1. Technology & Innovation

September 2022: retail technology deals and deployments at a glance

RTIH rounds up the stand out retail systems deals, deployments and pilots from September, including Walmart, Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, Kwik Trip, Marks & Spencer, Currys, Boots, Lowe’s, Ikea, and Aldi.

Lowe’s is tapping NVIDIA Omniverse Enterprise to create interactive store digital twins in Mill Creek, Wash,. and Charlotte, N.C.

“We are always looking for ways to reimagine store operations and remove friction for our customers,” says Seemantini Godbole, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital and Information Officer at Lowe’s.

“With NVIDIA Omniverse, we’re pulling data together in ways that have never been possible, giving our associates superpowers.”

Star Concessions has announced the opening of Grab & Fly, a checkout-free shopping experience at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).

Powered by Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, this lets people grab what they need and leave the store, without having to wait in checkout lines.

Cold drinks, snacks, travel accessories, electronics and souvenirs are among the products offered.

To enter Grab & Fly, travellers insert their credit card at the entry gate. Once inside, anything they take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart, and anything they put back on the shelf comes out of said cart.

After they have left the store, their credit card will be charged for the items they took. Associates are available in store to assist customers, answer questions, and re-stock shelves as needed.

Kwik Trip, a convenience store chain in the US, is partnering with RELEX Solutions to implement automated planograms, floor planning, and supply chain optimisation solutions.

RELEX will service the retailer’s stores throughout the Midwest United States.

Starbucks has officially announced Starbucks Odyssey. Launching later this year, this is the coffee chain’s first shot at building with Web3 technology.

It combines the Starbucks Rewards loyalty programme with an NFT platform, allowing its customers to both earn and purchase digital assets that unlock exclusive experiences and rewards.

The company had previously teased the initiative to investors.

Starbucks brought in Adam Brotman, the architect of its Mobile Order & Pay system and the Starbucks app, to serve as a special advisor.

Now the co-founder of Forum3, a Web3 loyalty startup, Brotman’s team worked on Starbucks Odyssey alongside the retailer’s own marketing, loyalty, and technology teams.

Walmart is launching two new immersive experiences on the Roblox metaverse platform: Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play.

The former will bring fashion, style, beauty and entertainment items to the Roblox community of over 52 million daily users.

The latter, meanwhile, is pitched as “the ultimate virtual toy destination in Roblox, just in time for those oh-so-real holiday wish lists”.

Developed alongside Journey, who supported development, and Publicis Groupe’s Power of One Agency, Walmart’s lead creative and media agency, the experiences offer Roblox users the chance to “engage and interact with all the top items everybody wants from Walmart – in a virtual way”.

Marks & Spencer has partnered with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to upgrade its in-store space, range and display (SRD) capabilities. 

The retailer was facing multiple operational challenges created by a lack of technology investment.

TCS developed and implemented a cloud-based SRD platform using Blue Yonder Category Management and Azure Data Bricks with the aim of optimising store space, improving stock management efficiency, addressing the company’s GSCOP (Grocery Suppliers Code of Practice) ranking and enhancing the customer experience.

Ingka Group says that it has reduced food waste by 54% in its Ikea stores.

That translates into more than 20 million saved meals and 36,000 tonnes of CO2e that have been avoided.

This results from more than 20,000 Ikea food co-workers who were trained to use Winnow’s AI technology in their daily routines. 

Firework has signed a partnership agreement with Walmart Connect, a closed loop omnichannel media business of Walmart, to bring livestream and premium shoppable video content to the retail giant’s offering.

Walmart Connect is aiming to bring shoppable, short form, social media style videos to its own digital properties while also making them available to advertisers.

Asda is expanding its trial of technology which will make it easier for blind and partially sighted customers to navigate their way through a store whilst they do their shopping.

Following an initial trial at Asda’s designated technology innovation store in Stevenage, the retailer is integrating a further 10 stores into the GoodMaps smartphone app.

