Meet 10 startups reshaping the retail industry in 2020

A sneak peek at the NRF 2020 Innovation Lab

Next week the retail world will convene in New York City for the industry’s largest gathering at NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show. The Innovation Lab at NRF 2020 features more than 50 emerging tech companies in AI, AR, machine learning, facial recognition, data analytics and robotics. Improving consumer choice and convenience are driving the tech startups featured in this year’s lab. Here’s a quick look at how they’re doing it.

Smart supply chains 

Companies making supply chains smarter and faster.

NRF Innovation Lab

This immersive exhibit, which includes over 50 visionaries from around the globe, tracks the latest developments in retail’s tech transformation. See all the companies.

  • Gather is the world’s first software-only autonomous inventory management platform for modern warehouses. Its robotics solution consists of indoor flying drones and a rich analytics and management software suite. With Gather, what used to take employees two hours can now be done in an automated eight minutes.
  • Fabric makes micro-fulfillment centers that fit individual business needs by locating automation close to end customers. Unlike any other micro-fulfillment solution, Fabric gives retailers total flexibility to build a custom solution based on their inventory and desired reach. 
  • Smarter Sorting is the first technology company to manage product attributes such as a product's full chemical components, physical state and effect on animals and the environment. Its tech can be used to scan returned or unsold items to see instructions on how to dispose or reuse those items.
  • IBM’s Food Trust uses blockchain technology to provide users with access to actionable food supply chain data, from farm to store and, ultimately, the consumer. It is assisting clients like Raw Seafoods trace every catch right from the water — all the way to supermarkets and restaurants.

Experiential bricks-and-mortar 

Startups that are creating innovative brick-and-mortar experiences.

  • Stockwell builds and operates next-generation vending machines called smart stores that are stocked and curated to meet the needs of an individual space. For example: Fitness centers can fill their Stockwells with wellness products and pre- and post-workout snacks.
  • Finger Food Advanced Technology Group develops custom technology solutions for retailers using AR/VR, blockchain, robotics, AI, machine learning and IoT systems. For example: Lowe’s partnered with Finger Food to develop an app that allows customers to map and measure their space, visualize how products would look and fit within the space, and get ideas for how to improve their home.
  • CONEX creates smart visual merchandising and life-like quality images for interactive displays. It works with brands to develop and design their point-of-sale environments. 

The evolving last mile 

Startups that are accelerating and innovating around last-mile delivery.  

  • Frayt has developed an on-demand shipping and delivery platform that connects shippers directly with drivers to get purchased goods delivered on the same day. It is especially useful for small to medium-sized businesses with slow turnaround times. 
  • Bond is an urban network of neighborhood distribution hubs (instead of the traditional faraway warehouse) that offers seamless last-mile service with enhanced customer experience. The business model emphasizes scheduled, same-day, hand-delivered drop-offs in addition to seamless returns. 
  • Delivery Solutions combines its unique technology platform with partnerships with delivery services like Deliv and DoorDash to enable nationwide third party delivery. In states where third parties aren’t available or legally allowed to deliver, Delivery Solutions allows companies such as Total Wine to execute same-day, in-house delivery.

Want to see the Innovation Lab technologies in action? Register for NRF 2020: Retail’s Big Show, January 12 – 14 in New York City.

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