Wednesday, October 18, 2017

COMMENT: The tech innovations that could change retail forever

tech innovations

Over the next decade, technology will be a key driver in transforming the retail industry and the consumer shopping experience. That‘s the view from the latest report by the World Economic Forum and Accenture called Shaping The Future of Retail for Consumer Industries.

I was involved in this in-depth piece of research as a member of the World Economic Forum steering committee and this report reveals how technological innovations will change the face of retail in the near future, benefitting both business and consumers.

Consumers are already helping to drive the changing retail landscape. As more technology becomes available, they are becoming accustomed to, and demand, a rapid and seamless service. Consumers are already experiencing this with some current service models such as Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo which have set the standard high for other retailers.

But as technology continues to develop, it will help retailers drive efficiencies throughout their business from streamlining back room operations with real time stock availability to using data to predict consumer purchase patterns.


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There are four main technologies that are predicted to be the most transformational for retail and CPG industries over the next decade:

  • The ‘internet of things‘ will gather valuable consumer data to create personalised experiences in connected stores while also driving efficiencies in the supply chain.
  • Autonomous vehicles and drones will help to increase the speed of delivery, both to store and to the end consumer and will provide savings on labour costs.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning will enable businesses to gather and analyse much more consumer data to help understand their purchase behaviour and buying patterns which in turn, will help retailers improve trend and volume forecasting.
  • Robotics will impact the retail sector via manufacturing, picking and packing in-store and through some in-store jobs such as shelf-stacking. Robotics will help to reduce costs and also free up staff to focus on consumers.

These new and disruptive technologies will impact and improve the retail industry to ultimately benefit both the business and the consumer. But although the introduction of technology does offer exciting opportunities, it does also present some challenges.

The investment in technology could be costly and businesses will have to ensure that they are realistic with their investments. They will also need to ensure that they have a motivated and skilled workforce who are trained to use the new tools and systems that will be introduced.

This report presents some exciting developments within the industry but retailers must begin considering the strategic and logistical changes they need to make to ensure they stay competitive in a fast-changing landscape.

Jamie Murray Wells is the Industry Head of Retail at Google UK  

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