The advancement of retail tech has been astounding over the past few years. Businesses have had to adapt quickly to the restrictions of COVID-19, scale quickly to meet the great acceleration in ecommerce, and adapt their services to meet a growing consumer desire for personalized retail experiences.
To get a better understanding of what’s next in the world of retail tech, we spoke to Rachel West, a Principal at RevTech Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs creating technologies and concepts driving the retail transformation.
Find out the key insights she shared with us below, and for the full interview, you can listen through the link below.
Innovations that Build Loyalty and Prove Sustainability Are In High Demand
Over the past 5 to 10 years, retailers have invested heavily in technology to improve their logistics operations, particularly around handling returns. These products are now hitting their point of critical growth, and have been particularly visible in the last year as consumers order online in far greater numbers.
However, according to West, some of the most interesting innovations being made right now are focused more on building loyalty and promoting sustainable practices. From startups focusing on the resale of used clothing, to intermediary services like Comerso, which make it possible for stores to resell or donate unsold products, brands clearly understand the importance of reducing their footprint for consumers today.
Blockchain Will Become Ubiquitous, While Other Innovations Falter
Currently, retailers are reaping the benefits of incorporating greater analytics into each step of their operations, both in the front and back of house. Most leading brands are already working to enable each branch to make more data-driven decisions based on what stock is moving better than others.
Looking forward, West predicts a seismic shift towards integrating blockchain technology into retail. While neither the industry nor the technology is yet ready, it will soon have a multitude of uses, including validating sustainable practices, as well as recording deliveries and validating both invoices and payments around the world.
However, other eye-catching technologies will struggle to find there place without a a clear a path to profitability. Giving one well-publicized example from clothing retail, West believes that brands may struggle to connect 3D fitting software to their key metrics like a uplift in sales, or a reduction in returns. And this says nothing of the challenges of accommodating the subjective and changing demands of consumers as fashions change rapidly.
Rethinking Retail Roles In An Age of Automation
Retail has always been one of the most visible testing grounds for consumer-facing automations, many of which prove controversial and can raise the ire of both consumers and workforces. One of the most notable examples in recent time has been the rollout of self-service checkouts, which in theory should bring greater efficiency to payments, yet according to one recent UK study, can actually take up to 4 minutes longer for shoppers!
However, the realities of COVID-19 has made many grocers look towards the ‘Amazon Go’ model, commonly known as Scan and Go, which enable customers to enter the grocery store, get what they want and pay directly through their phone rather than having to go to the cashier.
According to West, such developments will require the industry to rethink retail roles, moving away from menial tasks which can be automated, and towards greater specialization and training for key staff.