The 6 Retail Innovations That Put Customers (and Sales) First

Posted on February 2, 2021 by Bud Morris

The 6 Retail Innovations That Put Customers (and Sales) First

Posted on February 2, 2021 by Bud Morris

Despite the challenges we face, the future of retail is and will continue to be the shoppers’ experience. 

Picture this, it’s one year ago, January 2020, and you’re asked to predict the future of retail. Like us all, you have no idea of the shakeup that’s to come – so how do you respond?

Well, Harry Patz, SVP & GM of Sales & Marketing for Samsung was asked just that at last year’s National Retail Federation’s Big Show. And he boldly proclaimed that the future of retail “is all about the experience.” And while looking back, we could laugh at the naivete of such a simple response, he wasn’t wrong in his assessment.

Despite the very real and present challenges the retail, grocery, restaurant, and hospitality industries face, retail’s future was and will continue to be the shoppers’ experience.

The real questions are:

  • What does the shoppers’ experience actually look like in your business?
  • Is your business where it could, and should be?
  • How are you choosing to respond to ensure that customers aren’t saddled with delays, mistakes, and frustrations from poor operational decisions, lack of process, and the general lowering of customer service standards industry-wide?
  • Is your team using the current climate as cover to hide core business challenges or are they using this time to get the business to where it needs to be to win in the next phase of retail – the new norm that will be established during the long road to recovery?

These are real business challenges. And while it may not appear to be the time to focus on new projects or investments, now is actually the time to get inspired, to plan, and to take action.

So with that said, here are 6 retail innovations that you may want to consider rolling into your 2021 plans.


What is it?

Heyday is an AI-driven SAAS that combines offline and online shopping experiences through virtual shopping, FAQ automation, live or AI chat options, and more.

Heyday’s advanced tech helps customer support and sales teams bring the type of in-store conversations that used to happen online.

A few of the key features:

  • Product catalogue integration – Make expert product recommendations directly inside the chat.
  • Virtual consultations – Win the customer service game by offering personal video consultations.
  • Chat bot-to-human handoff – Bring your all-star sales associates in the loop to help offer 1-1 guidance, answer complex product questions, and get the sale.
  • Virtual shopping – Bring your in-store experience online with powerful virtual shopping features like AI-powered product recommendations, live chat, and video shopping.


What is it?

Last year we all learned how critical “the last mile” really is.  How do you get your products and goods from your retail location to your shoppers?

We saw the rise of buy online pickup in-store, also called curbside pickup and we’ve watched the explosive growth for traditional eCommerce and online shopping…

But what about brick and mortar retailers who are struggling to get their goods to their shoppers?

This is where thinking outside the box and forming strategic partnerships could unlock immediate solutions for your business.

Dig a bit deeper:

Here are two recent examples of retailers testing 3rd party delivery services, not normally intended for their industry, to get the goods customers want to buy delivered to their home on demand.


What is it?

Companies like Denmatic help retailers and companies build out micro-fulfillment centres in the back of an existing retail location, an industrial space, or even a dark store operation.

They focus on three core pillars when building out an automated fulfillment process:

  • Micro-fulfillment solutions are configured to allow retailers to respond to new demands quickly by shifting between online and in-store fulfillment.
  • Automated guided vehicles (AGV) improve speed and accuracy with automated product movement from storage to shipping.
  • Warehouse management software connects your fulfillment, operations, maintenance, and analytics into one system.

A few of the key features:

If you’re interested in learning more about micro-fulfillment & small scale automation, check out these two resources:


What is it?

The idea is pretty simple: for services that typically require a scheduled appointment, dropping something off and picking it up later (think automotive repairs, clothing alterations, on-demand services like key-cutting, painting, or anything really…), making changes to your processes to combine contactless shopping with a while your wait services gives shoppers the services they need, on-demand, in a safe environment.

Dig a bit deeper:

  • Halfords is a UK bicycle and car parts retailer that has really embraced this approach.

They offer two alternatives to the old way of scheduling service:

  • Drive-in, fit, and repair service – they work under the described contactless “drive-in, fit and repair” policy for vehicle servicing.  Customers can simply park and request the service they need.
  • They’ll send Mobile Experts to your location – a team of Halfords Mobile Expert vans bring safe, contactless services to customers at home or work.


What is it?

We just talked about contactless shopping, but what about touchless living?

With the recent changes to our working and living environments, social distancing, and cleaning procedures, the tech world is racing to put out touchless sensors, buttons, and the like. One firm, STUCK Labs recently released a demo showing how their touchless elevator buttons work.

While it’s pretty cool, at this stage it is still theoretical because of the infrastructure requirements that would go into a full-scale rollout.

But still, the idea is pretty innovative. And with the need to ensure that high-touch surfaces are as safe and clean as possible, the move to touchless is definitely something that will make its way into our retail environments in the future.


What is it?

Touchless buttons may be the future, but for now our retail spaces are filled with high-touch surfaces that we have to keep sanitized and ensure that customers know that we’re keeping everything sanitized.

After all, customers can’t see “clean”.  They can only sense and feel it when they walk into your space. And high-traffic businesses are seeing waves of customers make snap decisions if they will enter your location, if they will stay to shop, and if they will come back to shop again – all based on how safe they feel while in your space.

The difference between keeping a customer and losing them forever may just come down to how they feel about your brand, your space, and your safety procedures.

So this is where antibacterial and antiviral films like viRepel AC play a considerable role in your customer experience, cleaning procedures, and protected retail approach.

Because only self-sanitizing surface adhesives, those semi-transparent films that you can apply to almost any high-touch surface, shows every customer that you’re keeping your location clean and your environment safe.

Dig a bit deeper:

  • “viRepel AC starts to compromise the Coronavirus on contact. After one hour, there is a 90% reduction in infectious virus. After 6 hours, the virus is 99.9999% destroyed.” Richard Gibson, Director of Operations, ImPaKT Facility, Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
  • Learn more about viRepel AC and why its non-toxic, chemical-free, self-sanitizing benefits are must-haves for your locations.


As retail environment design-builders, we’re always looking for innovative new approaches, plans, and builds – provided they’re based on smart business decisions.

Often, people come to us so focused on “sticking to their lane” that they don’t take a moment to assess what others are doing. So as always, we recommend taking a moment to see what’s possible, get inspired, and then get to work.

If you’d like to talk about what’s next for your team in 2021, give our team a shout, and we’ll help you make it happen.