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The Future of Retail Technology

What does the future hold for retailer technology? Drone-based delivery, self-driving trucks, virtual reality shopping, invisible barcodes and more. Every Thursday the Advancing Retail team discusses the current trends in retail technology. On January 14th most of their time was spent talking about possibilities that could occur in the future, near or far, through technological advancement.

Drone-based delivery

As more grocery retailers make online shopping available to customers, the potential for delivery by drones becomes increasingly likely. Google, Amazon.com and Walmart are racing to develop drones for product delivery. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration should have rules finalized for commercial drone operation within the year. NASA is working closely with 14 companies to create a low-level air-traffic system to guide drones and prevent collisions. Before long, customers will be able to order their groceries online and have them delivered to their homes via drone delivery.

Self-driving trucks

Self-driving, autonomous semi trucks are being piloted in Nevada, one of 4 states that have approved licensing for autonomous vehicles. A driver will still be present to monitor but the vehicle will take over the steering, acceleration and breaking, similar to an airplane. The purpose is to relieve drivers during long hauls and to prevent fatigue-based accidents, seeing as roughly 90% of car accidents are caused by fatigue. In the near future, self-driving semis could be used for deliveries from wholesalers to retail stores. This technology might also expand the geographical reach from warehouses to retailers.

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Virtual reality shopping

Online shopping services strive to mimic the in-person experience of shopping at a store by creating online “shopping carts” and using interactive images. In the future, consumers will be able to experience walking around a grocery store, selecting products, and checking out through virtual reality technology, all from the comfort of their own home. This technology will make the shopping experience becomes more immersive and engaging for consumers, both online and in-store.

Virtual Reality

Invisible barcodes

Faster checkout may be possible with invisible barcodes, not visible to the naked eye but printed over the entire product packaging. Portland grocery chain “New Seasons” is running a trial of these invisible barcodes on their private label products, testing whether this speeds up the checkout process. As more retailers and brands adopt this invisible watermarking technology, the standard black and white barcode could become obsolete in the near future.

Invisible Barcode

Wearables influencing shopping habits

Health monitoring through Wearables has become increasingly popular in the past few years. As the Wearable technology advances, it is likely that grocery-shopping habits will be affected, especially if Wearables gain the ability to monitor food intake without manual self-reporting. This technology could change the shopping experience in all kinds of ways.

Wearbles 2

For more insights on technology from the Advancing Retail team, check out the CART blog site.


Why do I work at AWG? “I love working with independent retail stores to improve their in-store marketing strategies. When consumers compare products at grocery stores, many rely on in-store nutrition information and in-store advertising to make their decisions. By growing the nutrition and rebate programs at AWG stores, I implicitly help thousands of grocery shoppers make healthier choices every day.” -Michelle