A spotlight on future retail technology trends

I recently attended the Retail Technology Show at London Olympia.  This was my first in-person expo since before Covid, and it was a refreshing experience to catch-up with technology suppliers and retail ex-colleagues in person.

The show was extremely well organised, with an interesting variation of retail technology providers in attendance, ranging from start up tech firms to large multi-nationals – all showcasing both their current and future technology and software offerings.

As you would expect, the usual providers of core retail technology were present i.e. electronic Point of Sale (ePOS), Stock Management, Labelling, eCommerce etc and it was interesting to see how these products have evolved over the past couple of years.

Though from my discussions with retailers and technology providers present, for me there were three key take-away areas of interest :-

Consolidated Communications Retail store managers are having to deal with communications in several different forms including email, documents stored in central repositories i.e. SharePoint, Teams messages/groups, WhatsApp, bespoke applications etc.  Several vendors have picked up on this pain point and have developed communication portal software that pulls all the various communication messages into a single store manager view.  For me the benefit of these packages are multiple fold – it simplifies the job of communications for store managers having all communications and tasks in a single view, it negates/delays the need for the organisation to choose a single communication method to simplify operations and gives real-time task level feedback to the head office operations unit.

Workforce management AI – For many years there have been available varied time and attendance systems and rule-based workforce management offerings.  Though it was interesting to see demonstrated an Artificial Intelligence-based workforce management solution that can predict workforce allocations and needs based on multiple factors including past trends, weather, sickness patterns, traffic, news feeds etc etc.  With the ever-increasing cost base, retailers need to make sure they are utilising their workforce as efficiently as possible, and this kind of intelligent forecasting seems to me to be a really useful tool for the near future.

Digital Signage AI – As per each expo, this year the digital signage and billboards were bigger, thinner, higher definition etc. I was most intrigued to see a large high-definition digital display with a built-in forward-facing camera that captures who is looking at the display.  The backend software has built in Artificial Intelligence that can work out the age, sex, demographic etc of who is viewing the content on the display, how long they look at the display, and also people who simply don’t interact at all.  For me this an interesting evolution for digital marketing that will provide real-life insight on the appeal of the content, and I look forward to seeing how this evolves in the coming years.

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