This week’s choice quotes from the retail technology world

“Marks and Spencer’s decision to replace existing employees with AI is an initiative we’re seeing happen across the retail industry. The last year alone has seen some fascinating developments such as the Amazon Go concept of ‘checkout-less’ supermarkets where, thanks to a host of sensor and deep-learning technologies, shoppers can browse, fill their baskets, and leave without queueing up to pay. However, the decision to retain call centre employees and move them to the shop floor is far-removed from the concept of ‘robotic’ shop assistants. 

These advances are unarguably impressive and spell a bright future for the retail industry. However, we’re finding that some consumers still prefer the reassurance of human interaction – and this need should not be ignored. For instance, in 2015 Morrisons reintroduced human-staffed checkouts for small shopping baskets – a move away from the wave of automated, self-service tills that have swept the nation. It turns out that people quite enjoy their everyday interactions with the smiling, familiar checkout operator; advice from a knowledgeable shop assistant; or just bumping into a friend in the local supermarket queue.

It seems that Marks and Spencer has acknowledged that while the way we shop might is becoming amplified by technology, it’s important not to underestimate the power of human interaction. With the future of retail nearly here, the real question is how to ensure it remains appealing and convenient for future consumers.” Manu Tyagi, Associate Partner for Retail, Infosys Consulting

“E-commerce is accelerating at Walmart with sales up by 40% this quarter. Much of this is down to improvements to the website, which is easier to shop, has a much wider assortment, and is now more connected than ever to services like in-store pickup. From our data, the addition of more premium brands, including the Lord & Taylor initiative, is starting to have an impact as there has been a notable increase in the number of higher income customers visiting the site over the past couple of months. This is exactly the kind of result Walmart needs to achieve if it is to compete more effectively with Amazon.

We are also encouraged by the pace of innovation in the digital space. The trial of automated picking capabilities in New Hampshire and of self-driving vehicles in Arizona are both signs that Walmart is on the front foot when it comes to emerging technologies. Equally, the JetBlack subscription service which allows customers in New York City to order items for same day delivery by text message has proved popular; and we see significant scope for future growth.” Neil Saunders, Managing Director, GlobalData Retail

“The latest ONS figures are a rare bit of good news for the UK High Street but I’m afraid won’t tempt us to invest there. It’s simply a nice boost from the hot summer and World Cup while the brutal and relentless shift towards online continues apace.” James Dowey, Chief Investment Officer & Chief Economist, Neptune Investment Management

“Adoption of alternative payments in the APAC region has occurred well ahead of that in the West. Asia’s card infrastructure and payment behaviour are not well entrenched and therefore alternative payment tools offer a welcome substitute to cash. Rising smartphone penetration coupled with a large unbanked population has also turned the region into a potential growth market for alternative payments.” Ravi Sharma, Senior Payments Analyst, GlobalData

“National currencies are reliant on people’s faith in governments and the global financial system. There’s nothing inherently stable about them. In economies that aren’t stable, we’re already seeing digital economies developing and thriving. Cryptocurrencies are based on secure, reliable technology, and are decentralised, which makes them an excellent tool to weather a financial storm.” Danial Daychopan, CEO, Plutus

“E-commerce enables us to quickly scale to reach new customers and markets where we don’t operate physical stores, starting with China.” Yael Cosset, Kroger’s Chief Digital Officer

“Technology and changing customer shopping habits have transformed the way people buy their groceries. Our teams are constantly working hard to bring new convenient shopping experiences to customers and we’re delighted to be the first grocery retailer in the UK to offer customers the ability to shop checkout-free. The latest version of SmartShop, with its new payment feature, will make it super quick for customers to get in and out of the store for those that want to scan, pay and go." Sainsbury’s Group Chief Digital Officer, Clodagh Moriarty

“‘Contrived’ online shopping events like Prime Day are proven to drive significant spikes in traffic and sales volume during times of the year that historically may not have been seasonal peaks. Brands that sit on the sidelines run the risk of losing market share that’s hard to win back later. On top of that, they lose the opportunity to use Prime Day as a testing ground to learn what works — and doesn’t work — as we approach the all-important holiday season.” Keith Anderson, SVP of Strategy & Insights, Profitero

“it will be interesting to see how Sport’s Direct’s multi-channel experience could help to turn around House of Fraser’s department stores’ ill-fate. As we are all well aware, retailers and landlords are facing the most challenging environment since the post global financial crisis of 2008, driven by changing consumer trends, higher inflation, lower consumer spend and changing shopping habits. Over the past year, there’s been a raft of store closures, administrations and CVAs being announced, which in part, has been blamed on the increasing online and social media retail space. 

Retailers that provide the right experience and service are really adapting the way that people shop, and as a result, are changing the requirement for the bricks and mortar store so it would be interesting to understand Sports Directs’ take on this and whether they really relish the challenge and are able to adapt House of Fraser’s customer experience through online, physical and social sales, in order to keep apace and meet the consumers requirements of today perhaps utilising in part the Flannels facia.” Paul Souber, Co-Head of Colliers International’s Retail division

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UPS eyes blockchain for global supply chain initiative

UPS eyes blockchain for global supply chain initiative

The retail technology week in numbers

The retail technology week in numbers