Technology and Retail
Technology is playing a major role in shaping retail. E-commerce (thanks the Internet) has already revolutionized retail in a big way, with Amazon changing the manner in which people shop and in which goods are sold. As technology continues to advance, retail is going to change even more in the future. This paper will examine what the near term future holds in terms of how advancements in technology will shape retail in the coming 10-15 years. It will discuss, specifically, the way that robotics, green energy, drone delivery, and blockchain will alter the way in which retail exists and functions in terms of 1) customer service, 2) product delivery, 3) payments, and 4) energy consumption.
Changing Customer Service
Robotics are the wave of the future: as OShea (2017) points out, more and more retailers will be developing and implementing robotics to help out with everything from the supply chain to customer service. The competitive edge that retailers believe robotics will offer is: fewer mishaps. By taking the element or risk of human error out of the equation with robotics, retailers view themselves as being at the forefront of the technological revolution, ushering in an era in which consumers are dependent more and more on pre-programmed robotics as well as AIartificial intelligence, the concept that technology can evolve or learn as it goes. As AI and robotics become more and more integrated, the retail industry will look to rely more heavily upon this integration so as to better manage its internals and better serve its customers. Amazon, for example, is already using robots to assist in its supply chain management. Lowes is looking to implement robots in its stores in the coming years to assist with customer service: consumers with questions can just ask a friendly robot and get answers to their questions (OShea, 2017). The idea behind robot implementation is that it will save brick and mortar retailers cost associated with hiring humans. So it may be good for businesses and consumers, but when it comes to workers, robots might be a big threat to job security.
Changing Product Delivery
Robotics will also be used to develop drone delivery. Drones are already being used by the military to deliver payloads upon the enemy. Drones are also going to be used to deliver goods purchased by consumers from retailerslike Amazon. Amazon is developing Prime Air, which is a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones (Prime Air, 2018). According to Amazons plans, Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services we already provide to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery (Prime Air, 2018). In other words, product delivery by using drones instead of people in UPS or FedEX or USPS trucks will, like robotics, enhance customer satisfactionbut it could put a lot more people out of work. In the next 10-15 years, robotics are going to transform the way packages are delivered by retailers and the way customer service is provided. Packages will be flown through the air to homes and individuals when they do make it out of their homes to actually get to a brick and mortar retail store will be greeted by robots eager to answer their questions and direct them where they need to go.
Changing the Way Payments are Made
In the past, if one wanted to purchase a item from a retailer, one needed cash, check or chargebut with the revolution of blockchain all that may be in the past. Blockchain technology is still developing but in its current state it already has the power to disrupt retail and change the way consumers make transactions or pay for goods and services. For instance, with blockchain there is no need for a retailer to have to rely on a third partylike a bank or credit card processorin order to receive payment. The blockchain does it all by itself. The blockchain records the transaction into its code so that it is there for everyone to see. It cannot be altered: it is like a digital ledger that cannot be faked or deleted. Every coin that uses blockchain has the history of its usage embedded in its code: it tells the story of the coin, just like a book. Every new owner represents the next chapter in the story of the blockchain. This makes it both safer and more effective than currency used today, which can be faked, or credit cards which can be stolen.
Blockchains story is legitimate and thus as retailers learn of the options it presents with regard to processing payments and reducing the costs that are associated with processing credit card transactions, this stands to be the next big development in retail (OShea, 2017). Today, there are already blockchain-based coins like bitcoin and litecoin that are being traded and used among speculators and accepted by a handful of retailers. As the popularity of these coins continues to rise and prices stabilize, more and more retailers will be opening their doors to them. Blockchain is expected to change the way retailers accept payment over the next decade: unless governments put for an effort to block them, retailers are going to be looking to cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that supports them to ramp up their own cost-saving measures, especially as they seek to stay alive against the ever-growing threat that is Amazon.
Changing the Way It Uses Energy
One of the big things that retailers have found is that it is the idea which can sell the product, rather than the product itself and what it actually does. If the idea is revolutionary or socially-motivated, it can inspire millions of followers to get behind the retailer and promote the products that it is putting out there. Sustainable energy is the wave of the future and as better technological breakthroughs are made with respect to sustainable practices, retailers are going to be jumping on the green energy bandwagon to promote their brands and their businesses.
There are already a host of retailers who are engaged in promoting their efforts in sustainability. For example, Kohls is a big nationwide retailer that is very invested in green energy and sustainability as a way of enhancing its brand: the company currently utilizes 1,536,529,000 kWh of green energy annually, which accounts for 105 percent of its total energy consumption. The company has three specific strategies for keeping its business in the green: focusing on sustainable operations, engaging stakeholders, and keeping its supply chain sustainable (Tablado, 2014). Another big retailer to be using green energy in its store concept is Walmart: Wal-Mart is recognized as a leader in corporate sustainability. Winner of the 2009 Green Power Leadership Award, Wal-Mart utilizes 650,716,703 kWh of green energy annuallyhowever, with more than 10,000 stores worldwide, this usage only amounts to 3 percent of the companys total energy consumption (Tablado, 2014). In other words, a major retail chain like Walmart still has a lot of room to grow when it comes to implementing sustainable practices.
Part of the reason that there is so much room to grow is the fact that sustainable practices are still being developed as technology advances. For instance, as green energy solutions arise from solar and wind power and the ability to store the electricity produced from this power sources and place it into the grid, the more that retailers will be able to implement sustainable practices into their works. With everything from supply chain issues to products that are developed, retailers look at green energy as the next big technological breakthrough that will change the way the retail business is conducted in the next 10-15 years.
A lot is going on in technology today, all of which bodes well for technological breakthroughs in the future. With advancements being made in terms of the blockchain, green energy, and robotics, retailers are going tochange the ways they practice customer service, supply chain management, product delivery, payment processing and sustainability. The face of retail has already changed so much thanks to the arrival of the Internet. Now the next stage in technology evolution within the next decade or two is set to arrive and with it change how retail is conducted even more. Consumers can expect to see more robots in the workplace, more sustainable practices being touted by retailers hoping to build out their brand among green energy consumers, products being delivered by drones, and cryptocurrencies becoming the preferred method of exchange within the next 10-15 years. So much is changing and changing fast: retail will never be the same thanks to these future technology breakthroughs.
OShea, D. (2017). 5 technologies reshaping retail in 2017. Retrieved from
Prime Air. (2018). Amazon Prime Air. Retrieved from
Tablado, R. (2014). Top 10: U.S. retailers using green energy. Retrieved from
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