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As coronavirus lockdowns ease in many countries, retailers know it will not be business as usual. Here are some technologies that could help them during their reopening phases and beyond.
Over the next three years, every major retailer will accelerate the use of micro-fulfilment centres inside their stores (and among clusters of stores) to fulfil orders for food, groceries and other products.
That’s the view of Brittain Ladd, a supply chain consultant who has also worked at Amazon, Deloitte and Capgemini. “Target and other retailers have seen a spike in consumers wanting food and groceries during the coronavirus crisis. Two of the lowest margin categories for a retailer,” he says.
“The coronavirus becoming a seasonal disease much like the flu and requiring stores to close, is a possibility. Warehouse workers and front line workers becoming ill and dying, as well as walking off the job, will increase, destabilising operations.”
To meet their labour needs, retailers have increased pay, hurting their bottom lines. This means that they will heavily invest in automating their warehouses, Ladd reckons.
“I estimate that by 2024, retailers will require 50% fewer workers to run their stores and warehouses than they do today,” he concludes.
2. Augmented reality
Augmented reality is also one to watch, according to Ladd.
“Jeff Bezos says that what customers want are speed and choice. I agree with his comments. However, over the next several years, even when autonomous vehicles and possibly even drones if they’re adapted by grocery retailers, supply chains and last mile delivery will only be able to increase in speed incrementally,” he comments.
If that’s the case, what technology can be utilised by consumers to significantly increase shopping for groceries (and other retail products)? “I believe the answer is AR. By 2030, I believe it’s possible that consumers will choose to shop via AR,” he says.