Trending Retail News: July 2019

a miniature shopping cart filled with boxes sitting on top of an open laptop

The lazy days of summer don’t mean a pause in the retail industry – stores and retailers are trying new things and making waves every day! Keeping up with the latest retail news is one of the best ways to keep you ahead of the game and ensure that you never fall behind your competition. Our experts at SPAR are always checking the news – here are some of the most interesting retail news stories we’ve been following as July comes to an end.

Walmart Kicks Off Autonomous Delivery Service

Walmart is taking grocery delivery to a new level, using technology that’s still fairly new in the world of retail. The company recently announced a partnership with Gatik AI, a self-driving vehicle startup, to deliver groceries from their main warehouse to two Walmart stores in their hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. These autonomous vehicles that operate without a human behind the wheel are currently transporting Walmart customers’ online grocery orders to nearby stores, and are expected to make the two-mile trip seven days a week. This new endeavor is starting on a small scale for a reason – Walmart’s senior vice president of digital operations, Tom Ward, stated that the company is “testing new and innovative capabilities that will make us even better and shape the future of retail for everyone.” Walmart is looking to learn more about the logistics of utilizing automated vehicles as a retail solution, and it’ll be interesting to see how this project plays out and where they’ll go with it next.

Costco Moves Membership Cards to Mobile App – But Not Entirely!

Costco has turned its membership system in a digital direction – with some limitations. The retailer recently updated its Android and Apple apps to include a digital membership card, so Costco shoppers can now reach for their phones to show their membership when they check out rather than presenting a physical card. This is a convenient step forward for Costco shoppers, but don’t throw your membership card away just yet! If you regularly purchase gas at Costco, you’ll still need your card, because their gas pumps are not yet ready to read the Digital Membership Card. As it is always appealing to declutter your wallet as stores take advantage of technology, we’ll have to wait and see if Costco makes a complete switch to a digital system in the near future.

Walgreens to Implement In-Store AI-Powered Voice Assistant

Another retailer using technology to make strides in the retail industry is Walgreens, who is set to begin implementing a voice-powered AI solution in 1,000 of their stores by the end of 2019. The company will be utilizing Theatro in all of its stores nationwide in order to improve the in-store experience for both store associates and customers. Associates will be able to more easily communicate with one another using this system, as well as speak directly to the AI-powered system to request information and deliver a more personalized and unique experience to shoppers. The company strives to transform their stores into “modern neighborhood health destinations,” said President of Operations Richard Ashworth. It seems that Walgreens’ aim is to provide an improved in-store experience for both those making purchases and those visiting the store for healthcare purposes.

SPAR’s Take

Retail continues to move forward at a breakneck speed. Technology appears to be leading the way – but Customer Experience is the driving force behind many of these tech advances. Walmart continues to innovate and stay ahead of the curve – the challenge is will the test they are doing be scalable? The beauty is they are trying! On the side of Costco – they have been an online and tech laggard – but it hasn’t affected their business negatively. They are picking up the pace, and as a consumer, I welcome this new feature. However, my credit card and Costco ID are the same thing – so the likelihood I will use it is very slim – but the effort is a good one. I have real questions about the Walgreen’s move into AI. I completely get that they are going for more personalization – but a large portion of the Walgreen’s audience are seniors. I have seen some hilarious videos on YouTube around seniors and Alexa – I’m expecting there will be more contributions once this rolls out.

Whether it is autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence or simple digital technology – there is no doubt retail is continuing to change and evolve – and we are excited about what the future has to offer.

Grow Your Retail Impact with SPAR

We’re happy to provide you with the latest retail news so you can always stay up to date, but we want to do so much more for your retail store! At SPAR, we provide comprehensive retail solutions, always with your store’s specific goals and needs in mind. Whether you need assembly and installation services, merchandising solutions, programmatic services, or a new store set or remodel, our team has been doing it for years. We want to work with you! To learn more about all SPAR has to offer to your retail store, please contact us today!