2020 was an unprecedented year that has changed the retail industry forever, turning omnichannel operations on its head. With many stores closed and customers staying at home, retailers had to rethink their overall strategy, many converting in-store inventory to fulfill online orders and turning stores into temporary distribution centers. Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) was already on the rise, and the pandemic accelerated this trend, expanding to curbside pickup as well.
The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation within the retail industry, and it’s clear that retailers that invested in forward-looking retail technologies prior to COVID-19 were in a much better business position than those stuck with legacy systems. In 2021, we can expect growth in IoT technologies like RAIN RFID that promote safe and fast shopping, social distancing, touchless self-checkout options, and inventory visibility that will ensure retailers meet the demands of the modern shopper, no matter where, how or when they want to be served during this time.
Ongoing Investments in IoT and Automation
With the onset of the pandemic, retailers were forced to shift their inventory and supply chain strategies, and this is set to continue in 2021. With changing consumer needs as a result of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever for retailers to gain full visibility into their supply chain to help anticipate demand and ensure the right goods are delivered to the right place at the right time, as the in-store experience continues to evolve and models like BOPIS and curbside pickup continue to grow in popularity. As a result, we’ll continue to see increasing investment in IoT and automation technologies, not only to drive improved visibility and operational transformation, but also applied to support social distancing, enabling services like automated self-checkout that reduce customer and employee contact. These automation technologies also help reduce the amount of total staff needed in-store at any given time, keeping employees safe.
Growing Adoption Rate of Touchless Self-Checkout Installations
Nobody is sad to say goodbye to waiting in a checkout line. Luckily, there are many innovations happening at the point of sale. Before the pandemic, consumers embraced digitally enabled shopping methods as online shopping extended to practically every single retail segment. However, even with BOPIS and curbside pickup demand increasing over the past year, consumers still want in-store experiences. So what can retailers do to promote a safe and efficient in-store environment?
Retailers that have adopted RAIN RFID for inventory management are extending this technology to create a touchless, customer-first experience that's simple and intuitive, delivering a faster checkout, shorter lines, and a safer shopping trip. With RAIN RFID, many items can be counted simultaneously without line-of-sight, so customers don’t need to search for a barcode to scan.
The Ongoing Disruptions and Challenges Associated With Supply Chains Will Increase RAIN-Tagging of Individual Parcels
With ongoing disruptions to supply chains caused by COVID-19, shipping and logistics companies are turning to RAIN RFID to increase visibility, and thus value for the shipper as well as for the individual awaiting receipt of the package. When package tracking data is combined with other relevant data, modeling can inform how to further streamline systems by optimizing resources and processes. By virtualizing the movement of millions, and in some cases billions of small and large packages moving through interconnected shipping systems, capacity constraints and other points of failure are revealed. Doing this well is more important now than ever.
These are just some technology trends in the retail industry to keep an eye out for in 2021 as the demands and behaviors of the modern shopper continue to evolve.
Ashley Burkle is senior manager, retail industry at Impinj, a leading provider and pioneer of RAIN RFID solutions.