The Biggest Retail Tech Trends in 2017

December 15, 2017

There are only a few short weeks left of 2017, a year that brought the phrase “Retail Apocalypse” to our news segments and our inboxes. Here at Daymon, we like to focus on positivity and progress first, and there’s been quite a bit happening at the crossroads of retail and technology as major stores continually search to make the lives of their shoppers’ easier.

So who won the tech race over the last year, and what trends have emerged?

(image via Total Retail)

1) Online Grocery Delivery Services are cool…

AmazonFresh was one of the first to deliver groceries straight to a shopper’s home, but 2017 has seen a rash of other grocery retailers follow suit, perhaps in response to the consumer demand of getting what they want, when they want it. In October 2017, Costco announced the launch of CostcoGrocery, a service that will enable customers to pick from 500 non-perishable items from the warehouse club, including food and household goods. Two-day shipping is available on orders over $75, which is hard to spend in Costco, said no one ever. In December, Target announced they were buying grocery delivery startup Shipt for $550 million, and the Amazon-Whole Foods deal has been credited for highlighting other similar grocery delivery companies.

2) …but In-Home delivery is cooler.

If you’re paying attention to the greatest rivalry in retail (and you should be), according to Walmart and Amazon, it’s no longer enough to deliver groceries and other items to a customer’s door. Nope, they want you to find your packages not on your stoop, vulnerable to thieves and other external forces, but in your living room.

In September 2017, Walmart announced that they were testing an in-home delivery service, in collaboration with August Home, a home automation company, and Deliv, a same-day delivery startup. In theory, a shopper would purchase multiple items on Walmart.com, and a Deliv driver will retrieve those items and bring them to the shoppers’ home (and did we mention that they would also restock your fridge?).

In response, Amazon announced in October that they too had been working on an in-home delivery option called Amazon Key. By also using home automation and smart security precautions, Amazon Prime customers now have the ability to receive packages right in the comforts of their own home. The e-commerce giant also hopes that customers will purchase other services via Amazon Key, such as dog-walking or home cleaning. The service debuted on November 8, 2017 in select areas in the US.

(image via The Verge)

3) The Rise of Voice Shopping

Virtual assistants and voice shopping are now a common sight these days, especially in the years since Amazon introduced their Echo products and a little lady named Alexa (there are now multiple Echo products, including the Echo Plus, Echo Spot, Echo Connect, Echo Dot…you get the picture). But this year, Amazon took it up a notch by selling the Echo in brick-and-mortar stores, most notably in Whole Foods, whom they purchased in August 2017. In September, Kohl’s also announced that they would begin selling Alexa-enabled products in select stores, signaling to some that their strategy goes something like, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

As you may have expected, Walmart has also thrown their hat into the voice shopping ring, saying in August 2017 that they would offer a portion of their inventory for sale on the Google Home smart speaker, a direct competitor to the Amazon Echo. Customers will be able to peruse through more than two million Walmart items via voice shopping, as well as through the Google Express shopping site.

And hey Siri, who knows what retailer partnerships may happen when the forthcoming Apple HomePod hits the market next year? The voice shopping battle only continues to intensify.

(image via CNET)

4) Augmented Retail-lity

Augmented Reality (AR) has been a buzzword for quite some time, but just recently, retailers have been using its appeal to attract audiences from tech savvy kids to home-shopping adults, begging the question: Can AR be enough to entice new consumer populations?

Toys “R” Us made headlines this fall after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, vowing that it marked “the dawn of a new era” for the children’s toy store. A part of that new strategy includes AR, with the retailer releasing the Play Chaser app on October 21, 2017. The app activates more than ten different game and play experiences for specific smartphone and tablet devices. These experiences include fishing in a virtual pond, popping virtual balloons, or saying hello to a virtual Geoffrey the Giraffe.

Wayfair, one of the world’s largest online home décor and furniture destinations, rolled out View in Room 3D in September, utilizing AR to give shoppers the ability to view 3D images of furniture and décor in their homes before whipping out their credit cards. The company hopes this tool will help customers visualize how home furnishings will fit into their established home environments.

(image via The Daily Mail)

5) Disassociating from Store Associates

It’s finally happened: We’ve fast-forwarded to the future, where the droids have taken over and humans are no longer needed! Well, not really, but there have been some major steps taken by a variety of stores, exploring the capabilities of tech and what it can perform.

The biggest endeavor in this arena has been Amazon Go, a prototype grocery store created in Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington back in December 2016. The idea? No checkout, no lines, and no associates. Touting the “Just Walk Out and Go” shopping experience, Amazon envisions customers entering the store, taking their desired products, and then walking right out without any cashier or register encounters to stop them. This is done using technologies found in self-driving cars: Computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning, to name a few. The technology detects when products are taken or returned to the shelves, and when the customer exits the store, their account is automatically charged and they’re sent a receipt. Amazon had hoped to open more of these stores in 2017, though the project has been delayed due to tracking capabilities unable to support more than 20 customers at a time.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the convenience store chain Lawson and electronics maker Panasonic Corp have created a “cashier-less register,” also named “Reji Robo” which is short for Register Robots. In short, the technology completes the transaction and bags the purchased items for the consumer. In more detail, the shopper places their basket of items in a designated area of a register, then swipes each item through a barcode reader. The Reji Robo uses tiny radio-frequency ID tags attached to each item to tally up how many products are being bought. After completing the purchase via various screens, the basket slides down through a hole in the table and the machine takes care of bagging everything automatically. Panasonic claims that this system will reduce shopping trips by 10 percent. They hope to have these robots in place across Japan by the end of 2025.

What are your favorite retail tech trends from this year? Did we miss anything?

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