Retailers adopting fancy new technology can’t ignore the basics – The Australian Financial Review

However, experts say some emerging technologies would be relatively simple to implement and could be in stores within 12 to 18 months.

Given the well-documented labour shortage in the retail sector, “frictionless” shopping in the form of autonomous checkouts, “just-walk-out” and “scan and go” technology, plus queue-busting mobile point-of-sale devices could quickly become mainstream.

Smart carts, like these on display at the NRF’s Big Show, could soon replace the traditional shopping trolley.  

Veteran retailer Gareth Jude, the CEO of retail advisory ThinkUncommon, liked scan-and-go technology implemented by Best Buy, where customers open the Greatest Buy app in the store, scan the products they want in order to buy, and add them to a virtual cart on their mobile device. Associates package the items plus have all of them ready to pick up in the front of the store.

“Smart” buying carts, which scan and tally the particular cost of products as consumers place items in their trolleys, were also a highlight at the NRF’s Big Show plus would become easy to retrofit in supermarkets.

“Not all of this is going to stick and the stuff that sticks might end up being a few years out in the future, ” says Jude. “It’s great that retailers are experimenting – whether it stays or not is up to the customers. ”


Fashion merchant Ganni has started using hand-held point-of-sale technology developed by Boston-based company NewStore, which usually enables staff to get out from behind the counter and process customer transactions, make selling suggestions, check stock levels and search for inventory in other stores on iPhones making use of apps with POS and customer support functions.

“Staff don’t get trapped behind the counter – it’s a high service environment and you never break that connection with the customer, ” Jude says.

Queensland-based tech organization TagR offers gone one further – its web-based technology enables shoppers in order to scan plus pay for products upon their phones and promises to increase retailers’ sales by freeing up shop staff to focus on customer service.

Real-time inventories

QUT’s Professor Gary Mortimer, who chairs the Australian Merchants Association’s Consumer Research Advisory Committee, says retailers such as Aldi, REWE, Tesco and Wakefern are using Israel-based computer vision business Trigo’s technologies to rapidly convert traditional supermarkets into “zero friction” stores.

AI-powered ceiling-mounted cameras scan and tally the particular cost associated with products because customers add them to their own trolleys, bags, pockets or prams – and then leave without having to pay in the checkout.


Trigo’s technology, similar to that deployed within Amazon Go stores, also enables retailers to monitor inventory amounts in real time plus connect their particular e-commerce, stock management and order management systems while generating insights into client behaviour.

“When Tesco plus Aldi are playing in this space, that shows there are usually great efficiencies, ” Mortimer says.

He also sees a role with regard to AI-enabled voice technology within retail stores, given the fact that many consumers already use tone of voice to connect along with Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant upon their mobile devices.

Rather than tracking down the shop assistant to ask where the capers are, consumers could open a retailer’s application and ask regarding assistance.

Germany’s Schwartz Group, for example , is working with Vixen Labs to develop advanced AI-based voice technology that can deal with a variety of accents and languages.

“It’s one of the types of technology I’d expect in order to see pretty quickly because we’re currently using it – we might have Google Assistant or Alexa systems from home, ” Mortimer said. “The next stage will be talking to my phone to order groceries. ”


Artificial intelligence, which is already widely used in store marketing and merchandising (eg predictive ordering), featured on the NRF’s Big Display, with some associated with the most promising technologies designed to improve store operations and buying processes.

Jude states Walmart is using AI-powered software, produced by California-based start-up Pactum, in its buying office to automate supplier negotiations, negotiating routine contracts with little or even no human intervention.

Virtual and augmented reality

“The AI understands what will be in the contract, has instructions on guidelines where to take the following one plus puts terms forward to the supplier, ” Jude stated. “Walmart reckons they’re getting the majority of contracts done without human being intervention. ”

Virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) applications are also being tested by retailers in order to conduct shopper research, enhance store layouts and ranging, and make shopping easier for customers.

Mortimer says Sainsbury is using AR to help customers find products in grocery stores. They open up the Sainsbury app plus camera on their cell phone, search intended for a product and, like Pokemon Proceed critters, the item pops out of shelves.


US firm ReadySet’s immersive 3D software uses VR to help manufacturers and retailers create realistic virtual store plans and planograms to plan layouts – complete with items, signage plus fixtures – and test the reaction from customers before implementing them.

The growing use of AR and VR in retail is leading the field towards the metaverse, with brands attempting to produce immersive experiences to create excitement, build consumer loyalty and boost the product sales of physical products.

Nike, for example , provides launched the Web3-enabled metaverse platform dubbed. swoosh, which allows consumers to co-create and collect virtual products such since shoes plus jerseys and sell them in a virtual world, with scope for digital products to become physical items down the particular track.

L’Oreal has dipped its toe into non-fungible tokens, launching a branded digital wallet where clients can claim free NFTs and use them to unlock digital experiences, real-world events plus new product drops.

Gucci has built virtual spaces upon online gaming platform Roblox, offering games and NFTs and showcasing vintage fashion pieces, whilst Forever 21 is testing customer reaction to digital new products within the metaverse before turning them in to physical goods.

Back home, cutting-edge Sydney-based brand Injury allows customers in order to shop to get digital clothing modelled simply by avatars. Online retailer The particular Iconic took its first step into the metaverse last November, starting an NFT from its runway show. The NFT was auctioned off on its website to raise funds for the charity partner, ThreadTogether.


“There are usually going in order to be so many interesting and probably at this stage not yet understood opportunities in how metaverse-based technologies are going to change the retail landscape, ” says Kelly Brough, retail plus consumer lead at Accenture.

“The promise is usually immense, ” Brough states. “In the particular context associated with retail, it enables much more deeply blended physical and virtual encounters. ”

According to an Accenture report released last month, 55 per cent of consumers want in order to be active users from the metaverse plus 89 per cent of corporation executives believe the metaverse will possess an important role in their organisation’s future growth. Accenture estimates that $US1 trillion ($1. 4 trillion) in value can be created from metaverse experiences and commerce by the end of 2025.

However, Brough says merchants harnessing metaverse technologies need to protect consumers’ data plus privacy to build trust and create “fluidity” between their virtual and bodily environments.

“Not everyone I speak to is saying let’s dive right in, ” she says. “In retail right now, it’s more about screening or experimentation and starting to understand … what might resonate with customers. ”

If the metaverse takes off in retail, we may see supermarket collectibles and rewards replaced by NFTs, and digital stores exactly where consumers can shop pertaining to clothing, shoes or furniture using an avatar, before swapping them meant for the real thing.

Advertising campaign

However, designed for retailers still grappling along with supply chain disruption, soaring costs, last-mile challenges plus increasingly cautious consumers, venturing into the particular metaverse with this point may seem a bridge too far.

As Matt Alexander, the TOP DOG of US department store Neighborhood Goods, told attendees on the Large Show, “you can have got all the tech in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything unless the underlying offer to consumers is there. It comes down to the basics. ”