All the news that’s fit to print from the front lines of retail technology.

If you think we’re not going to mention Amazon’s newly unveiled Auto Popcorn Replenishment technology this week, then you’ve got a lot to learn. Get ready for the most interesting stories we’ve seen.

Stripe Right

Online payments powerhouse Stripe is making the move into bricks and mortar. Their newest product Stripe Terminal is intended to turn offline commerce into the highly personalized experience we’ve come to expect from online Relationship Commerce pros.

Recode explains, “[Stripe’s] new product will make it easy for stores to customize what shoppers see on the checkout screen, whether that’s a special discount offer or other messaging. Merchants will also be able to manage — and send updates to — all of their checkout equipment from one online account.”

For now, Stripe’s targeting e-commerce merchants that are moving into traditional retail experiences — both Warby Parker and Glossier will use Stripe Terminal. It’s likely only a matter of time, however, that Stripe begins competing with Square to see who can provide a more seamless, and customer-centric, point-of-sale experience.


Can Vend Trend Extend Backend?

Alright, technically they’re “automated grocery kiosks” and not vending machines, but you get the idea. Walmart is testing a variation on traditional BOPIS models at a supercenter in Sherman, Texas, allowing customers to order groceries online and then pick them up from a kiosk attached to the store.

The concept is somewhere between an old-fashioned automat and Amazon Locker. A Walmart spokesperson explained, “Not only do customers not have to wait for an associate to bring them their order, but they also never need to set foot inside the store. The whole process can take less than a minute and we’ll be adding more pickup times soon to allow customers to pickup their orders anytime … day or night.”

If successful, the automated grocery kiosk concept could help Walmart better leverage its already enormous retail footprint, with more than 5,300 locations throughout the U.S.

If successful, the automated grocery kiosk concept could help Walmart better leverage its already enormous retail footprint, with more than 5,300 locations throughout the U.S.

[Business Insider]

AR You Experienced?

On Monday, Shopify announced they have added support for Apple’s new ARKit 2, which went live with the rollout of iOS 12 earlier this week. That means that the more than 600,000 merchants that currently use Shopify can enter the moderately exciting world of Augmented Reality without much trouble at all — simply uploading 3D models of products.

“Getting someone to download an app [with AR capabilities], and then use that as their main shopping app offers major friction for the user,” one of Shopify’s early adopters explained. “But having it just baked into the browser—Safari, which is already taking an increasing share of our traffic—I think it’s just going explode.”

While AR has been touted as the next big thing in ecommerce for a few years, just try to make sense of the sofa from Ikea that’s inexplicably floating in the middle of your living room and you’ll quickly realize the technology isn’t quite there yet. Apple’s new ARKit promises improvements on that technology — we’re going to remain cautiously optimistic about it’s real world applications for now.

[Shopify Blog]

Restored To Its Former Glory

The New York Times takes a look at Restoration Hardware’s wild return from the retail graveyard (frankly we always blamed those Encyclopedia Brittanica-sized mail-order catalogues).

After a successful IPO in 2012, which saw its stock prices jump 30% after listing, the company hit hard times two years ago, with revenues plummeting. Share prices were down 69% from its 52-week high. But remarkably, the company pulled itself out of the tailspin. How did they do it?

“But then a few things happened: the company consolidated its back-end operations and introduced a membership model, like Amazon Prime or Costco: $100 a year for 25 percent off all sales,” the Times explains. “Those customers, 405,000 to date, are now driving 95 percent of revenue.”

[New York Times]

Popping Fresh

We promised you the latest in popcorn replenishment technology, and we’re going to deliver. On Thursday, Amazon unveiled a cavalcade of new Alexa-enabled hardware.

There are updates on Echo smart speakers, as well as lots of new products: a voice-controlled wall clock, Fire TV DVR, an in-car Echo box, and, yes, an AmazonBasics Microwave that allows users to reorder products via the Dash Replenishment Service. Including popcorn.

The $60 microwave is part of an army of voice-enabled hardware that Amazon wants to deploy in your home, so you’re never an “Alexa, reorder…” away from making your next purchase from the ecommerce golem.