Next generation of physical retail
Not surprising, there was a lot of discussion about transforming and upgrading physical retail space. This article from Forbes says, “Physical retail (surprisingly) has a surprisingly bright future – but one more tightly integrated with online to offline capabilities (curbside fulfillment; same day delivery) and more integrated in-store purchases thanks to IoT initiatives – Qualcomm is an interesting example of a technology partner.”
Frictionless was also a hot topic among retailers and tech-startups offering solutions. One example, highlighted in Draper’s is Zliide, which “..enables self-checkout via digital touchpoints in physical fashion stores, removing the need to queue and check out with store staff. Shoppers simply scan a tag on each item on their phones and pay via an app. The tags automatically unlock to be removed by shoppers themselves. Zliide’s self-checkout technology is currently in 35 stores in Denmark, including H&M’s Weekday and brand house Bestseller.”
The pandemic has clearly demonstrated an appetite for quick delivery. As such we’re seeing new companies pop up focused on last-mile or quick-turn delivery alternatives. This Progressive Grocer article highlights that “online ordering surged during the pandemic and is poised to remain a major shopping method, due to its anytime convenience – a feature especially exploited by so-called instant-needs platforms such as Gopuff and Gorillas, which are continually aiming to narrow the delivery window.”
Sustainability is top of mind across the supply chain. Draper’s covered Ralph Lauren point of view: “Sustainability is the [issue] that keeps me up at night,” revealed Jason Berns, senior vice-president, product and manufacturing innovation at Ralph Lauren. “So much of the industry is reliant on plastics and fossil fuels. Addressing this is the real challenge for the industry: how do we keep trying to move forward and do better. The industry really needs to rethink what it is doing, which is easy to say but is much harder to do. [We need] to be bold and try some new things.”
They also discussed experimenting with on-demand fashion, an intriguing idea. “On-demand [production] is an opportunity to solve some of the issues the industry has,” said Berns. “I see this space as an ongoing industry experiment. It works – now it’s about scaling it.”
This Retail Brew round-up cited a recent survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value and NRF found: 62% of respondents would be willing to change purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact, up from 57% two years ago. 50% of respondents said they’re willing to pay a premium for sustainability—an average of 70% more at twice the premium of two years ago.
NRF also covered the topic with a spotlight on Ikea.
Metaverse, Metaverse, Metaverse
If there was one word said the most often, it just might have been metaverse. From NFT talk to virtual goods, brands are preparing for the Metaverse. Retail Bulletin highlighted a few interesting brand experiments such as “Carrefour has created a supermarket in Roblox where people can receive credits for eating healthy food and Nike has created Nikeland, a virtual representation of its Oregon headquarters. For Patrice Louvet, CEO of Ralph Lauren Corporation, the company’s experiments in the Metaverse is all part of its strategy of attracting more younger customers to its brand”
RIS News cited WGSN Insight senior strategist Cassandra Napoli’s primer on monetizing within the metaverse who noted, “The metaverse will be especially impactful for Generation Alpha — ages 0 through 12 — which will be the first generation to grow up in the metaverse and will prefer digital goods to physical goods. “The metaverse is a way for Alphas to experiment with creativity and self-expression, and there’s an economy attached to that,” said Napoli.
Cryptocurrency entering retail
Less shiny than its NFT cousin, cryptocurrency as payments was also discussed and a topic to keep an eye on. Progressive Grocer’s round-up highlighted “Peter Jensen, CEO of San Francisco-based RocketFuel Blockchain, a global payment-processing company offering one-click checkout solutions using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, is particularly bullish on crypto, explaining that retailers that accept cryptocurrencies as a payment option in-store or online will increase revenue by gaining access to a new wealthy group of customers, many of them younger, and reduce cost, since, unlike credit cards, crypto never gets declined and there are no chargebacks.”
Cloud-based technology advancements and AI-driven future
BizTech Magazine highlighted cloud and AI and included insight from Microsoft. “What I’m seeing that’s really different is the speed and pace of the deployment of digital tools,” said Shelley Bransten, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of global retail and consumer goods. “We’re seeing a lot of our retail customers acting in some ways like tech companies do, in terms of adopting technology, putting it into the market and being more nimble.”
Marketplace technology discussions were peppered throughout the show with a primary focus on major brand retailers but also an emergence of marketplace applications with emerging media formats, such as NFTs, the pending metaverse, and examples of brands engaging experiments. Our digital future will see marketplaces not only selling hard goods but virtual ones as well, with retailers already looking for ways to blend both.
Jim Stirewalt, President, Marketplacer US shared, “In many follow-on conversations the past four weeks it sounds like marketplace technology was also a commonly discussed topic based on feedback from system integrators, strategic partners, and other industry contacts. We expect this to only increase as headless commerce and API-led shifts take place in retailers upgrading from legacy platforms to something more connected, flexible and modular.”