1. Technology & Innovation

It’s awards and wedding season: RTIH’s biggest retail technology news stories of the week

It’s Friday, the weekend is almost upon us, so let’s kick back and reflect on another eventful week for the retail systems space. Here’s your briefing on the most important stories from the past five days, including Amazon One, Marks and Spencer, Walmart, and eBay.

1. Amazon One payments solution rolls out age verification with Coors Field the first onboard

Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball (MLB) team, has become the first sports venue to use Amazon One for age verification.

In an online post, Amazon said: “We launched Amazon One, our palm-based identity service, to remove friction from everyday activities and create a faster and more convenient way for people to pay or enter a location.”

“Customers love the convenience of paying with their palm; however, when it comes to purchasing alcohol, friction is reintroduced as customers must produce a government-issued ID for age verification.”

It added: “We’re solving that customer pain point and improving the guest experience with the launch of a new capability called “age verification,” which enables adult customers ages 21 and over to purchase alcoholic beverages by simply hovering their palm over an Amazon One device, without digging into their wallets for a physical government issued ID.”

2. Generative AI and augmented reality loom large as Marks and Spencer hosts seventh hackathon

Marks and Spencer hosted its seventh hackathon event last week, with generative AI playing a key role.

In a LinkedIn post, Jeremy Pee, Chief Digital and Technology Officer at Marks and Spencer, said: “Yesterday (18th May) we witnessed an incredible display of innovation, collaboration, and sheer talent as we hosted our 7th Hackathon.”

“With over 200 participants and 16 teams across all areas of M&S,  it was a remarkable event that was high energy and truly inspiring!”

He added: “Congratulations to all the teams who participated and pushed the boundaries of creativity.”

“We were blown away by the abundance of groundbreaking from automation and chatbots to augmented reality and generative AI, the range of projects showcased the depth of talent within our team.”

Pee gave a special shout-out to Team Magrathea, who “wowed us with their innovative approach to generative AI, focusing on recommending outfits through chat and enhancing access to our company’s treasure trove of data through conversation. Well done, Team Magrathea!”

3. Walmart opens first Market Fulfilment Centre in Arkansas, powered by Alphabot system

Walmart has opened a Market Fulfilment Centre (MFC) in Arkansas at Store 100 located at 406 S Walton Blvd in Bentonville.

This is built within the store and is powered by a proprietary storage and retrieval system, named Alphabot.

Walmart says that fulfilment through digitisation and connecting its store and supply chain assets end to end will “transform fulfilment. And along with it, customer satisfaction and associate opportunity”.

“This new order fulfilment system is truly game changing,” says Ryan Simpson, the store manager at Store 100.

“Not only does it enhance the customer experience through quicker, more accurate online order fulfilment, it also provides us the runway to continue growing our business now and in the future.”

4. For richer or poorer: eBay launches ‘sustainable and cost-effective’ pre-loved wedding hub

eBay has launched a pre-loved wedding hub – a collection of second-hand bridal and bridesmaid dresses, accessories and vintage suits.

The e-commerce giant says that it is offering a sustainable and cost-effective option for shoppers to get designer outfits from the likes of Vera Wang, Suzanne Neville, and Pronovias Mildred.

Kirsty Keoghan, Global GM of Fashion at eBay, says: “As we approach peak wedding season, we hope our new wedding hub gives brides to be the option to get their dream wedding outfit, for a fraction of the price.”

“We’re seeing more modern brides looking for wedding outfits that reflect their personality, and by choosing pre-loved, you really can find those unique options, while increasing the lifespan of these amazing dresses – which are often only worn once.”

“With such a broad range of designer options available, there really is an outfit for everyone to dazzle in on their big day and options to suit all budgets, without compromising on style.”

5. 2023 RTIH retail technology awards: Bricks and Mortar Innovation category now open for submissions

The fifth edition of the RTIH Innovation Awards is now open for entries.

The awards celebrate global tech innovation in a fast moving omnichannel world and include a Bricks and Mortar category, sponsored by CADS.

Deadline for 2023 submissions is Friday, 27th October, with winners being revealed at an exclusive event in central London on Wednesday, 29th November.

Entries are free and you can submit in multiple categories.

The Bricks and Mortar Innovation award will go to a retailer enabling physical spaces to thrive via innovative technology, even as online shopping continues to grow. 

We’re looking for examples of reducing friction in the customer journey, offering improved experiences, and blurring the lines between channels.

Download an entry form here.

For all entry related queries, email: [email protected]

6. ExCeL London becomes first event space in UK to adopt Amazon Just Walk Out technology

This week sees the launch of Market Express at London ExCeL, pitched as the first checkout-free store within an events space in the UK.  

ExCel worked with catering partner, Levy UK + Ireland, on the store, which is powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology.

Visitors tap their payment card or mobile wallet upon entry and then said tech detects what is picked up from or returned to its shelves.

When they are finished, they are able to leave the store and their payment method will be charged for their items.

Developed for ExCeL by Levy UK+I’s service solution – BUILT by Levy – the Market Express retail offer includes hot beverages, grab-n-go hot meals, sweet and savoury bakery items, salads, sandwiches, soft drinks and fruit juices.

A snack range including fruit, granola bars, cereals and biscuits are also available, along with essential convenience items from medical supplies and toiletries to reading glasses and umbrellas.

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