Nike has joined Ant Group’s Green Energy Initiative and launched an official mini programme on Alipay to encourage more consumers to recycle worn out shoes.

Chinese shoppers can search Recycle-A-Shoe in the Alipay app and have old Nike shoes collected for recycling.

These will then be dismantled and re-processed to make sustainable sport courts through Nike Grind technology.

By doing so, consumers will receive virtual green energy points in Alipay Ant Forest, a green mini programme.

These can be used to support tree planting, ecological restoration or bio-diversity conservation projects.   

Trigo reports that it is opening a hybrid autonomous store with Israel’s largest grocery retailer, Shufersal.

In an online post, Michael Gabay, CEO at Trigo, says: “It goes without saying that we are excited to launch a store in Tel Aviv, which is not only the home of the world renowned ‘startup nation,’ but Trigo’s HQ as well.”

He adds: “This Shufersal branch is representative of Tel Aviv, between its proximity to the beach as well as its central location; it is in the hub of the innovation capital of Israel.”

“This was no accident – Shufersal deliberately chose the heart of a city full of open minded and tech savvy people as the home for the country’s first frictionless checkout store.”

Aldi, which recently overtook Morrisons to become the UK’s fourth largest supermarket, has teamed with delivery operations experience management firm parcelLab.

It will use parcelLab’s platform for its pre-dispatch and outbound communications.

The technology ensures customers will receive Aldi branded communications about deliveries and returns direct from the retailer for non-grocery related online purchases.

In turn, Aldi will be able to use these messages to surface more of its range to customers, while using delivery data to improve overall order efficiency.

Walmart is expanding its use of AI powered virtual try-on technology for online shoppers.

This hails from the retailer’s 2021 acquisition of the startup Zeekit.

Earlier this year, it introduced the first implementation of the tech, Choose My Model, enabling Walmart.com customers to select from various models to find one who best looks like them in order to see how clothing would likely look on their own body, and with their own skin tone, across a range of apparel items.

Now, Walmart is launching Be Your Own Model, which lets people use their own photos to see how clothing looks on them, instead of choosing one of the existing fashion models.

Perfect Corp. has partnered with Colgate for the launch of an algorithm to bring the results of the brands’ Colgate Optic White Overnight Teeth Whitening Pen to life through augmented reality technology.

The tool simulates tooth whitening results that may be achieved with the aforementioned product after two weeks of use.

Lowe’s and Instacart have announced that same-day delivery is now available from more than 1,700 of the former’s stores Stateside.

Nearly 30,000 items can be ordered for delivery in as fast as an hour.

Lowe’s is one of the first retailers on the Instacart app to roll-out same-day and scheduled delivery for large items, up to 3x3x5 feet and 60 pounds.

UK health and beauty retailer, Boots, is set to launch a new online marketplace, with the aim of welcoming third-party brands into its digital offering.

Due to launch in spring 2023, Boots Marketplace is part of the retailer’s digital strategy to rapidly extend the range of its website and explore new and diverse categories for its customers.

Marketplace products will be integrated with the existing product range on boots.com, offering customers access to hundreds of new brands across established names and new sellers.

Powered by Mirakl, customers will still enjoy a single checkout for mixed baskets and access to the likes of Boots Advantage Card points.  

Currys has gone live with a more connected service across all of its channels that, the technology retailer says, will “provide personalised journeys and customer insights on a massive scale”.

Over the last 16 months, Currys has embarked on a mission to transform into a “best in class, digital first omnichannel retailer”.

This has seen it re-platform and upgrade its website, enhance its ShopLive service (a video commerce channel), as well as deliver a new Colleague Hub in all of its UK stores.

The latter enables its frontline staff to gain visibility of the customer from the moment they step into a store.

This includes the online customer history, a log of all their interactions, and any items they’ve put in their online shopping cart, all displayed in real-time.

It also acts as a one stop shop for store colleagues with fast access to knowledge articles, and tasks so they can support each customer.

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