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How retailers will meet challenges with technology in 2024

Happy New Year 2024
2024 will see retailers rely on technology innovation.

Retail has experienced an uneven recovery, with some segments and markets finding new opportunities and others floundering in the post-shutdown environment. 

Inflation, cost of goods, and other economic headwinds continue to make retail challenging. Supply chain issues endure, compelling some retailers to rethink order fulfillment and logistics. 

In order to meet those stubborn challenges head on in 2024, retailers will increasingly invest in innovative solutions that will help them do more with what they have, including optimizing inventory management, beefing up security, and improving customer experiences.

Using smart solutions to counteract shrinkage

Shrinkage can be as innocuous as someone forgetting to scan an item at the bottom of the cart during self-checkout, or it can be something more nefarious—a coordinated effort by organized crime to systematically steal and resell inventory through other platforms. It can be a problem at the distribution center, where pallets are not being loaded or stacked properly. If a pallet of 100 T-shirts arrives at the brick-and-mortar retailer’s location with only 96 T-shirts on the pallet, the retailer won’t have the time nor the resources to count every shirt on every pallet. The cost of those lost shirts is a prime example of shrinkage. 

Due to the unpredictability of the supply chain and rising costs, retailers are less tolerant to shrinkage today than they were a few years ago. Protecting that inventory, then, is a top priority. This upcoming year, more retailers will invest in asset tracking solutions that will aid them in mitigating shrinkage. Many retailers already have some level of asset tracking in place, of course, but most can only track on the pallet level, which is not precise enough to counteract shrinkage, especially given the volume of orders in an omnichannel environment. 

Retailers will increasingly prioritize asset tracking on the individual item level. Combining computer vision with postage-stamp-sized IoT devices that charge with radio waves and can be read via Bluetooth, for example, can facilitate that level of granularity. These devices can be used not only to accurately track individual items but also monitor the condition of the item as well as environmental factors that could impact the condition of the item. Computer vision can also be implemented at the bottom of shopping carts to prevent accidental (or intentional) theft at self-checkout stations. 

Improving the customer experience through ultra personalization 

Though consumer spending has been rebounding this holiday season, it’s been fickle this past year, owing to some of those aforementioned economic challenges. As such, enhancing the customer experience will be a big part of retail strategy in 2024. One major way to rise above the noise is to focus on ultra personalization. 

More retailers will invest in technology that allows them to deliver tailored messages to customers in real time. Bluetooth beacons, for example, enable retailers to send location-based notifications, which can be seasonal discounts, loyalty offers or other promotions. This can be as broad as walking by a storefront or as specific as walking by a specific item. Retailers can even combine Bluetooth beacons with loyalty programs and AI-powered smart solutions to deliver personalized messaging based on customer profiles and shopping preferences.

Opportunities to personalize experiences and tailor messages depend on the quality of consumer data. “Cookie apocalypse,” the sensational term for the throttling of third-party data via legislation like General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act has increased the importance of first-person data. Some CPGs have jumped on the Direct-to-Consumer movement as a way to capture more first-person data that can deliver actionable consumer insights. A retailer’s ability to capture and monetize that first-person data will be even more crucial next year. 

The importance of real-time in 2024 

High-quality data will certainly be key to retailers’ efforts in 2024, but they’ll want to apply insights driven by that data in real time. Being able to track individual items is important, but the closer to a real time view of that inventory a retailer can achieve, the more they’ll be able to control their order fulfillment and supply chain operations, which ultimately leads to a better customer experience. It used to be that you had to either do it well or do it fast. In 2024, retailers will use smart solutions to do both.

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