CHICAGO — Writer William Gibson said the future has already arrived. It is merely unevenly distributed.
The same could be said for convenience retail, where the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, frictionless checkout and other trends are working with new consumer expectations to create a new kind of retail experience.
Click through for five examples of the future inserting itself into the present, and how these trends could evolve in 2020 …
Ubiquitous frictionless checkout
Retail Business Services claims its 300-square-foot store being tested at its headquarters can be built faster and “considerably cheaper” than other frictionless checkout concepts. The company is based in Quincy, Mass., and is the service arm of Ahold Delhaize. Like Amazon Go and other similar concepts, customers scan a code on their phone to enter the store. Cameras and sensors track their progress as they shop.
Amazon might have been the first retailer to release a frictionless checkout concept, but shopping without checkout lines will soon become commonplace as Ahold Delhaize and others begin to compete for the frictionless checkout space more earnestly.
New tech, new rules
As frictionless checkout and other time-saving strategies expand, everyday industry wisdom, such as placing items by the register for impulse shopping, will need to adjust.
The recent partnership between Mars Wrigley and Standard Cognition, a frictionless-retail startup, aims to do just that. The two companies are experimenting with ways to ensure impulse shopping continues even if the register does not. Expect creative changes to the shopping experience in response to the rise of frictionless checkout in 2020.
The rise of voice ordering
Today, there are few options for consumers who want to place an order at a c-store through the use of voice computing via smart speakers, but CSP expects that to change throughout 2020.
More chains will follow 7-Eleven’s lead, giving consumers more ways to access c-store foodservice. Smart speakers could also double as training devices in the future. Imagine new c-store employees in the kitchen, their hands covered in grease, as they forget the recipe they learned last week. The ability to turn to Alexa or Google and ask it to recite the recipe could increase their productivity.
AI lends a hand
A day will come when Google can predict when a consumer will want a pizza and have it delivered before they ask, according to Gray Taylor, executive director of standards organization Conexxus.
Chains such as Casey’s are helping that future along through the use of AI. The Ankeny, Iowa-based retailer recently tapped Punchh for its AI-powered consumer marketing. Punchh has partnered with point-of-sale and e-commerce companies to gather enough consumer data to attempt to predict customers’ needs. Similarly, rewards mobile app GetUpside uses machine learning to sift through anonymized credit card data from consumers to glean their preferences.
Expect to see AI powering one-to-one marketing and other examples of personalization in 2020.
Amazon is slated to open its first grocery store separate from the Whole Foods Market banner near Los Angeles sometime in 2020. Little is known about the store, though it will be distinct from the “just walk out” shopping experience in the small-format Amazon Go stores.
Whatever lies behind those soon-to-open doors, it could spawn copycats and adjust consumer expectations as Amazon Go has done.