Top 5 Retail Tech Innovations from NRF2020

Article by Martyn Jones | 28th January 2020

NRF2020 truly surpassed all our expectations.

New York played host to three days of jaw-dropping discoveries from countless vendors showcasing the kind of retail tech VoCoVo are looking at for potential partnerships and integrations.

I was joined by inventor and VoCoVo’s founding father, Rob Gamlin, plus Mike Day and Chris McKie in the unenviable task of shortlisting some of the standout contributions to have shone at this year’s NRF2020.

With ‘internet of things’ concepts finally emerging into retail with viable scalability, ‘connected store’ models are going from theory to a reality of datapoint integration through interconnected store assets like POS, fridges, shelves and even customers.

Here are the ones to watch…

1. Smart Shelves (AKA IoT shelving)

Planogram models map how and where products should be placed to maximise sales. Smart shelves are weighing in as the innovation of choice for ensuring product arrangements on shelves match the planogram—a manual process that has until now been notoriously time consuming, expensive, and not performed often enough.

The breakdown…

  • Streamline planogram compliance.
  • Eliminate ‘out-of-stock’ situations for better customer experience
  • Minimise inventory distortion calculated as the total value sum of ‘out-of-stocks’ and ‘overstocks’.
  • Reduce time and labour costs of manual inventory management.
  • Reduce shrinkage by identifying where good are going missing.

2. Smart Cameras

Until recent years, bricks-and-mortar retail has used fairly narrow methods of data capture to build a picture of customer journey, customer experience and top-down store performance.

Smart cams promise to enrich that picture and bring higher definition to retailers’ understanding of product gaps and walk-in consumers’ store habits, while also bringing automation and consistency to minimising losses from theft through facial recognition and auto security alerts.

The breakdown…

  • Shelf-embedded micro cams for discreet, seamless, cross-isle gap-scanning.
  • Traffic & interaction heat mapping for a richer understanding of store-wide performance.
  • Measure real-time customer numbers to adjust available open checkouts.
  • Ad performance & dwell analysis for customer interaction, promotions and ad performance evaluation.
  • Behaviour analysis to capture what store cards miss, like number of non-purchase walkouts.

3. Workforce Management 

With rising business costs, more and more retailers are giving equal weight to workforce management as they have supply chain and production. With increased industry appetite for squeezing maximum efficiency from teams, ever more sophisticated workforce management tools are gaining traction and widespread adoption in big retail.

The breakdown…

  • Simplify multi-location operations to improve ‘line-of-sight’ for area managers.
  • Optimise labour decisions to increase time-savings and decrease labour redundancy.
  • Bring precision to execution and delivery for customer experience optimisation.
  • Simplify organisation-wide knowledge sharing & communication 

4. In-store automation (with cams & robots)

Grocers and retailers are becoming acutely aware of the cumulative benefit of systematically creating micro efficiencies en-mass across an entire store portfolio—and they’re getting pretty smart about it.

Expect to see more and more fully autonomous bots roaming the isles alongside customers as big retail looks to cut out of the equation the issues of out-of-stock, price integrity, planogram compliance, even hazard detection.

The breakdown…

  • Automated gap scanning for opportunity-cost monitoring and sales optimisation.
  • Zero-labour price integrity checks to quickly and easily benchmark product pricing against current POG pricing.
  • Hazard detection and reporting to optimise customer experience and improve audit and compliance operations.

5. Intelligent, wearable hand scanners

Since revolutionising multiple industries, barcodes and scanning tech have fulfilled a need enjoying little innovation. Today, information technology and advanced manufacturing techniques have given way a step change in wearable tech and interconnectivity between different elements of increasingly ‘global’ operations.

Scanning innovations are now making possible new approaches to the age-old problems of scale.

The breakdown…

  • Hands-free operations for better multitasking efficiency.
  • Continuous workflows uninterrupted processing and time-saving.
  • Wifi & bluetooth connectivity creating automated data-flows to point-of-decision.
  • Instant confirmatory and corrective feedback.

By no means exhaustive, and leaving out many other retail tech innovations that left an impression on us, this ‘tip of the iceberg’ shortlist is a taster menu of the kinds of technologies retail needs to be looking at to drive operational excellence, develop premium customer experiences and protect revenues from the turbulence facing modern retail.

2020 will bring more turbulence and critical challenges—though we see these challenges as potential opportunities that the smartest retailers will capture and benefit from if they remain open and agile enough to take brave, technological approaches to operational transformation. Let’s talk about it.

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