Innovations That Matter

Top 7 Retail Innovations From 2019

Innovation Snapshot

Our favourite innovations from 2019 that are disrupting retail as we know it.

The end of 2019 is in sight, but there is no end to the innovative ideas transforming retail. Technology developments continue to push the boundaries of our imagination, with everything from holograms that float in mid-air to mapping software so precise that it can locate a tin of beans on a shop shelf.

Many of these innovations are fueled by the ‘retailtainment’ move, which has disrupted the traditional shopping experience by simultaneously catering to visitors’ wellness, entertainment, retail and leisure needs. For example, Shanghai-based Xintiandi has turned two city blocks into an interactive marketplace. Xintiandi differs from other shopping centres because it uses pop-ups, events and workshops to bring people together. 

One the other hand, the need for greater sustainability is transforming the entire supply chain, with a plethora of innovations focusing on reducing waste, increasing supply-chain efficiency and eco-friendly packing alternatives.

With this in mind, here are our top 7 retail innovations from 2019.

1. THE WORLD’S FIRST 3D HOLOGRAPHIC DISPLAY SYSTEM

Photo source HYPERVSN

Visual technology company HYPERVSN has built the world’s first 3D holographic display system. A lightweight, easy-to-install combination of hardware and software, the system brings ideas, concepts and products to fantastical, surprising life. Images appear to float in mid-air. Creators can choose from ready-made visuals in the HYPERVSN content library. Or, teams can create bespoke content in the HYPERVSN 3D Studio. No design skills are necessary. The system’s Pro Management Software provides businesses with complete oversight of devices, users and content.

A single HYPERVSN SOLO device produces images up to 75 cm in size. When used in multiples, the SOLO devices combine to form a HYPERVSN WALL capable of displaying visuals of almost any size. HYPERVSN has been used to create a variety of experiences for companies and events including a Nike product launch in Seoul, an installation for Louis Vuitton at Selfridges and a Hennessy event at Roland Garros.

2. AI GROCERY CART LETS SHOPPERS SKIP CHECKOUT LINES

Photo source Caper

New York startup Caper is rolling out an autonomous cart that could be the future of grocery shopping. The carts will allow shoppers to find deals, be directed to items from their shopping list and pay on the cart instead of waiting in line.

The cart is equipped with sensors, a barcode reader, an interactive screen and a PayPoint. For stores, Caper also offers a plug-and-play solution that does not require any store restructuring.

The Caper cart features a screen interface that can direct shoppers to items they need, manage their shopping list, and alert them to promotions and deals. The cart includes a PayPoint, allowing shoppers to check-out using just the cart.

The startup claims that the carts have increased average basket size by 18 per cent, by exposing customers to products they might otherwise have overlooked or been unable to find. Caper carts are currently found in two grocery chains and have plans to roll out to 150 more in the next year. The company has just closed an £8 million Series A funding round led by Lux Capital.

3. MAPPING SOFTWARE LOCATES CEREAL ON A SHELF IN A SHOP

Photo source Shutterstock

Israeli startup Oriient has created mapping software to help people find their way through buildings. Like GPS — only for indoor use — the Add-on app makes it easier for people to navigate shops, malls, hospitals or really any building.

The Add-on is sold to app developers on a monthly licensing model. Imagine a mall, for example, offers visitors an app to help them find their way around. Adding Oriient to the app guides them to stores and even shelves that sell particular products.

Using the earth’s magnetic field and sensors in smartphones, the technology can pinpoint a person’s position within three feet. Due to the stability of the magnetic field, it is effective in any building, Oriient CEO and co-founder Mickey Balter said. “With our system retailers can control and influence the shopper in the store, the same way Google maps controls how we drive to work every day,” he explained.

The data produced by the service shows retailers and other businesses exactly how customers move around and where they linger. Oriient has received more than €2 million in seed funding.

