Labor-Focused Solutions & Cryptocurrencies Among Top Retail Technology Predictions for 2022

NCR: Technology will help retailers deal with challenges and maximize opportunity next year.

ATLANTA — Technology will remain important to the retail industry in 2022, helping operators to overcome challenges and make the most of opportunities.

Retail technology solutions provider NCR Corp. identified the top retail trends that it expects to see retailers embrace as they solve the puzzle of evolving experience expectations next year:

Impacts of the Labor Crisis Will Continue

Retailers are continuing to struggle to fully staff stores, warehouses and fulfillment centers, despite raising wages and adding benefits. To fill the gap between understaffed stores and consumer demand, retailers will likely prioritize and invest in technologies powering end-to-end store management, labor automation and alternative checkout options. These solutions will enable the necessary efficiency and productivity gains by allowing for staff reallocation, streamlined tedious operations, and less stress on the job for current employees.

At the same time, these solutions will allow employees to have higher-value customer interactions that enhance the in-store experience. Additionally, shoppers can continue to choose their preferred shopping method, whether it is in-store, contactless, or buy online-pick up in store or online.

Micro-fulfillment Will Continue to Transform Stores

The increased adoption of same-day delivery and curbside pickup means that having the right technology will continue to be crucial to efficiently manage micro-fulfillment. For example, retailers may seek an e-commerce fulfillment system that can seamlessly blend in-store and online experiences, as well as integrate with existing software, while remaining consumer-friendly.

Automation is also an option for some larger operators, with companies like Walmart making use of automated bots to retrieve goods for online orders and fully driverless trucks to transport orders.

Edge Development and As-a-Service Will Prosper

Consumers expect the digital touch at every point in their brand experience, regardless of time, channel or location. Making things more complicated, consumer buying behavior is constantly changing. Whether it involves personalized loyalty notifications sent as customers enter a store or frictionless checkout, stores will need to create adaptable infrastructures that can continuously integrate and deploy new, modern capabilities and experiences.

In 2022, more brands will beef up their retail edge and as-a-service engagements to accomplish this goal, according to NCR. Companies that consolidate old computing infrastructure by virtualizing applicants will drive operational efficiency while embracing new high-data, low-latency use cases that improve the customer experience.

Edge for retail will provide virtualization, containerization and automation by integrating in-store touch points, including front-of-store as well as back-of-store devices and associated peripherals, under an intelligent retail store architecture managed from the cloud, NCR reported. Accordingly, the devices and applications running the store become significantly smaller and faster, optimizing performance and giving retailers true agility, more capabilities, technology that is resilient to internet outages, and accessible data collected on-site. Smart retailers are proactively implementing endpoint devices that support the cloud, such as tablets, in-store kiosks and display screens.

Cryptocurrencies Will Become Mainstream

Retailers and payments vendors are catering to the growing number of cryptocurrency users by adding in-store and online capabilities allowing them to make in-store purchases using digital currencies like Bitcoin.

Companies like Sheetz Inc. have begun accepting cryptocurrencies in-store and at the fuel pump, while earlier this year NCR signed a definitive agreement to acquire LibertyX, a leading cryptocurrency software provider, to give its retail customers access to buy and sell cryptocurrency, conduct cross-border remittance and accept digital currency payments across digital and physical channels.

"As an industry, it's become abundantly clear that certain aspects of COVID-19 and our shifts to accommodate its impact will remain. Consumers are now shopping brands from a variety of channels simply depending on their mood and schedule, and retailers are expected to deliver on all fronts at any time," said David Wilkinson, president and general manager at NCR Retail.

"The most important thing retailers can do in 2022 to get on the offensive is to make strategic investments in technology, from micro-fulfillment to the Edge, that is cloud-enabled and ready to connect to retail and commerce platforms," he continued. "It enables the adaptability that stores needs to be agile and respond to changing conditions fast. Because the only thing now certain in retail is that both consumers and the market are changing quickly, and we've got to be ready."