05 May 2017

How technology is transforming the retail industry

From the average consumer’s point of view, retail is an extremely simple business where money is exchanged for goods – either electronically or in person. For those working in the sector, however, there’s a lot more that must happen behind the scenes to ensure the buyer’s experience is as smooth and satisfying as it can be.

Right across the industry, companies are investigating innovative ways to keep everything running efficiently. Technologies of all kinds – from augmented and virtual reality right through to robotics and artificial intelligence – are being applied at various stages of the supply chain, with some truly impressive results. Let’s take a closer look at some examples.

Robotics

A retail business’s warehouse is only as efficient as the staff working within it. And even with the best team in place, there will always be limits to productivity and a risk of human error. One of the world’s biggest ecommerce players, Ocado, is attempting to overcome these issues with the help of robotic technologies, and its trials are intriguing to say the least.

The grocery delivery company’s dedicated tech branch, Ocado Technology, has been developing a robotic arm capable of identifying and picking up items in its warehouses – the goal being to eliminate some of the challenges faced by its human workers. For example, it’s thought the device could reduce the risk of product damage.

Automation and artificial intelligence

The robotics venture isn’t Ocado’s first foray into efficiency-boosting technologies. The company has also focused its efforts on developing automated fulfilment centres that remove even more of the human element. As a result, the company has been able to maximise efficiency and take the next big step in its growth journey.

To make all this possible, the company combined a bespoke hardware platform created in partnership with Cambridge Consultants with existing 4G telecoms technology and the cloud. Now it can control 1,000 robots from a single base station, communicating with them ten times every second.

To make this project even more exciting, the company has suggested its automation system could be used to the same effect by other retail companies and even those in other industries.

Virtual reality in retail

Moving from groceries to cars and clothes now, there are a number of major retail businesses now using virtual reality to sell their products.

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo recently harnessed the advancing technology’s power to give its potential customers more immersive shopping experiences. It provided branded headset tools that, when paired with an Android phone, transported the user into the driver’s seat of its latest SUV, the XC90.

This isn’t unique to Volvo, either; Ford and Lexus have adopted similar approaches, and the technology could easily be used in the same way by companies in other areas of the retail world – especially fashion, where customers tend to want to try items on before investing.

Streamlining the supply chain

The examples above go to show the huge power of technology at both ends of the retail supply chain. TouchStar is proud to play a crucial role in making innovative solutions available to growth-hungry retail businesses too, with a focus on simplifying warehouse and delivery processes.

To find out more about how our solutions can help your business become more efficient, get in touch today.