Cutting-Edge Innovations That Could Transform Retail
Life + Money

Cutting-Edge Innovations That Could Transform Retail

With many retailers trying to make ends meet, it’s unlikely they’ll invest heavily any time soon in innovative new technologies that could change the way they do business.

Macy’s, J.C. Penney Co. and a slew of other retailers recently announced they’ll be closing stores across the country and laying off thousands of employees.

Related: 5 Innovations That Are Changing the Way We Shop

Retail sales for the holidays were sluggish, falling 0.9 percent in December, the biggest drop since January 2014, after a 0.4 percent gain in November that was smaller than previously estimated, according to Commerce Department figures released Wednesday. Electronics and clothing stores were hit particularly hard.

Although the job market significantly improved in 2014 and consumers are benefiting from lower gas prices, they aren’t spending their extra cash in retail.

Even so, tech innovators are releasing cool new offerings – some gimmicky for sure – that target retailers, many of which were presented this week at the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show in New York.

“Last year was all about collecting big data,” said Chen Grazutis, a retail analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, referring to products featured at the 2014 edition of the trade show. “This year, it’s all about what to do with the data.” He noted it’s unlikely retailers have the sufficient funds right now to invest in such futuristic products – even supermarkets and grocery stores, which are doing a little better than other types of retailers.

Related: Retail in 2015 — Trends and Tips

Eventually, though, you might see some of the concepts from the retail trade show in your local store. Here are some futuristic technologies that could one day revolutionize the retail industry:

Wipro, a company based in Bangalore, India, presented its automated shelf space analysis. The system uses a drone or a standing robot to patrol the store aisles at regular intervals, taking pictures of shelves and relaying them in real time to sales associates so that they can restock or take other appropriate action.

Panasonic showcased its own “smart” shelf-management offering, called Powershelf, which uses electronic shelf labels with a built-in beacon to sense by weight how much product is left and how much needs to be added. 

Intel’s digital memory mirror gives store customers a side-by-side comparison of their current outfit along with outfits previously tried on – simply by using hand gestures. Customers can also digitally change the color of an outfit and share pictures with friends on social media. It is currently being deployed at just a few select Neiman Marcus locations.  

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