How retailers are driving business forward during COVID-19

The retail experience of the future will be propelled by technology and advanced analytics to meet the rapid change in consumer expectations and needs. Back in the Fall, we hosted a NUMA Industry Panel, in which three of our RetailTech cohort companies, ZigZag Global from the UK, Gamitee from Israel, and Veda Labs from India, discussed the future of retail, with specific attention to issues of data protection online sales, and the need for a social/collaborative buying experience.

Here are a few key takeaways from the panel:

1.) The global Coronavirus crisis has created new opportunities for the industry.

While COVID-19 certainly disrupted the way that retail businesses operate, it also created a multitude of opportunities in the digital landscape. As Al, the Founder and CEO of ZigZag pointed out, the amount of online buying and returns have skyrocketed since customers are no longer able to go to physical stores. This rapid shift to e-commerce platforms has unlocked an untapped market for retail businesses. Gamitee’s social plug-in enables customers to make collaborative buying decisions with their friends, while providing important consumer insights for the e-commerce business. Who would have ever thought that we’d be able to experience a similar social shopping experience online as we used to in-store?

2.) Retailers need to think out-of-the-box to address new safety and health risks.

Veda Labs was able to pivot their video analytics AI platform to offer retailers the ability to monitor key parameters like social distancing, mask detection, fever screening, space occupancy & sanitization alerts in real time. By using such advanced analytics platforms, retailers can continue their operations while ensuring the safety of their customers.

3.) Data privacy should be top of mind for retailers in the digital-first world.

Data privacy is a complicated topic. On one hand, it improves the customer experience, but on the other hand, customers may feel their privacy is invaded. As Ella noted, it’s key that businesses learn what data they actually require from customers prior to launching any sort of technology platform. Data utilization is a hot topic, and as we transition into a digital era, retailers must be smart and transparent about which data they are capturing from customers and for what purposes.

4.) Millennials and Gen Z generations are changing the rules of the game, and putting values front and center.

Since younger buyers are more concerned about sustainability and their impact on the environment, ZigZag adapted their global returns management platform to offer paperless, label & box-free return solutions. For Gamitee, the biggest shift was into the social media space. As Ella explained, it is vital for all businesses to stay up-to-date with the latest tech because that’s the direction we are headed towards. Previous generations tend to worry about their privacy online, whereas new generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, focus on instant gratification. It’s important that retailers know who their customers are and implement the right technology to address their needs and expectations.

Special thank you to our moderator, Kirat Anand, and to our three startup leaders, Hiren, Ella, and Al, for sharing their insight on the future of the retail industry!

Numa New York is an international startup accelerator based out of New York City that helps early-stage & growth-stage startups scale into the US market. Read more here.

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