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  • One in seven retailers have used payment innovations and AI, making them the dominant technologies
  • Amazon did not take the top spot this year, but still dominates the list, with four different innovations included in the league table
  • Robotics and autonomy are an emerging theme in the top 10, with virtual reality (VR) becoming more prominent across the top 60 retailers

Payment, paytech (13%), artificial intelligence (AI) (13%) and robotics (11%) are dominating innovation within the retail technology industry, according to a new league table released today. Conducted in partnership with Webloyalty, Retail Insider’s Digital Retail Innovations Report 2020 celebrates the top 60 global technology breakthroughs in the retail industry over the past year. For the first time in years, payment and paytech technology have drawn level with AI as the key technology that has been implemented by almost one in seven (13%) of these top retailers. 

Given the challenges the retail industry has faced, with record numbers of stores closing1 in the first half of this year, the report reveals how technology has been used to adjust to changing consumer behaviours as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is demonstrated by the payment and paytech technologies included in the league table being geared towards making coping with the pandemic and lockdown rules easier for consumers. For example, Amazon’s cashierless ‘Go stores’ with ‘Just Walk Out’ technology enable customers to shop with minimal interaction with others, and Fuller’s link up with Wagestream, which gave furloughed employees on-demand access to wages they had already earned, instead of waiting for end-of-month payday, enabled employees to better manage their pay when pubs closed in March.

In terms of AI, retailers have looked to innovate amongst the disruption the pandemic has caused, by anticipating how important customer control would be once lockdown eased. Security company Ocucon worked with retailers such as Aldi to implement a traffic light system across the UK, using video camera AI technology to control the flow of customers thought its stores. Another example highlighted in the report is Time Out Markets’ app, which looks to alert staff when footfall at their food halls comes to within 10% of half capacity, to help ensure social distancing is maintained.

Ben Stirling, Managing Director, Webloyalty comments: “As we can see the retail sector is robust and it’s clear that pressure breeds innovation. The drastic changes the retail industry has faced since the beginning of the global health crisis will no doubt have had an impact on the pace of change when looking at innovations in technology. Despite the challenging environment 2020 has presented, it’s really positive to see that retailers are focusing on digital innovation to help propel their businesses, and to ensure consumers can continue to engage with their products and services. The steps taken by these retailers to help combat the change in consumer behaviour and they way in which we all shop, eat out and interact with our money will not only hopefully serve to keep these businesses running, but will also help foster loyalty amongst those using the new technology, as it highlights these companies are working to cater for their customers in these unprecedented times.”

The report reveals that the rise in virtual reality (VR) innovation on the list, such as John Lewis’ virtual customer services and Etsy’s use of VR to assist people buying artwork for their home is also due to shifts caused by the pandemic. Etsy saw a huge uptick in people looking for home décor during the pandemic, and so updated their app in order for people to see what products would look like in their home before they purchased. 

The full 2020 Digital Retail Innovations Report is available here




Top 10 overall innovations

Waitrose and PartnersDNANudge
AmazonGrocery Stores
OcadoVertical farms
Lost StockSustainable boxes
FacebookFacebook Shops
WalmartIn-store Robots
Frasers PropertySunburst UV Bots
AmazonAmazon Ultra Fast Fresh
ASOSZeekit Virtual Fitting Room
LivfsUnmanned shoped


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