Retail tech
Retail tech is on the march. Photo – Canva.
  • Funding is flowing to so-called ‘omnichannel’ retail tech priorities
  • Personalising search results, virtual try-ons and livestream commerce
  • The rise of the 'dark store' is another trend, delivering in 10 to 30 minutes

The final line in an article earlier today on the Australian retail sector read:

“Online sales made up 9.4% of total retail sales in March 2021, whereas it was 7.1% at the start of the pandemic in March last year.”

This may not seem like a large amount, but with lockdowns forcing people to the web, many have stayed online, seeking ease of access and choice.

True, many die-hard shoppers rushed back out as soon as shops re-opened, but levels are down as compared to pre-pandemic.

Might this be the ‘new normal’, to use an overused phrase?

One answer to this may come in observing the investments into ‘retail tech’ – any technology and tech company that is looking to disrupt, improve and change the way retail is done.

State of Retail Tech

According to CB Insights State of Retail Tech report, which looks at global retail technology trends, funding to retail tech has seen ‘strong momentum’.

As shoppers return to stores and reopen their wallets, investment is flowing to so-called ‘omnichannel’ retail priorities. Whether the consumer is on a mobile, desktop, phone or in-store, the shopping experience is ‘seamless’.

Retailers are looking to digitise their stores, create more engaging online experiences, and speed up order fulfillment.

Sustainability will also be top of mind following a year when more cardboard boxes than ever were delivered, containing copious amounts of plastic bubble wrap.

‘Environmental resilience’ is fast becoming an important element of online retailers’ offerings. Tech to make operations more efficient and sustainable will also be a focus.

Report Highlights

  • Funding to retail tech companies jumped to $28.9B, a 60% increase from the previous quarter
  • Online marketplaces and delivery drove the largest funding rounds and acquisitions
  • There were 73 funding rounds (more than US$100M), up from just 33 the quarter before
  • Funding to online grocery platforms continued to accelerate, especially to Amazon third-party brand builders
  • In-store tech funding doubled from the previous quarter to $2.2B, and nearly quadrupled compared to 2020
  • Retailers and brands will invest in ‘more personalized e-commerce experiences’
  • Funding to e-commerce tech jumped by 73% from the prior quarter to $11.7B
  • Personalising search results, virtual try-ons and livestream commerce are popular trends
  • The ‘dark convenience store’ model will propel ultra-fast essentials delivery. Dark stores – which promise anywhere from 10- to 30-minute delivery windows and have no physical stores for the public – attracted more deals in the last quarter than all of 2020.
  • Overall, food and beverage delivery tech financing was up nearly 120%, hitting $8.6B.

There are some insights here for retailers and brands needing to thrive in a post-pandemic world. These trends will filter their way down to an online shop near you.


Source: CB Insights State of Retail Tech report, Q1 2021.

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