For years there have been technologies in commerce, that have reinvented processes, structures or departments. Between the invention of the cash register in 1879 and the start of online commerce in the late 1990s, countless small and large innovations were introduced. Of course, this development also continues in the digital age - but exponentially. Therefore, in this article we look at some of the emerging technologies in commerce that will (revolutionize) it.
1. Cashless transactions
Entering the store, putting goods in the shopping basket and paying automatically when leaving without having to queue - a dream of many people! Since opening the first cashless Amazon Go store in Seattle in early 2017, this technology has guaranteed to revolutionize the trade of the future! The promise: no queues, no tills, no checkout. But how exactly is that going to work?
All you have to do is scan the app when you enter the store. This registers the shopper as present and the goods can be assigned to his Amazon account. All products that a customer takes from the shelf are automatically assigned to the virtual shopping cart. The product is also removed when the goods are put back.
Amazon Go revolutionizes supermarkets: Scan QR Code & start shopping. This innovative supermarket concept à la Amazon is one of the most discussed technologies in retail!
In order for this to work smoothly, the so-called "Just Walk Out" technology was developed over a period of 4 years. Behind this marketing name lies a combination of product recognition via video, deep learning algorithms and sensors. This intelligent combination of hardware and software is already being used for object recognition in autonomous vehicles.
Amazon plans to open up to 3,000 of these cashless stores in the next few years. However, equipping such a store is considered very expensive. According to rumours, up to 1 million US dollars of hardware can be found in a single Go Store. How it buys in a cashless supermarket? Here you can find a test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeDcJgwHc6Q
2. Blockchain with Smart Contracts
Blockchain = Bitcoin right? Not really! Because behind the blockchain, there is a technology with a lot of potential, which is also called Distributed Ledger. Its origins go back to the year 1991 and it is more than just the basis for crypto currencies. The name Blockchain is derived from its nature: Blocks of information that are lined up in a chain.
Simply explained: The information contained in a blockchain is distributed and stored on all devices/storage media that are part of a blockchain.
This means that if new information (i.e. another block) is created, it is also added to all other devices that are part of the system - ideally simultaneously. This makes the stored information particularly forgery-proof. But where exactly is the potential for trade here? The Blockchain/Distributed Ledger technology offers the possibility to monitor international supply chains seamlessly. This is particularly important for sustainable or ecological trading, fashion and manufacturing companies.
Automotive companies such as Daimler and VW have already started pilot projects to monitor their supply chains for individual raw materials in a more transparent and tamper-proof manner. This technology is certainly not yet 100% ready, but offers great potential for commerce. In this video you will find a visual example of how a supply chain works on a blockchain basis using computer parts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8ow4b5YCQU
3. Augmented Reality
Until a few years ago Augmented Reality (AR) was mostly a gimmick. But in the meantime it has become one of THE revolutionary technologies in retail. In the broadest sense Augmented Reality means "the extension of reality". A current application of this technology is, for example, the virtual placement of furniture in your own home. Both IKEA and the American retailer Wayfair already offer apps with which products can be placed virtually in rooms via smartphone. This allows customers to test out before buying whether the dream sofa matches the existing living room furniture or not.
There are also numerous AR apps for all those who are less interested in furniture but rather in style and trends. With one of these apps, users can try out different hairstyles. The software recognises the person's hair via the camera and virtually colours it brown, red or blond. Another exciting application in the fashion sector is the virtual fitting of clothes or accessories. This possibility exists, for example, with sneakers. With the app "Wanna Kicks" you can try on certain sneakers in different colours virtually.
For retail, Augmented Reality is particularly interesting. The physical points of sale are facing ever greater challenges and have to offer a lot to win and retain customers. AR is one of the most promising technologies in retail that inspires customers!
4. Autonomous robots
Many people are afraid that robots will steal their jobs away. But the trend also shows that robots can be a great help in repetitive or physically demanding activities. Both in stationary retail and in (e-commerce) logistics centers.
For example Zalando invested in a start-up company in 2018, which develops mobile robots for logistics. These are intended to provide targeted and intelligent support for warehouse employees. The robots are able to store shoe cartons independently and retrieve them from the warehouse for dispatch. Through automation, the fashion giant hopes to relieve the workload of its employees and further optimize its operating processes in order to meet customer needs even better.
At Walmart in the USA, autonomous robots are already being used in around 50 supermarkets to relieve employees of repetitive tasks. This gives them more time to respond to customers and advise them personally. Robots are also used in various store concepts in Asia.
The theoretical potential of (autonomous) robots is immense and will help people and companies alike.
5. Digital in-store assistance systems
This area covers a wide range of technologies. These include, for example, digital signs and monitors in stationary retail, which can be updated live. The same applies to price labelling, which can be updated in real time using data from Product Information Systems (PIM).
A particularly innovative bouquet of technologies is used in a Mediamarkt Concept Store in Eindhoven. There is in-store navigation via app so that customers can quickly and easily find and view the product they are viewing online in the store. Especially when it comes to larger purchases such as televisions or fully automatic coffee machines, customers would like to test the TV picture beforehand or drink an espresso as a trial. We think: A clever combination of digital and analogue possibilities!