4. DEVICE COLLECTS FOOT TRAFFIC DATA FOR BRICK-AND-MORTAR STORES

Photo source Pixabay

 Dor has developed a device that will provide some of this insight. The device promises an easy to install, out-of-the-box system which is placed above doorways. A thermal sensor then detects when a person passes underneath. Users can activate the device and view data via an app.

Many retailers gather location data from visitor smart devices, either via brand apps or geolocation data from third parties. While this method is useful for comparison with other retailers, it can miss customers who either don’t use the store app, or hide their location data. Dor captures every customer who walks in, providing more data.

Dor’s device is private because it doesn’t use cameras or location data. It can, therefore, be used to monitor facility usage too, such as bathroom visits.

Retailers can use the Dor API to integrate the data into their own analytics software. This insight will enable businesses to staff appropriately, depending on peak foot traffic hours. It will also enable data comparisons between advertising campaigns and the effect on foot traffic and sales.

5. STARTUP CREATES ON-DEMAND WAREHOUSING PLATFORM

Photo source Ben Shbeeb

US-based FLEXE has created an on-demand commercial warehousing platform. The service allows companies with too much storage space to connect with businesses looking for temporary warehouses.

In addition, FLEXE simplifies e-commerce for its clients. Every one of the over 1000 warehouses on the FLEXE network uses the same software. The company says that makes it easier to fulfil orders and track inventory. The startup’s model has already gained traction with large companies, like Walmart. FLEXE was recently named one of the fastest-growing businesses in the country. It received €42 Million in Series B in May.

FLEXE’s model has disrupted the commercial storage sector and created a new industry, according to co-founder Karl Siebrecht. The company calls itself the first and largest “on-demand” storage network. The company helps businesses find commercial warehouse space when – and where – they need it. It also helps businesses fill extra warehouse space when they don’t need it.

6. SAAS STARTUP CREATES SUSTAINABLE AND EFFICIENT SUPPLY CHAIN

Photo source Shutterstock

Around 30 per cent of people who buy online intentionally buy multiple versions, intending to return the unwanted items. The global cost of these returns is estimated at between €197 and €233 billion per year. Startup ZigZag Global is now trying to do something about this waste.

ZigZag provides retailers with a branded returns portal and a back-end platform that tracks all returned stock through its warehouse network. The software uses predictive analytics to determine the best way to process and route the returns based on factors such as demand and cost. The software decides whether it is best to consolidate, resell or refurbish items.

Through ZigZag, retailers can connect to a network of 200 warehouses in 130 countries. ZigZag also allows companies to grade and refurbish goods locally, allowing products to be returned to the supply chain more rapidly. Their process can reduce parcel journey length by up to 65 per cent, and can save retailers more than 50 per cent on transportation costs.

ZigZag also taps into the circular economy. The company can list returned stock on over 20 global marketplaces, on a revenue share basis with retailers. This ultimately leads to less waste as well as greater efficiency savings for retailers. The company joins a host of other innovations in the circular economy, including a project that recovers nutrients from seafood processing and textiles made from food waste.

7. AUSTRALASIAN COMPANY MAKES BIODEGRADABLE PACKAGING FOR E-COMMERCE

Photo source Better Packaging

The Australasian “Better Packaging Company” has created a form of eco-friendly packaging for e-commerce shipping. The biodegradable and recyclable bags are part of a larger effort to reduce packaging waste.

Better Packaging Company currently offers several alternatives to traditional packaging, including plastic alternatives. The company also produces an envelope/pack line made from limestone quarry waste, which feels like paper but is water-proof and recyclable. 

A second line offers compostable courier bags, known as ‘Real Dirt Bags’, which mimic plastic but are biodegradable. This line also offers compostable bubble bags, courier labels, ziplock and poly bags, as well as flow wrap.

The company’s founders were inspired to create eco-friendly alternatives to packaging after facing the volume of waste produced by e-commerce. Their products are now used by retailers around the world, including Etsy suppliers and L’Oréal.