All companies need to be technology companies

January 28, 2019By Behind the Shelf Blog, Future of Retail


By Shawn Theesfeld, application development manager

A few weeks ago, prior to traveling to CES, I wrote about what I was looking forward to viewing, testing, learning, and discussing. I was interested in seeing the progress in interactive deliverables (VR, AR, holographic displays, etc.), technology support for personal shopping, blockchain and other technologies for supporting retail operations, AI advances, and self-service system advances. I came into CES with a pretty good plan on viewing these innovations, found some interesting products, had some great conversations, and left with some thoughts on where the next technology and retail trends are coming from.

Revisiting my initial list, I can’t say I saw a product that I thought was groundbreaking on my list to check. I didn’t see a new AR technology, nor a demo of an interactive display I haven’t seen before, nor a self-service system that was revolutionary. What I did see was that this tech was everywhere and integrated into a lot of solutions! Even last year, most of these were showcased either in Eureka park (the startup area) or in limited scope in some of the retail-specific areas. This year, retail technology solutions were everywhere! AR and VR weren’t only targeted to the gamers, there was a focus on how to enhance the retail experience. AI was featured in numerous customer demographic recognition software programs, crowd density predictions, and pretty much every consumer good. Even John Deere was showcasing their AI integrations!

One of the trends that I will be watching is the continued rise of digital assistants. Yes, a lot of people have Alexa or Google Home; however, seeing how the adoption of these assistants transforms the shopping experience and business usages will be interesting. Voice is become a legitimate UI choice for data and application interactions and needs to be part of most every company’s future plans.

CES 2019
Digital therapeutics is also a space to watch. Health solutions that used to only be available in clinics and hospitals are becoming more available for consumers where they can use technology to make their own health choices. No longer is it about monitoring, but rather the correction of health issues.

Sleep is big. There were several devices that not only monitor sleeping patterns and snoring, but attempt to correct them – without a prescription! Be it in-home ultrasounds, gadgets to measure aspects of men’s health, FDA-approved wrist blood pressure monitors, or AI devices for senior care, technology is propelling health care and self-care into the patient’s own hands.
Customization of CPG products was showcased at CES by several large manufacturers. Who would have thought, even a few years ago, that health, beauty, and wellness product manufacturers would be using CES to promote their innovations? The fact that CPG manufacturers had such a presence at CES emphasizes the fact that all companies need to consider themselves technology companies.

A primary message coming out of these CES showcases was the implementation of hyper-personalization. It’s not nearly enough to have a plethora of SKUs to hopefully fill segmented demographic demands; it’s important and necessary to have a product that is specific to one person’s demand. These customizations produce, in some cases, infinite combinations of products, and the technology introduced years ago such as 3D printing are allowing these personalizations to occur at a price-point that is realistic.

An area that I am extremely excited about is the evolution of autonomous driving. How does this relate to retail? Last year, I saw one concept that was using autonomous vehicles to deliver fresh food to food deserts. This year, there were many autonomous driving platforms that either had configurations or add-ons for self-serving retail. I do not think this is too far off from coming to fruition.

We have become “Amazon-ized” with expectations of 2-day delivery or less, but what e-commerce fails to capture is the immersion and physical interaction with products and services. Now, imagine if autonomous vehicles deliver your customized retail experience right into your garage! It’s not about logistics of delivery; it’s the logistics of delivering your shopping and service experience. This dictates a wide-range of services that need to be developed: product assortment, product packaging, and data analytics around the customer, brand, and service. It’ll be here soon!

The data age is upon us. Technology has evolved over the past several decades, and definitely the past several years. We have so many devices that track, monitor, assist, and aid us. These devices gather data from or about us everywhere – what do we do with it? This is the next great challenge, and solutions will surely be on display at the next CES!