The Top Four Technologies from 2017

The Top Four Technologies from 2017 2017, the NRF conference focused on e-Commerce, went down last week. MJD was there both as a participant in the renowned Tech Lab, as well as a group of digital retail geeks excited to check things out. Here’s what we found.

Tech Lab was definitely a highlight of the conference. It allowed attendees to experience “technologies of the future” via custom-designed simulations in the store, home, and office. Visitors had a chance to talk directly with startup founders about how their technologies will transfer from the lab to the showroom and full retail stack. To curate the lab, the NRF carefully selected twenty-five emerging technologies that best represent the entire purchase experience including product development, shopper consideration, customer engagement, purchase and post-purchase experience and more. MJD was selected as the sole digital innovation agency to show retailers how to build digital products and experiences that fulfill their brand promise and give them a competitive edge in the hotly contested retail space.

Following are four technologies that we could see making an impact in retail over the next couple years.


Interactive Kiosk

The majority of retailers continue to display products on shelves with only a tiny amount of valuable product information. A couple of the reasons for Amazon’s success is that you can read reviews on products and view how-to videos. That’s tough to do on a physical shelf, but a kiosk with a barcode scanner is a good solution to give customers the information they need to make a purchase. Aila adds additional optics and lighting to an off the shelf iPad, which then enables retailers to build very user-friendly scanning apps on top of iOS. A custom app with Aila’s kiosk hardware is the best possible combination for building a middle of aisle or end of aisle barcode scanning kiosk that we have yet seen.

Visa and Payscout

Interactive VR Checkout

Payscout VR Commerce allows users to buy physical products inside virtual reality experiences. It’s the first implementation of this technology that we’ve seen that starts to remove the friction of buying in the VR environment. The trick is that you set up a Visa Checkout account before going into the virtual world. This allows the application to show you product, place it in a cart, and then easily checkout. Most VR shopping apps miss badly at the checkout because there isn’t currently a good user interface inside the goggles for entering all the personal information and credit card data required to check out. From Visa:

“The process is fairly simple, but the possibilities with it are endless. With virtual reality, users can shop at a variety of merchant locations without actually visiting the stores. They can pick up products and get a feel for size, color, and dimensions while wearing a VR headset. The only thing they cannot experience is the tangible elements of the product, like the material it is made of or how much it weighs.”


SDK and Platform to add AR to retail shopping apps

Apple themselves have used their last two product unveiling events to hype Ikea’s new augmented reality application. Augment is a company that is helping bring that functionality to anyone. Augment includes an SDK and platform that allows a retailer to add augmented reality 3D objects to any application. They also offer a 3D view for web e-commerce. This is a great way for retailers to begin prototyping AR technologies.


Visual Search

Let’s say you’re walking around on a crowded city sidewalk and you spot some sneakers that you just love. Slyce allows you to use your phone’s camera to scan the shoes and tell you who makes them, what style they are, and where to buy them. This also works in print catalogs and photos.

This was a really cool tool that bridges the gap between being inspired by a product you see and actually purchasing it. Slyce is signing up retailers left and right, so look for this app to make big waves in retail.


It was a good year for technology innovation at, but it did leave us wanting something more. Most of the technology could be classified as a digital tactic, rather than a strategic plan to really disrupt retail. We’re currently working with clients to create digital products and experiences to fulfill their brand promise and tell a compelling story rather than just follow the crowd into the digital jungle. Following tech trends often leads to spending a boatload of money on technology that just doesn’t resonate with customers. The success we’ve been having with clients like American Girl, GoPro, Electrolux and The Container Store all deliver on combining digital with physical spaces to capture imaginations. Doing that leads to customers falling ever deeper in love with their favorite brands, and that is a great way for us to not only compete with threats like Amazon, but win.

If that sounds interesting to you, please get in touch. We’d love to help you change the world of retail.

Click here for more information on MJD’s Digital Retail Offering.

