Look for a lot more activity around this space in the coming year.
- Melding of digital and physical retail: While most industry activity has been focused around eCommerce and automation of fulfillment and delivery of orders, I believe we are going to see growing attention to the melding of digital and physical shopping. This encompasses bringing augmented reality into the store and shopping experience; we’ll also see growing activity in virtual reality shopping as VR tech gets better and cheaper. Digital signage will spread across the store and get smarter, not only using demographic info to present messaging relevant to the person standing in front of the screen, but engagement will be far more personalized. Kroger’s new shelf Edge system is moving in this direction, lighting up as a shopper moves down the aisle to call out relevant products.
Obviously there are many more areas where technology is going to transform retail but these are five key areas to watch. Each of these fundamentally changes the game: Frictionless shopping and automating fulfillment and delivery remove significant costs and will put growing pressure on competing retailers as companies using these technologies scale deployments.
Personalization will move quickly, not just in marketing but in linking an Individual shopper’s health to her favorite store’s product assortment, guiding the shopper to products to improve her wellbeing.
Lastly, shopping is about to become far more interesting and truly immersive as technology really begins to impact the shopping experience, whether you are in the brick & mortar store or sitting at home.
About the Author
Gary Hawkins is the founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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