Retail Tech Thursday: Latest Retail Technology News, Innovations and Trends

Retail Tech Thursday is our weekly check-in here at Spreckley, where we share all the most interesting and useful retail and retail technology news, innovations and trends.

This week, we look at the latest developments in contactless technologies, the COVID-related critics of Amazon Prime Day, a new ‘indie-friendly’ online bookshop set to open in the UK next month and The Treasury’s latest plans to expand cashback to millions more stores across the UK soon.

Contactless payments and the BOPIS trend

Contactless payment technology has really come into its own throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumers and retailers have shied away from using old-fashioned cash, for coronavirus-related health and safety reasons.

And with the busy holiday season fast approaching, actively promoting the use of contactless tech in stores is a means for retailers to appeal to those shoppers who are hesitant of hitting the high street to do their Christmas shopping.

“Contactless for sure continues to be something that [retailers] look at as a way of reassuring consumers that they’re safe to do business with, but it also helps them spread their capacity out so that they don’t have to run as many consumers through stores in order to hit their holiday goals,” Nikki Baird, VP of retail innovation at Aptos told Sourcing Journal this week.

Talking about the growing ‘BOPIS’ trend (buy online, pick up in store), Baird adds: “Retailers that are more sophisticated around BOPIS are thinking about how to insert something into that curbside process, even if the idea is bringing another item out to the curb and saying ‘You might like this too. Do you want to add this to your order? Because I can do it right here.’ Retailers are thinking about that kind of conversation so they can recapture some of what they’re losing by not having the consumer come in the store.”

Amazon Prime Day comes under fire in the UK

Amazon Prime Day was yet again the big retail news in the mainstream press this week, although the online giant has come under fire for apparent ‘COVID failings’ according to this BBC Business News report.

The GMB union “has warned Amazon’s Prime Day sale could be a “hive of infection” after eight people tested positive for Covid-19 at a warehouse in Coventry,” according to the BBC.

Senior GMB organiser Amanda Gearing said: “If Amazon doesn’t want to be responsible for the further spread of this deadly virus, it needs to stop flooding facilities with agency workers to maximise profits, enforce social distancing and send anyone home on full pay who may be infected until either the 14 days is over or they test negative.”

Amazon claimed the GMB was scaremongering, yet elsewhere UK campaign group Ethical Consumer has also criticised the online retail giant for its poor track record on environmental issues such as climate change and conflict minerals, as well as workers’ rights in its supply chains.

“At a time when we need to respond to the Covid and the climate crisis we are asking all consumers to use their spending power to ‘build back better’ by supporting businesses that have an environmental or social focus,” said Tim Hunt, director at Ethical Consumer.

New Indie Online Bookshop set to open in November

A new “Indie-friendly” online bookshop is set to open in the UK next month, which is great news for bibliophiles, with retail site Bookshop.org announcing its UK board this month, according to the latest news over on The Bookseller.

Bookshop.org is positioned as “a retail site billed as a way for indies to counter Amazon’s online dominance” and the new board of directors want the organisation to “stay true to its core values of providing consumers with a socially conscious way to shop, while promoting diversity within bestseller lists by offering book discoverability from beyond an algorithm”.

Indie book stores will be able to create their own online shop profile for the site, and share their own recommended book lists and more, with stores earning 30% of the cover price on any sale that comes through Bookshop.org.

“Bookshop.org will also run an affiliate scheme, similar to Amazon’s,” The Bookseller reports. “Currently, the US retail giant pays media sites and other platforms for linking through to its website in their books coverage. Bookshop.org will also pay its affiliates 10%. An additional 10% from regular sales also goes into a payment pool distributed every six months to independent bookshops that have opted in, regardless of whether they use Bookshop.org as a selling platform.”

Cashback Everywhere?

Finally, cash is not over yet it would seem, despite the huge boost in contactless payments noted above, as Sky News reports that “shops could be the cash machines of the future”, as The Treasury consults on an expansion in cashback for bricks ‘n’ mortar stores.

“The plan builds on a budget pledge by the chancellor to protect the cash system, as ATM numbers and bank branches continue to decline rapidly in the face of the challenge posed by digital payments and contactless cards,” Sky News reports.

“The Treasury’s main proposal – the subject of a six-week consultation – is that retailers’ tills effectively become cash machines, and customers would be under no obligation to buy anything at the same time.”

UK shoppers received an amazing £3.8bn in cashback last year, mainly from supermarket tills, although while consumers might be happy at the prospect of getting “cashback anywhere” the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warned that: “The government and regulators should ensure that, where cashback services are provided by retailers, there are appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that merchants are compensated fairly.

“Furthermore, government plans to allow cashback at all shops would pose challenges for retailers who would often have to hold significantly more cash than normal – putting them at an increased crime risk.”