Cutting-edge technologies are rapidly disrupting industries across the globe—challenging traditional processes, automating manual workflows, and redefining consumer expectations. The food and grocery retail space is no exception. As e-commerce grows and post-pandemic trends take hold, retailers are navigating what may feel like an entirely new landscape. Here are the top 5 disruptive technologies to look out for—and why it may be time to invest.

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Global AI spending is expected to reach $35.8B by the end of 2021. The leading global spender? The retail industry, with $5.9 billion invested in automated customer service agents, shopping advisers, and product recommendation platforms—all AI systems. There’s a reason AI is taking over: AI-based retail applications yield exceptionally high returns, saving retailers billions in manual labor costs, speeding productivity to decrease time to revenue, and personalizing the customer experience to increase sales.

If a personalized shopping experience is the future, AI is the vehicle taking us there. Deep customer insights and predictive analytics create a smooth, seamless shopping experience, and 73% of customers are encouraging brands to use their information to improve their personalized shopping experiences. AI is the propeller moving us towards a personalized retail world, and many of the technologies below may fall under its umbrella. If one thing’s for certain, it’s that AI presents a compelling opportunity—and it’s time for retailers big and small to take advantage.

2. E-commerce and POS system integrations

Over the past decade—and in the past pandemic-fueled year in particular—the line between the in-store and online retail shopping experience has increasingly blurred. A surge in e-commerce amid strict stay-at-home orders and a general fear of public spaces led to a decrease in in-person shopping, and a rise in pickup and delivery services and online checkout solutions. As consumers venture back into stores, many shoppers are expecting the digital efficiency and ease they experienced on their couches in the aisles—and they’re finding themselves disappointed.

In today’s landscape, simply offering one experience in-store and one online isn’t enough. A cohesive, connected, digitally supported in-store experience is how you’ll succeed, and a POS and e-commerce integration is essential to bridging that divide. With point-of-sale, checkout-aisle transactions connected to your greater e-commerce solution—whether that’s an app, a website, or a full-fledged digital retail media network—you can provide a seamless customer experience that extends across the physical and digital realms. While connecting e-commerce and POS may be the first step in bridging the brick-and-mortar divide, it’s certainly not the last. By integrating online and offline transactions, you’ll gain one source of truth, unlocking visibility and consolidating data around inventory, promotions, rewards, and more, across all in-person locations, online stores, and every individual customer. Investing in an e-commerce friendly POS isn’t so much an “if” as a “when,” so get ahead now, or be left behind later.

3. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

While your primary association with AR and VR may be video games, they’re also powerful advertising tools with the ability to create truly immersive shopping experiences transforming the in-store experience. Retail giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook have all invested in AR and VR technology in their retail businesses, and their success speaks for itself. By bringing this technology into the storefront and delivering dynamic, interactive digital experiences in-store, in real-time, customers can simultaneously benefit from the best of brick and mortar and online shopping, engaging with products on a deeper level to boost engagement, loyalty, and sales.

AR and VR offerings can power in-store navigation, enabling customers to find the exact product they need, on the precise shelf they need, in a fraction of the time—and filling more carts, faster. “Try before you buy,” “vision picking,” and similar offerings are all AR- and VR-powered, and your employees will reap the benefits, as well. Virtual staff training was a must-have during the pandemic, but it’s also a cost-saving strategy for everyday operations. Recently, Walmart used VR to train over 150,000 employees through its leading-edge learning program. The technology has a range of applications—and what’s been explored is only the beginning. By adopting just one use-case, you can open the door to much more down the road.

4. Internet of Things (IoT)

Many experts consider IoT to be a central component in creating a more customer-centric retail environment. By boosting data visibility across retail operations, from high-level corporate data down to individual product barcodes, IoT is pioneering a range of game-changing retail innovations. Together with AI, IoT technology underlies self-checkout kiosks, queue management solutions, store layout optimization, guided shopping experiences, inventory and energy management tools, personalized messaging and product recommendations, and more.

While IoT’s overlap with AI and Machine Learning (ML) may be confusing, their interconnectedness is a good thing for your store. With so many of today’s most promising technologies intertwined, getting started is easier—and there’s no wrongplace to begin. By dipping your toes in IoT, you’ll be exposed to the capabilities of other disruptive technologies, and integrating and adding on more solutions will be easy. Sustainable solutions are more than a retail trend, they’re a mainstay. Technologies like IoT possess the ability to improve, innovate, and evolve well into the future—and that’s part of what makes them so powerful.

5. Robotics

Stocking shelves, fulfilling orders, self-driving across warehouses. Most of us have seen the Amazon robots in action—and they’re likely what we picture when we think of robots. But the truth is the technology has entered the food retail space in a range of ways, from simple in-app chatbot features to Badger Technologies' Marty—an aisle-cleaning, inventory-managing silver cylinder you may have seen in your local supermarket.

As robots transition from futuristic creations to technologies we interact with in our daily lives, consumers are becoming more comfortable with them. Shoppers at home and in-store are enjoying an enhanced, efficient, and elevated customer service experience at the hands of robotics—and retailers are realizing their potential. From decreased in-aisle labor to more accurate inventory management and more precise purchasing predictions, automating inventory management and certain customer services through robotics offers high ROI. The sooner you capitalize, the sooner you can start reaping the rewards.

If you’re looking to leverage all these technologies at once, look no further. Swiftly-powered digital retail media networks leverage the latest in leading-edge technologies—from AI to POS integrations to robotics and more—delivering retailers and their customers the shopping experience of the future, today. To learn more about how to get set up, get in touch.