Top 10 Technology Innovations For Retailers Of All Sizes

By Bob Phibbs

iStock-1166975333-innovationAs brick and mortar retailers continue to look for how to compete with online, many are realizing they have to do more with both fewer stores and fewer associates.

While you might be able to cut your costs in the short-term to drive profitability as Macy’s is trying to do, that’s a recipe for long-term failure. And online is no guarantee of success. As I heard one analyst say recently, “Online is a shitty business. You pay $2.50 to make $1.00.”

Can smart retailers sell more using technology innovations? The answer is yes. They can build a store of the future and build their online shopping carts with bundles, limit out of stocks or worse overstocks, and even learn which competitors are actually good for their business.

I learned all of that recently at the National Retail Federation’s annual show in New York. I’m highlighting several I discovered in their Innovation Lab as well others seen on the Expo floor.

Top 10 Technology Innovations Transforming Shopping For Retailers

Increasingly

What is it? Increasingly is an AI platform used by ecommerce sites which analyzes each customer interaction and uses machine learning so retailers can sell more collections, looks, projects, and bundles online.

Who could use it? Any retailer with an online presence looking to harvest the advantage of suggestive selling - People who bought this, also purchased this.

What would you get out of using it? Results show a 15% lift in basket revenue. Find out more about them here.

 Watch my interview with Sri Sharma Co-Founder & CEO below

Flashfood

What is it? Flashfood is a mobile marketplace that allows grocers to sell surplus items at discounted prices to cut down on food waste and to feed people affordably.

Who could use it? Grocers looking for a more sustainable alternative to throwing out perfectly good food.

What would you get out of using it? By maximizing freshness-challenged food by offering a 10-pound crate of soon-to-expire food for $10 purchased through a mobile app. You not only avoid throwing out millions of pounds of spoiled food, but also make sustainable food practices sexy.

Watch my interview with Kat Kourtaff below

Glass Media

What is it? Glass Media specializes in highly unique, custom-tailored, digital activations that incorporate the Wow factor into design. For retailers, it offers virtual merchandising solutions.

Who could use it? Any retailer with display windows.

What would you get out of using it? With virtual merchandising, you can draw shoppers' attention and attract them to come into your store in a dynamic new way.

Watch my interview with Daniel Black below.

Proximus Unified Commerce

What is it? Software that provides one shopping cart accessible across social, ecommerce, website, and even in-store.

Who could use it? Any retailer with multiple channels.

What would you get out of using it? Providing a more customer-focused level of service to drive sales. No consumer is looking for omnichannel; what they want is a quality shopping experience. When a shopper goes from the physical world to a brand's website, or from the mobile application to a toll-free customer service number, the shopper hopes for continuity of service, they do not want to start from scratch.

Watch my interview with CEO Eric Chemouny below.

Intel

What is it? This specific Intel initiative focuses on a phone charging tower for employees linked to your POS. If an employee wants to check their phone, it automatically clocks them out. Brilliant.

Who could use it? Anyone with 10 or more employees.

What would you get out of using it?  It benefits your employees because their phones are always charging. It benefits the retailer because they can’t use them as a distraction on the floor and if they do they don’t get paid for it.

Watch and learn from my interview with Joe Jensen, VP, Internet of Things Group below on several Intel initiatives.

Placer.AI

What is it? Placer.AI is an advanced foot traffic analytics platform that empowers retailers with real-time access to the insights that drive marketing and planning success.

Who could use it? Any retailer in both malls or strip centers looking to grow sale, developers, and commercial leasing agents.

What would you get out of using it? Their AI helps retailers understand how to pick the correct location by helping you understand adjacencies between tenants. One of the things I liked was how their software helped one retailer let go of the perception that a new store would be too close. I like the visibility of knowing what is happening offline, not just online. Take a look at their free version https://www.placer.ai/products/analytics/.

Watch my interview with Ethan Chernofsky VP of Marketing below

N.A.bld 

What is it? First, it’s pronounced enabled. N.A.bld is a quick-turn production software for inventory-free retailing. Apparel is created on-demand, sustainably, and with transparency in six weeks or less linked to a network of no-minimum tech-enabled manufacturers. 

Who could use it? Anyone wanting streamlined production at your fingertips

What would you get out of using it? It could take your manufacturing down from months to weeks with quick-turn production for inventory-free retailing. For example, in a season of Project Runway, it is rumored they had to buy about 3 million in garments to fulfill orders on JCP.com. With N.A.bld this season they can make one-offs as orders come in. Find out more about them here

Watch my interview with Co-Founder and CEO Amanda Curtis below.

Fuse Inventory

What is it? Fuse Inventory pulls data from every step in the supply chain for retailers to predict supply and demand. 

Who could use it? Brick and mortar retailers like Glossier use Fuse to scale fast and minimize losses from out of stock and over stock. 

What would you get out of using it? Brands lose a staggering $1 trillion every year due to inventory stock-outs and overstock.

Watch my interview with Co-Founder and CEO Rachel Liaw below to learn more.

Finger Food Advanced Technology Group

What is it? Finger Food builds custom technology solutions using augmented reality/virtual reality.

Who could use it?Anyone looking to solve issues using AI. 

What would you get out of using it? This is a bespoke solution. One case study involved Mountain Equipment COOP, a small outdoor retailer looking to show all the tents they carry without having to commit to a huge space. Virtual reality made the difference. They use 3D modeling for online retail too but also for making the most of the physical retail space.

Watch my interview with Jordan Hesse below.

Salesfloor

What is it? Salesfloor is a mobile platform that combines clienteling, assisted selling and point of sale tools.

Who could use it? Anyone with salespeople and a website.

What would you get out of using it? Store associates can use Salesfloor to deliver personalized and convenient experiences for customers on any channel. - no wonder they received the VIP award!

Watch Co-founder Ben Rodier detail how they do this below.

 

Happy Returns

What is it? Happy Returns is software takes care of all the reverse logistics of customer returns.

Who could use it? Anyone with brick and mortar stores and online.

What would you get out of using it? Size issues cause 52% of returns so making exchanges easy either online or in-store can retain revenue, reduce costs, and give shoppers a choice with return options. All taken care of with their branded bins and processes. Sorry, but no video.

See also, How Retail Store Of The Future Holds Keys For Retail Shopping Trends

In Sum

At the 2020 NRF show, I saw many technologies focused on robots filling orders, robots visible in stores, robots scanning shelves, and robots telling their human counterparts to fill them. Other technology providers, looking to mimic Amazon’s Grab and Go, were focused on ways to cut out the cashiers by replacing them with infrared sensors and AI technology so shoppers can just walk out. Still others looked at ways to add cameras that spy on both employees and shoppers.

I believe the more human we can make retail, the more business retailers can do, but I know from these examples, that it also makes the retailer’s job easier. When it comes to the future of shopping, just don’t let technology replace human contact; let it enhance it instead.

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