From robotic shop assistants to AR, these 10 pieces of tech could change shopping forever

Marty the robot hangs out in Giant Food Stores.

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Marty the robot hangs out in Giant Food Stores.
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David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • Technology is changing every aspect of our lives, including the way we shop.
  • From facial recognition to warehouse automation, here are 10 of the biggest tech developments that could make shopping faster, easier, and more personalized.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Technology is revolutionizing how we shop, both in stores and online. And, retailers are seizing the chance to create even better shopping experiences to attract customers.

The time needed to fulfill an order has become shorter than ever, thanks to an increasing number of robots in stores and warehouses. Contactless payments and scan-and-go technology have made it possible to shop with nothing more than a mobile phone. Big data knows you better than you think, and it can recommend products curated to your personal likes and needs.

At the same time, augmented reality and buy-online-pick-up-in-store services have melded physical and online shopping, leading retail into a truly multichannel era.

Here’s a closer look at 10 of the biggest tech advancements that could change shopping forever:


Augmented reality

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A virtual reality window at Bloomingdale’s in New York.
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Susan Watts/NY Daily News via Getty Images

From Sephora’s virtual makeover app to L’Oréal’s try-on tool, the cosmetics industry has been taking advantage of AR for a while. But now, shoppers can test out even more things virtually, like glasses from Warby Parker, furniture pieces from IKEA, and even cars from Toyota.


Big data

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A shopping recommendation on Amazon.
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Screenshot/Amazon

By gathering information from shopping websites and social media and using AI and deep learning to analyze it, retailers can now know their customers better than ever. Retailers like Amazon and Target have become able to make surprisingly accurate guesses about what their shoppers might like and need. For example, Target once knew a customer was pregnant before her dad did.


Warehouse automation

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An Amazon fulfillment center in Orlando, Florida.
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Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Amazon spent $775 million on acquiring Kiva Systems in 2012, rebranding it as Amazon Robotics and deploying scores of robots in the e-commerce giant’s fulfillment centers. More retailers are now trying out warehouse automation – for example, Walmart has Alphabot fulfilling its online grocery orders, and Gap uses Kindred robots to pack and ship jeans. Autonomous warehouses have significantly reduced order processing times, and Amazon’s one-day delivery is a proof.


Robotic shop assistants

Marty the robot hangs out in Giant Food Stores.

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Marty the robot on duty at a Stop & Shop.
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David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Not only do warehouses need robots – stores need them, too. Robots like Giant Food’s store monitor Marty, Walmart’s shelf-stocking smart assistants, and Lowe’s item-tracking LoweBots help increase efficiency in stores and free up human workers to work more closely with shoppers.


Voice assistants

Voice assistants are another type of robot that are helping to make shopping faster and easier. Amazon has been boasting about an increase in Alexa usage for shopping, and a 2019 commerce survey by Amazon Pay revealed that 20% of US customers are likely to make purchases using voice in the next three years. With voice assistants, shoppers can buy things without even using their hands, and speaking is much faster than typing.


Scan-and-go technology

Technology has made checkout quicker than ever. Waiting in line for a cashier is becoming a thing of the past, as shoppers can scan and pay for items themselves at retailers like Sam’s Club and Kroger, or even just walk straight out of Amazon Go, where the system will track your purchases and charge you automatically. Startups have also been designing smart shopping carts that can identify the items inside and process payments, further revolutionizing the traditional checkout process.


Digital identity

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Ralph Lauren

The UK-based “internet of things” startup Evrything has collaborated with brands like Ralph Lauren, Puma, and Rebecca Minkoff to put unique digital QR codes onto individual items. Besides helping retailers keep track of their products in the supply chain, the technology also brings digital, interactive experiences into stores, letting customers browse information about the product on their phones after scanning the code and making it easier for shoppers to ensure authenticity. New-York based EON also creates and manages digital identities for retailers. The company lists H&M and Target as members on its website.


Buy-online-pick-up-in-store

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A Ralph’s grocery store employee brings out a curbside pickup order in Los Angeles, California.
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Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

According to data cited by Business Insider Intelligence, 68% of US consumers have used buy-online-pickup-in-store services, also known as BOPIS. A host of retailers have been providing – and constantly improving – the service. For example, Target and Walmart have expanded their curbside pickup services, and Stein Mart introduced “smart buttons” for BOPIS customers.


Facial recognition

Besides helping to make virtual try-on possible, facial recognition has also been used to create more personalized shopping experiences. Fast-food chains like CaliBurger and loyalty businesses like Antavo have made kiosks that can pull out previous orders made by the customer and offer personalized recommendations and exclusive discounts. Robots like Pepper, which has been rolled out at a number of retail locations, are also using information gathered by facial recognition to better interact with shoppers.


Contactless payment

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Artur Debat/Getty Images

With options like Apple Pay, Andriod Pay, Chase Pay, and Walmart, contactless payments are on the rise. According to Business Insider Intelligence, the technology enjoys wide popularity among Gen Z, which could spur further adoption in the future.