Nowadays, for brick-and-mortar shops to survive, it takes more than just stylish interior design to keep customers engaged.

From grocery stores to cannabis dispensaries, retailers who want to stay a head of the curve must educate and entertain new customers and veterans alike.

From Kroger and Microsoft’s partnership on futuristic supermarkets to JD travel’s expansion, this week was full of examples of how retailers are adopting new technology to stay relevant. 

The new wave of cannabis retail

Forget everything you knew about cannabis.

From California to Colorado, the growing cannabis business has turned brick-and-mortar stores into glamorous showrooms worthy of Chanel and Gucci.

Cannabis retail operations nowadays focus on seamless integration of smart technology devices, creating experiences for customers the minute they walk in the door.

According costumer experience expert Anne Forkutza, “For people who hesitated to go into a dispensary before, it’s now more approachable. The audience is changing, and the way they’re shopping is changing too. That means the retail store needs to change with them.”

And they are changing: by incorporating interactive displays, digital menus, express kiosks and vending machines, Today’s dispensaries are all about over-the-top customer service. 

Image Source: mgretailer

JD travel retail stores open in Beijing and Mongolia

Shopping experience of the future is hitting the airports.

A part of its attempt to expand its “boundaryless retail” strategy, Chinese online retail giant JD has opened two new innovative stores at Beijing Capital International Airport and Hohhot East Railway Station in Mongolia.

The move towards airports and railway stations add to JD’s existing offline presence, which includes convenience stores, supermarkets, and hotel shops.

The JD travel retail smart stores will use the e-commerce company’s latest retail technology to understand how customers interact with products, and will incorporate JD’s integrated JD Zu Chongzhi platform that analyses customer behavior and traffic flow using heat maps.

The stores will also include facial-recognition payment and smart vending machines, providing its visitors a glimpse of what shopping of the future will look like.

Image Source: Caixin Global

Kroger and Microsoft partner to create futuristic grocery store. Amazon,watch out

Kroger, America’s biggest supermarket chain and Microsoft are joining forces.

In attempt to take on amazon with its own futuristic store pilot, Kroger has remodeled two stores to create a “connected store experience” with new features like digital shelves and video analytics systems, that will alert store associates to low inventories.

The partnership is the latest example of how big U.S. retailers are implementing data-rich technology to improve the grocery shopping experience.

Today, Amazon dominates online shopping in the U.S, and it is determined to grab a bigger share of the $860 billion U.S. food retail market, specifically in the brick-and-mortar realm. Just earlier this week, Amazon announced the expansion of Whole Foods across the US.

For Microsoft, the deal helps grow its cloud business and strengthen its partnership with retailers like Kroger and Walmart.

Though this pilot is limited to just two stores, Kroger said that the results will determine future expansion plans in 2019, and it looks like this is just the beginning.

Image Source: Netimperative

Robot delivery dogs deployed by self-driving cars are coming

Imagine seeing a cute puppy run up to your door with that package you ordered last week.

Now imagine that dog is also a robot.

If things go as planned for Continental, your next package might just be delivered by autonomous robot dogs, as the company unveiled its futuristic vision for last-miledeliveries.

How does it work?

The Continental Urban Mobility Experience (CUBE), a driverless vehicle, will carry the delivery robot dogs, that will then be deployed to  deliver the items to the end user.

Both will be electrified and autonomous, with the goal of increasing availability, efficiency and safety of package delivery.

It’s not clear if and when these will be released, but it’s undoubtedly an exciting vision of the future, and the holistic delivery options ahead.

  Image Source: techcrunch

Foot Locker passes $3M investment to kids’ shoe startup

Foot looker is investing in the next generation of sneakers.

The athletics retailer invested $3 million in Super Heroic, a children’s athletics startup that makes footwear, clothing and accessories.

Foot Locker is far from the first to invest in an innovative and hip company- Macy’s invested in retail store concept b8ta, and Target launched a startup incubator for Gen Z entrepreneurs as well as its Target + Techstars retail accelerator.

Foot Locker is still competing in a challenging space, despite growing sneakers obsession in the US in recent years.

The retailer struggled to produce positive earnings results in 2018 but reported better progress later in the year, as it focused on new ways to elevate the shopping experience for it customers.

A great example is it’s experiment with pop-up with Nike store, which focused on the NBA and featured an AR “hunt” game for sneakerheads to unlock limited-edition shoes.

 Image Source: Sole Collector

Final thoughts

Brand awareness has always been important in the retail industry.

Today, tech is playing a bigger role than ever in amping up this awareness: whether it be grocery giants like Kroger or dispensaries in Colorado, Incorporating interactive displays, smart shelves and customized point-of-sale platforms are becoming the norm.

What will shopping of the future will look like?

According to the opening week of 2019, smart store technology will definitely take over: Your next pair of smart sneakers will be delivered by robot-dogs; thanks to data-driven, “connected experience” stores, navigating through grocery aisles will be faster than ever, and airports will offer facial-recognition payment on your next travels.

Quite a ride, isn’t it?

 Featured Image Source: techcrunch 

 

Inbal Perlman

Inbal is the community and hub manager of the Re:Tech hub, a co-workingspace for retail and e-commerce startups based in the heart of Tel Aviv. The Hub offers its members industry focused events, access to global partners and various opportunities in the global and local retail tech ecosystem.

If you are in retail and would like to learn what new technologies can help push your business forward, get in touch.