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Consumer Electronics Show Highlights New Retail Possibilities

At the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show® (CES), the ways technology will impact the future of retail were on full display. Featuring presentations from global retail brands, tech entrepreneurs and industry analysts, CES 2021 was a look into the future of retail. Discover four key takeaways from the show to guide your business through 2021 and the years ahead.

  1. Walmart wants to forecast product demand.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was one of CES’s keynote speakers. He provided a glimpse into how the world’s largest retailer is using new retail technology to streamline operations.

Specifically, McMillon spoke on how new artificial intelligence capabilities will allow the company to forecast demand from customers and ready its supply chain in response.

“One of the more interesting things to think about … is not any single technology that’s changing the world, but how they all come together,” McMillon says. “We’ve got to get better at forecasting demand, so artificial intelligence and the way we use data is really important. We have to get better at saving customers time, and we’ve got to be able to personalize to do that.”

  1. Robotic technology is bringing new advantages.

McMillon says he recently toured a distribution facility which used robotics in its fulfillment chain. He says robotic technology represents new possibilities for retailers across industries.

“We’ve got automation that’s happened in our stores, in our distribution centers and more in front of us in the future,” he says. “I … was looking at the next generation of automation and it’s really exciting to see what’s happening. I think it will help us improve in-stock levels and inventory turns.”

  1. Contactless commerce is here to stay.

In another presentation at CES, industry analysts and retail leaders spoke about the future of contactless commerce. After COVID-19 prompted many retailers to reconsider how they could safely continue transactions, contactless commerce became a dominant retail trend that is unlikely to disappear.

3 out of 4 payments on Visa’s network are contactless, reports Mary Kay Bowman, global head of buyer and seller solutions at Visa. She says contactless payments are “at the forefront” of her team’s current objectives.

Bowman says nearly 80 percent of Visa’s customers say they have changed how they shop as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of Visa customers were willing to switch to a new store based on whether that store offered contactless payment options.

  1. Stable supply chains are more important than ever.

Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, shared new insights into how companies can cater to shoppers with new expectations cemented during the pandemic.

One of her key takeaways was that resilient supply chains will be vital assets moving forward. Her research indicates COVID-19 exposed weaknesses in many companies’ supply chains, leading retailers and suppliers to invest in improvements. The global supply chain management software market is expected to see a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 8 percent from 2020-2025, proving many retailers are investing now in future supply chain stability.

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