Today in Retail: Revenge Retail Pushes Shoppers Toward Travel, Luxury Goods; FedEx Adds Picture Proof Delivery

Today in retail, Amazon is working on a cheaper, smaller version of its Just Walk Out technology, and U.K. shoppers might soon be able to pay with biometrics. Plus, Ikea debuts AI-powered design tool Ikea Kreative, rising inflation makes customer loyalty even more important for brands, and U.K. retail recession woes continue.

Biometric Checkout on the Horizon for UK Shoppers

In a report last month, the Manchester Evening News ran a rather sensational headline: “Aldi, ASDA, Tesco, Lidl, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s could soon urge you NOT to use cash or card to pay.”

While the rumors turned out to be false, it does seem likely that it won’t be long before biometric payment is offered as an in-store checkout option at the U.K. supermarket chain.

There has been no official announcement from Tesco — the U.K.’s largest supermarket — that it is planning to launch biometric checkout options in its stores, but it does have some experience in the field.

Tesco Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tesco, has been using biometric authentication to speed up onboarding for users of its Clubcard Pay+ app since March through a partnership with Onfido.

Tempered by Inflation, Revenge Retail Trend Favors Experiences, Luxury Goods

With the Consumer Price Index (CPI) spiking and inflation weakening buying power, it’s a weird confluence of pent-up consumer demand for goods and experiences that were off-limits or unavailable during the worst disruptions, tempered by the inflationary pinch.

As the economy pushes against the optimistic revenge retail bursts seen in 2021, this summer is seeing more selective revenge purchases, with travel topping the list.

Reuters reported in March that “U.S. booking sites including Vrbo, Hopper and KAYAK are seeing higher demand for spring and summer leisure travel as COVID-19 restrictions ease” and consumers do not seem to mind additional costs due to rising fuel prices.” The message now is “get your revenge before it’s sold out,” as trips canceled in 2020 and 2021 are being booked now, with inventory to the most popular destinations dwindling.

Ikea Bets ‘Seeing Is Believing’ With AI-Powered Design Tool

In a bid to capture ongoing increases in both online shopping and time spent at home, the world’s largest furniture and home furnishings retailer is turning to technology to give its massive customer base the confidence and inspiration needed to custom design their own living spaces.

In launching the Ikea Kreative experiential tool this week, the Sweden-based retailer said it is looking to give customers a fast, free and easy way to digitally create attractive and functional living spaces.

The move marks the latest step in what the retailer called the biggest transformation in its history and complete renewal of its business model, which serves 650 million in-store customers and 4.3 billion online shoppers each year at nearly 400 worldwide locations and its website.

FedEx ‘Picture Proof’ Is Latest Salvo vs Friendly Fraud

FedEx announced on Wednesday (June 22) that it is launching its “Picture Proof of Delivery” for express and ground residential deliveries in the U.S. and Canada that are released without a signature.

Recipients will receive photos depicting the location of the package, and customers can access that photo proof by tracking their packages online, FedEx said in a press release. The service is available without having to create accounts or login.

The company noted in its announcement that FedEx Express and FedEx Ground now become the first nationwide carriers to provide that photographic evidence of delivery.

Retail Recession Woes Spread as UK Business Organization Reports Ongoing Downward Trend

Retail sales volumes are down about 5% for the year through June, according to survey data from the latest Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Distributive Trades Survey released Thursday (June 23) — and it looks like more bad news is coming for July.

June marks the third straight month during which volumes have stalled in the U.K., the CBI said in a press release, and retailers expect the results a month from now to show flat sales volumes through July. For the month, sales were down 19% after being flat in May, and they are expected to be well below normal in July, with a projection for a 25% sales volume drop from typical levels in the survey results.

Retailers had stock levels that were “too high” in June at 12%, up slightly from 11% in May but below the long-term average of 17%, according to the release. There’s no end in sight to the excess stock levels, with projections for July in the 12% range.

Amazon Eyes Cheaper, Smaller Version of ‘Just Walk Out’ Tech

What started as a three-man foray in 2012 to rethink the physical retail experience and eliminate standing in line has blossomed into a massive global operation today that’s at the center of Amazon’s omnichannel shopping experience.

Anchored by its trio of branded contactless retail payment solutions — Just Walk Out shopping, Amazon One palm scanning tech, and Amazon Dash Carts — the eCommerce giant’s commitment to reinvent the in-store experience is still very much in the experimental phase yet stands at the center of its plans to expand its own footprint of physical locations.

Amazon Vice President of Physical Retail and Technology Dilip Kumar said his team continues to refine and scale that experience in order to bring it to more real-life stores in a range of different formats and geographies.

Inflation Boosts Merchant Interest in Data to Keep Customers Brand Loyal

People form powerful bonds with brands, but those bonds will break without a dialed-in understanding of the new consumer expectations. In the study “Relationship Commerce: Building Long-Term Brand Engagement,” a PYMNTS and Ordergroove collaboration, we surveyed over 2,800 U.S. consumers and found that nearly eight in 10 (79%) have a combination of retail subscriptions, memberships or loyalty program relationships with an online merchant — and nearly 1 in 5 have all three.

Sustaining those connections requires constant monitoring of platform data and ongoing test-and-learn sessions for personalization and new product development that keeps these relationships fresh.

Superpowers of relationship commerce were on deck for an On the Agenda discussion as PYMNTS’ Karen Webster was joined by Greg Alvo, founder and CEO at Ordergroove, and Abhishek Ahluwalia, global eCommerce director at Mondelēz International.