Experts from several retail technology companies gazed into their crystal balls to provide a view of the tech trends and other related issues that retailers should pay attention to in 2024.
Philippe Bottine, CEO North America, SES-imagotag
• You can’t spell retail without AI: Retailers will invest even more heavily in AI for humans and deploy people-centric AI solutions and technologies. AI, along with data, computer vision, IoT and many other technologies, will be turned into scalable, secure and innovative solutions with concrete business cases.
For shoppers, this means more customized merchandising and promotions that meet their wishes more precisely. For team members, this means having access to actionable insights so they can do their jobs better and more efficiently.
• Customers will expect a lot more from their shopping journeys: Speed, prices and quality will continue to be the deciding factors that push retailers to be better and more efficient. To address this, retailers will put technologies at work in their stores to ensure that shoppers can not only perceive the added value they bring to them, but also have access to all the information they need.
• Sustainability will take a seat in the C-suite: There cannot be a sustainable future without a sustainable commerce. 2024 will become the year of sustainable growth and performance for retailers. They will focus on low hanging fruit, like local e-commerce, waste reduction and optimized assortments and inventory levels, by using AI and IoT to lower their carbon footprint.
Randy Fields, CEO, ReposiTrak
• Traceability is now the law: The deadline for FSMA section 204, which requires total traceability for thousands of SKUs, is now the law and will be enforceable in January 2026. Retailers will start working more aggressively this year to ensure they are in compliance with the new rules by finding solutions that also add value to their operations through reduced waste and improved performance.
• Pushing product toward the consumer: The move away from just-in-time inventory for fast moving goods will be nearly complete, with suppliers and retailers strategically placing more inventory near population centers to meet demand quickly. The inflexibility we saw during the pandemic was a stark warning to merchants that safety stock levels need to be constantly reviewed in order to keep the shelves full.
• Retail continues to benefit from foodservice woes: There will be a continuing shift away from foodservice and toward retail grocery. This will come in the form of added fully prepared and easy-to-prepare meals, as well as hospitality-like services. We will also see more restaurants moving into retail both by offering products for sale at their own location and supplying grocery retailers with entrees, sides and more.
Prashant Agrawal, CEO & Founder of Impact Analytics
• Generative AI REALLY takes off: To state the obvious: GenAI is big and it’s only getting bigger. AI and machine learning (ML) have transformed the art and science of predicting customer demand and optimizing pricing, inventory, supply chains, and more.
But GenAI takes customization to a new level for everything from detecting fraud to creating incredibly targeted marketing campaigns at scale. Micro personalization is the future of retail. It’s here.
• One platform to rule them all: Retailers realize they’re sitting on a lot of data, which they need to produce actionable insights. However, unless that data is comprehensive and integrated across systems and updated in real time—unless it’s a verifiably current and accurate single source of truth—the insights it generates aren’t worth much. As more retailers realize this, too, they’ll move to unified planning and merchandising platforms.
• Increasingly accurate demand forecasting: AI/ML algorithms continuously learn from new data, so this one’s almost a no brainer: Retailers will accelerate their adoption of AI-based forecasting engines. The systems that pull from the most credible and diverse sources (point-of-sale systems, social media, online marketplaces, weather forecasts, market research, economic indicators, on-shelf availability, etc.) as well as monitor, and are informed by, real-time consumer and competitor behaviors, will show the greatest advances in accuracy.
Tim Spencer, president and CEO, Invafresh
• Beyond the customer experience, AI will support a range of needs: The industry is finding ways to use AI to meet its biggest needs ranging from forecasting, operations, pricing, promotions, labor management, to personalized customer experiences.
• Tech-driven food waste reduction: Leveraging advanced technology like intelligent inventory systems and data analytics will become essential for grocers in 2024 strategically combatting food waste. This focus aligns with sustainability goals and consumer values, optimizing supply chains and fostering collaboration through partnerships with food banks.
• Data-driven decision making for improved customer engagement: Integrating analytics tools for real-time insights into consumer behavior informs personalized marketing, enabling tailored promotions. Beyond marketing, data analytics optimizes inventory, aligning stock with consumer demand and contributing to a responsive supply chain.
Patrick J. Hughes, CEO of eGrowcery
• Focus on Fulfillment Efficiency: There continues to be a rapid growth of eCommerce tools to take orders but solutions that focus on reducing expenses enough to make eCommerce margin positive remain sparse. Next year will see more fulfillment solutions that not only directly reduce labor costs, but also minimize errors, eliminating costly write-offs and shopper credits.
• Digital winners and losers increase: The gap between the successful and unsuccessful eCommerce operators will widen even further. While overall eCommerce adoption rate will continue to grow, it will be a combination of many that far exceed that level and many that fall well below.
• Mix of digital and physical wins: Retailers blending in-store and on-line experiences best will have the greatest success and 2024 will see more technology emerge allowing for that approach. More traditionally physical retailers will add solutions that make the store more digital and the primarily on-line retailers will add tools to emulate the in-store experience.