Big changes in the retail industry had already started before the COVID-19 crisis even emerged. For instance, Amazon Go Grocery, a grocery store that eliminates the total checkout phase from the shopping experience -- customers simply have to open the Amazon Go app, scan the QR code at the gate scanner, get into the store, grab items off the shelves, and walk out. Simple! Amazon Go is a check-out free shopping, but in the future, we might even see touch-free shopping that eliminates the physical interaction with on-shelf products.
The future of shopping is arguably more interesting and uncertain. We see stores behaving more like websites and websites behaving like stores. The technology is going to transform how we live life, and how we shop.
The phases of the retail process work on five main stages -- Purchase, Warehouse & Inventory, Sales, Finance, and Delivery. Technology impacts each retail process in different ways such as:
Advanced Supply Chain Management:
Based on the present COVID-19 scenario, the global trade and supply chains are going through an unusual and massive shock. Grocery retailers are dealing with a significant out-of-stock situation on many key products as consumers hoover up supplies perceived to be essential. As the ability to manage demand has never been this important, implementing multi-scenario planning and real-time operations can help companies to manage the dynamic demand and also predict the future flow.
Businesses should leverage big data analytics to transform their supply chain operations. By using big data, the unstructured real-time data can be turned into insights and predict disruptions. This allows companies to have relevant and actionable information at their fingertips to react quickly and focus their attention on communicating with customers and suppliers effectively. Strengthening their global supply chain can help them to successfully maintain business continuity post COVID-19.
Employee safety measures and social distancing are placing a new level of pressure on manufacturers. Distributed manufacturing has got a huge scope in the future. A traditional manufacturer usually employs, or own dedicated factories to create a convenient supply chain for their client. But with distributed manufacturing, companies find the best people to complete the product remotely where in-person interaction can be restricted, higher labor costs are offset, and thus saving time for shipping.
Supply chain disruptions created by the COVID-19 could see companies leaning heavily into additive manufacturing that could lead to new adopters for 3D printing. In the upcoming months, 3D printing could be the answer for manufacturers facing shortages in parts. The present situation of a weak supply chain system can lead to the development of digital manufacturing driven by 3D printing technology.
3D printing has a very bright future that it can also be used in the space station to help astronauts create anything they needed on the fly. For example, imagine if crew members need some important tools, they just have to print the tool and use it. We might even see a total colony built on the moon using 3D printers.
Supply Chain Visibility (SCV):
Due to the lockdown, suppliers have temporarily ceased production, and logistics providers have no goods to transport. SCV (Supply Chain Visibility) also called Supply Chain Transparency plays a crucial role in understanding the impact of disruption post COVID-19. It takes an end-to-end view of inventory where companies can see the inventory levels of both suppliers and customers from raw material producers to the point of sale. SCV benefits companies with improved network agility, enhanced supply chain resilience, reduction in inventory carrying cost, and improved product traceability. The improvement initiative allows companies to provide better insights and broadcast real-time inventory information using a structured protocol. This helps the company to quickly detect the reasons for production stoppages and find the backup suppliers thus preventing supply chain disruptions and deliver products on time.
COVID-19 outbreak has created a massive impact on the retail industry by creating unprecedented upheaval and dislocated economies. Global supply chains lacked in transparency and connectivity. Blockchain provides a single source of information about the products in a supply chain via a global ledger. Each component of the product has its own entry on the blockchain that gets tracked overtime. Authorized companies could update their status in real-time. The end result where customers can track every component back to its manufacturer and also can trace the supply chain all the way back to know where the raw materials came from. Companies can use blockchain as a single source of truth for their products. They can manage and monitor risks within the supply chain and ensure the quality of delivered parts.
Warehouse & Inventory
As the current supply chains are bogged down by the air, sea, and land traffic congestion, the future expanding markets expect their deliveries to be completed in hours versus days with unprecedented reliability. Using SCM Hyperloop technology, high priority goods such as medical supplies and fresh food can be delivered faster with an increase in capacity.
Artificial Intelligence (AI):
AI (Artificial Intelligence) continues to be one of the biggest game-changers in the future of inventory management. It predicts consumer demand, manages supplier backorders, and optimize inventory stock levels. By using AI, the unstructured real-time data can be turned into insights and predict disruptions. This allows companies to have relevant and actionable information at their fingertips to react quickly and focus their attention on communicating with customers and suppliers effectively.
Trail rooms are an unavoidable component in purchasing apparel. A smart mirror, a touch-free device is going to be the trend. The smart mirror provides a 360-degree view of how a garment looks on you. If customers need an outsider review, the mirror lets them to email the clip so that they can send it to their friends and ask for the review.
Augmented Reality (AR):
Consumers in the future will seek new ways for technology to simplify their lives and be more user-friendly. Augmented reality systems help people to browse a retailer’s online page, watch the virtual catalog, select a product, and superimpose the item to its intended location. Hence, a family can see exactly how a product would look in their home without leaving anywhere.
Virtual Reality (VR):
Even after the COVID-19, people will remain socially distant. Technology can only bring them virtually close. Businesses will get endless opportunities by attracting and bringing them to virtual reality. VR offers virtual tours and 3D modeling of items/products in all categories that transform the customer's shopping experience. It also helps users to find products faster anywhere, any time with captivating and interactive experiences.
A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical device where data scientists can use the virtual model to study before the products are built and deployed. Digital twin integrates artificial intelligence, machine learning, and software analytics to create living digital simulation models that update and change as their physical counter parts change. It helps in optimizing the process, reduce physical efforts, maintain social distancing between labors, and virtual process control.
Companies with on-premise data centers are facing challenges in maintaining their traffic. This is going to force companies to look into cloud adoption. Cloud computing is highly scalable, so a sudden rise in traffic cannot disrupt the business flow. As the physical interaction is no longer being an acceptable form of communication, a company's total financial transactions are handled in the cloud.
As per the studies, cash or currency notes can act as a potential carrier of coronavirus. The government has advised people to avoid using cash in hand to prevent them from spreading. When people stopped visiting brick-and-mortar stores, many retailers have used e-commerce platform to capitalize on this changing trend.
Drones are being used effectively to combat COVID-19. They are the safest way to deliver medical supplies and transport samples from hospitals to laboratories. Drones can also be used in delivering groceries, surveillance, broadcast, disinfectant spraying, temperature checks, and so on.
The future of retail delivery is likely to be dependent on drones. Drones offer faster delivery, with no physical interactions, and cost savings.
COVID-19 scenario made the world realize how heavily humans rely on human interactions to make things work. Retail is completely dependent on human interactions, the usage of robots will be seen in various areas like cleaning, moving goods from shelves, tracking, and analysis of shelf inventory, last-mile delivery. Robots are designed with artificial intelligence and are expected to help retailers to cut costs and also improve store operations.
The COVID-19, however, will increase the adoption of all these technologies. The more retail businesses seek clarity and adopt technologies, the more they will be ready to face challenges ahead and provide improved experiences to their customers.