The Evolution of Retail Technology

Retail technology will revolutionize the consumer experience.
Application Innovation / Automation - AI, ML, & RPA / Data & Analytics / Digital Optimization Strategy / Software Development

The Evolution of Retail Technology

Retail technology includes any technological tool or product that helps retailers, that is brick and mortar stores as well as e-commerce sites, to reach their company goals. The type of technology solution the retailer uses will depend on the goal they want to achieve. It could include increasing revenues, enhancing the customer experience, improving conversion rates or more. Whenever a retailer uses technology for their operations or management, it is considered part of retail technology. 

According to Gartner’s research, retailers will be spending $268 billion on technological service and products by 2023. The driving factor for tech adoption among retailers is largely customer opinion. Because customers are the main source of revenue for these companies, it only makes sense that if shoppers respond well to the tech tools and products, a retailer will invest in them. 

What the future holds for retail technology will be determined by retailers’ need to improve revenues, remain competitive within their industry, and the customer reaction to the new experience. Two of the changes currently being tested out by retailers include military technologies that can help detect COVID-19 symptoms and ways to make delivery even faster-using drones to drop orders off.

Retail Technology Learning from The Military

Retailers were hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry was already seeing a drop in sales before the pandemic hit. As government orders saw retailers having to close their doors or dramatically revamp how they do business, it is no surprise that over half of Americans indicated they were spending less on in-store purchases. While the grocery markets stayed strong, many other retailers closed down for several weeks. 

Yet, many governments are now allowing more and more businesses to open and retailers are looking to technology to help keep them and their customers safe. One of the most sought-after tools has been items that can detect an individual’s temperature quickly and effectively, such as thermal detection cameras.  

One of the main symptoms of COVID-19 is fever, which is why organizations are making a big deal out of detecting higher-than-average heat signals from people. Many big-name companies have been using different methods to try and detect signs or symptoms of COVID-19, particularly among employees. Walmart, Amazon and Starbucks were among the few that have been using thermometers to measure the temperature of their staff before they will be allowed to work their scheduled shift. 

Other retailers have been searching out thermal imaging cameras that can help them detect a fever in customers looking to visit their store. The capabilities of these tools can vary from some being strong enough to detect customers with a higher than normal temperature in a crowd while others need the individual to face the camera before they can accurately detect a fever. 

Thermal imaging is a technology that was originally developed for military purposes. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the technology at the center of these devices was developed. Night vision and infrared energy technologies were developed to give the military a boost when in enemy territory. All people, animals and objects give off some kind of heat signature. While the human eye is not able to detect this heat signature, a thermal imaging camera is able to detect infrared energy. 

Infrared energy technology is the basis for detecting fevers in customers. These thermal imaging devices are able to detect the infrared energy that people and other objects have. Although we are not able to see it with our eyes, we are able to feel the heat that some objects or people give off. More than just detect the infrared energy emitted, thermal imaging is able to analyze how much heat is being given off by the person. This is because more heat leads to a higher infrared reading. 

These thermal imaging devices were also used in airports back in 2003 to try and contain the spread of SARS, which is a virus related to COVID-19 as they are both caused by a coronavirus. Retailers like Amazon are using thermal imaging not just on their customers but also on their staff. The durability and reliability of the technology make it an ideal tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Drone Delivery

The idea of faster delivery has excited both retailers and shoppers alike. Delivery times have particularly become an issue after the COVID-19 lockdown found more and more people shopping online

For retailers, keeping a customer happy is key because an unhappy or dissatisfied customer will likely shop elsewhere in the future. Customers like to see, touch and experience an item they are purchasing as fast as possible. Spending money to wait around for several weeks until the item is delivered can be a big drawback for online shoppers. 

As companies like Amazon experiment with drone delivery, they will need to ensure that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. 

Speed of delivery is one of the major advantages for retailers looking to drones. These small aerial vehicles are able to fly fast and avoid traffic congestion. Amazon has anticipated it can have a customer’s order delivered in about 30 minutes, right to their front door, using drones.  Amazon isn’t the only big tech company looking at using drones to improve delivery services. Google’s Alphabet has partnered with Walgreens and FedEx for some drone delivery testing. 

Another advantage that drones have over traditional delivery methods is their small environmental footprint. Because the devices are electric, they reduce the amount of fuel that is consumed. This directly benefits the environment by reducing air pollution. 

One concern that may become a major issue for retailers looking to adopt drone delivery is privacy concerns. It is expected that these devices would use GPS and a camera to locate the address they need to drop the package off to. Thus, individuals may fear the loss of privacy in their own homes or backyards.  

There are many retail technologies that can help make shopping easier for customers, which leads to higher revenues for retailers. From thermal imaging cameras, for security to drone delivery to improve the customer experience, most of these technologies are developed for other industries but can be adapted to the retail marketplace.