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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Global Retail Trends and Innovations blog series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Global Retail Trends and Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the next few months, we will explore the hot four trends (Omni Integration, Extreme Convenience, Extreme Experience, and Sustainable Practices) showcased in Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020 and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

Trend #2: Extreme Convenience

The modern consumer is busy, and the era of seamless, frictionless retailing is here. Friction is every barrier we put in place to prevent customers from buying a product. Retailers are removing friction from the experience by adding elements of technology, subscriptions, delivery, and pick-up, while also streamlining the key elements of everyday operations.

This trend focuses on seamless retail, friction-removing technology, eliminating pain points, and on-demand.

Bingobox, China

Bingobox takes the concept of a traditional convenience store a step further by making it unstaffed. Bingobox was the first company in China to pioneer the trend of unstaffed stores when it first opened in Shanghai two years ago. The stores are equipped with diverse technologies, e.g., QR codes, RFID chips, surveillance cameras, and automatic payments. These technologies allow Bingobox to utilize data analytics and stock its stores with goods preferred by consumers to maximize sales. Such a move has benefited the company, allowing it to set up stores in areas with low foot traffic and take a shorter amount of time to break even for new stores. A crew of four is able to maintain 40 Bingobox stores.

With these technologies, Bingobox is able to deter shoplifting and improve the shopping experience for consumers. With the accuracy of its image recognition software being 99%, it can detect customers’ behavior in the store and present a customizable promotional message to assist them in making a decision.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

Bingobox allows for increased access to products in areas where it might otherwise be too costly to set up a physical store or operate 24 hours a day. Now, companies have an extra option to consider when distributing their products.

Its box-shaped stores also can be quickly deployed to new locations.

Starship Technologies, Canada/U.S.A.

Move over drones, Starship Technologies is transforming deliveries with autonomous robots. These small and nimble robots are designed to deliver food, groceries, and packages locally. The robot can travel anywhere a pedestrian can walk, but mainly on sidewalks, including curbs. With a combination of mobile technology and partnerships with stores and restaurants, the robots make local delivery faster, smarter, and more cost-efficient. The robots can carry items within a four-mile radius.

How it works:

  • Parcels, groceries, and food are delivered directly from stores at the time that the customer requests it via a mobile app.
  • Once ordered, the robot’s entire journey and location can be monitored on a smartphone.
  • Once the robot arrives at the scheduled destination, the recipient will be able to unlock the robot via the app.
  • The robot then travels toward the next delivery.

The six-wheeled robot weighs around 40-45 lbs. and uses a sensor suite for navigation and situational awareness. The GPS- and CV-based navigation uses proprietary maps and allows for 1-inch navigation precision. They also can operate in the rain and snow.

The robot can deliver anything that can fit inside its delivery container, such as parcels, groceries, food, laundry, medication, flowers, etc.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

These electrically powered robots are safe and green and can help reduce traffic congestion and pollution by removing cars/trucks from the last mile of the delivery process.

As retailers continue to struggle with the last mile of the delivery journey, these robots can deliver within a four-mile radius at a significantly lower cost than current delivery services. Starship’s system is simple and adaptable to any category.

Kroger, USA

In 2019, Kroger rolled out its self-driving car program, where customers can order groceries online to be delivered to the home in a vehicle without a driver. The delivery service was conceived by the robotics company Nuro, founded by two former Google employees. Kroger and Nuro began working together last year for a trial run in Scottsdale, Arizona, before they started this year’s expansion.

Kroger has reportedly completed thousands of driverless deliveries within the Arizona market. The company aims to roll out its self-driving R1 delivery vehicles in Texas within the next few weeks; meanwhile, it will use a Toyota Prius fleet.

Enabling the purchase of groceries online to be delivered via driverless car is a great example of using technology to remove barriers to consumers and allow for a more convenient and seamless experience.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment

Kroger is taking big strides to keep up with online competitors with their driverless car delivery program. Using unstaffed vehicles is cost effective, as vehicles that do not carry human passengers can omit airbags, seatbelts, and other costly safety equipment, since the only passengers are food and grocery. Such cost savings will then trickle down to the consumer, resulting in a speedy, cost-effective way to get groceries from the comfort of home.

J. C. Williams Group Final Word

This is just a small selection of case studies featured in 2020 Retail Trends and Innovation Publication, but it can already be seen that extreme convenience is crucial for brands of the future. Leveraging technology, subscription services, and a variety of delivery options are removing barriers for a seamless customer journey, which has never been more important than it is now.

To read about more Extreme Convenience concepts, download your free copy of our Global Retail Trends and Innovations 2020 HERE.