P.S. I got to meet Tyra Banks and she is absolutely delightful.

The “Future of Retail”: Fulfilling Prophesies? Or Promises?

The “Future of Retail”: Fulfilling Prophesies? Or Promises?

MJD recently completed a comprehensive research study on the “Future of Retail” that included focus groups, surveys, the review of 64 articles, 14 Powerpoint decks, 16 white papers, and 2 additional research studies.

There is a lot of agreement on what the future holds. According to almost everyone, it includes at least the following 8 items:

  • Omnichannel
  • “Wow Factor” Store Design & Experiences
  • Mobile Apps
  • Artificial Intelligence/Big Data
  • Mobile Payment
  • Personalization
  • Click-and-Collect
  • Geolocation
  • Augmented/Virtual Reality

It seems that the “Future” is pretty much the same for everyone. And that is a problem.

If everyone is building the same future, how is any retailer going to differentiate, disrupt and eventually win?

The answer: It is all about getting back to the brand promise. Brand promise is the soul of a brand. It’s the one thing that people think of when they hear the company name:

  • Patagonia = The Environment
  • The Container Store = Organization
  • Target = Style & Value
  • Disney = Happiness
  • American Girl = Girl Empowerment

How do you build a future around that?

Keeping Your Promise

You’re not going to win in digital retail if you’re just following trends and feature sets. Will omnichannel, experiential store design, a mobile app, or artificial intelligence work for you? They just might! The likelihood of their success, however, is greatly increased when you focus on how those features fulfill your brand promise to your customers. A great way to communicate that promise is through experiences that bridge digital and physical environments, with emphasis on warm, human interaction.

High experience brands outperform the S&P 500 by 200%1

Great retailers put customers at the center of everything they do. The best retailers set that customer up as the hero in their shared experience. If you buy an organic cotton shirt from Patagonia, you are a hero for the environment. This experience is established in their stores with signage, catalogs, and their activist floor staff. It is told digitally on their website, blog, YouTube channel, and more. In our forthcoming work for The Container Store, we are setting up their customer as the hero of organization. They will use help from the brand to enable them to tackle any organization challenge in their life. This will be accomplished through both store design and interactive digital tools. In our work with American Girl we designed and built “Create Your Own”, a digital tool that gives young girls a chance to be the hero when creating a custom, personalized doll complete with their own personality and story. Their flagship stores have been designed with space for digital customization kiosks that allow girls to create their custom doll in a collaborative environment, which adds to the fun.

Strategy, Not Buzzwords

You might notice the lack of the typical retail buzzwords in what we just advised. We’ve described an experience rather than features or tactics. That is purposeful. You need to get the strategy for the experience, and the fulfilled brand promise right – before you identify the digital tools that will help execute that strategy. American Girl’s ‘Create Your Own’ happens to rely heavily on Omnichannel, “Wow Factor” experience, mobile payments, and personalization, but those weren’t the starting point. We didn’t follow the crowd, looking for a use for those things. We imagined an experience that fulfills and deepens the customer’s love for the brand, and then we identified the technology needed to pull it off.

We also tested the heck out of it. We started with field research, going into homes to see what digital tools moms and daughters use every day. We studied how they play. We kept notes on the apps and websites they visit and what kind of design and experience they enjoyed, or hated. Every part of the user experience and interface design was tested with the people that would actually be using the product. Prototypes were created to get quantitative answers on what was working, or not. Focus groups were formed to give us the qualitative answers to how they were feeling while creating their custom doll and personality. It really can’t be emphasized enough how important testing is for a successful product. It’s the only thing, other than blind luck, that keeps you from building expensive features that just won’t get used.

Be the Hero

If you’re a retailer looking to come out of the “retail apocalypse” a hero, stop following the buzzword-laden trend reports. Concentrate on your brand promise. Communicate it to your customers through digital products and experiences that include a human touch. The technology needed to do that effectively will become clear as you test, iterate and execute your strategy.