Like most other sectors of technology, systems designed to make our food supply chain as safe as possible continue to advance rapidly. Government regulation certainly has played a role in innovation for the space, but economics and customer engagement really lead the way.
The area of recalls is specifically receiving attention from vendors, and both brands and retailers are demanding fast and accurate technologies to meet customer expectations and government requirements. While all trading partners understand major recalls are inevitable, the belief is that new technology will help reduce their severity.
We have lived through and learned from these situations, and are now working to ensure even more efficient recalls in the future. Here are five recall technology trends to watch during the next few years:
Cloud computing – On-premise computing still has a significant role to play in retail technology, especially with sensitive customer data, but retailers and their brand partners are moving elements of their systems to the cloud for added flexibility and collaboration, reduced cost, document control and easy disaster recovery. These last two prove extremely useful for the optimization of a recall, ensuring that the right information is shared with the right stakeholders about the right products in a timely fashion.
AI & Machine Learning – Retailers and brands are already gaining tremendous increases in accuracy in shopper data, as computers rapidly become better trained on how different profiles are best marketed to. Accurate shopper data allows retailers to understand exactly the type of shoppers who are engaging with its brand, and those insights allow for more tailored decisions on everything from assortment and store design to customer loyalty programs and, yes, product recalls. Artificial intelligence boosts this process by a factor of ten or more.
Smart Homes – While a growing percentage of household items can already connect to the internet and provide data, much of the smart home technology currently isn’t that smart. But it will be, as technology rapidly moves toward a point where it can use the data and connectivity to act on the user’s behalf. The advent of smart speakers like Amazon Echo is leading to alerts linked to orders that will tell shoppers when they’ve purchased something that has been recalled.
Blockchain – Blockchain is more typically discussed in financial services circles, but there are important business use cases in retail. At its basic elements, blockchain is about record keeping and that is critical to many parts of the retail operation. With benefits like reduced fraud and improved security, it will certainly enhance the recall process from start to finish.
Robots – This one is a bit further out, but the foundations for robot automation are being built now. This technology will impact the retailer and brand well before the consumer as factories, distribution centers and stores deploy systems that both stock and, critically for recalls, remove products from storage and display units.
There was a time when recalls were basically manual transactions in which a manufacturer or supplier called or faxed retailers with instructions on what products to remove from the shelf and how to get them back to be credited. Thankfully, those days are gone. A new era of technology is coming that will connect the producer to the consumer via the retailer in order to limit the need for recalls in the first place and quickly address them when required.