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White male holding up a bar code hand held scanner.Retail, or the buying and trading of goods is a practice as old as humanity itself. What started as a simple barter system, has evolved into an instantaneous global marketplace.

Let's take a look at some of the greatest innovations of the past century that have changed the way we experience retail today.


The barcode was patented in 1952 and promised to completely revolutionize the way retailers managed and tracked their inventory.

The first use of a barcode in retail was the scanning of a pack of Wrigley's juicy-fruit gum in June of 1974.

However, it took over 20 years for the barcode to be widely adopted. Fast forward 46 years and virtually all retailers depend on this technology to effectively manage their inventory and operate their business efficiently

Online Marketplaces / Online Shopping

Online shopping brought with it a whole new dimension of possibilities for retailers and consumers. Small town retailers could now sell their products to anyone on the face of the planet with an internet connection. Consumers were now able to make purchases without ever having to leave the comfort of their house.

According to The US Department of Commerce, Consumers spent $601.75 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2019, up 14.9% from $523.64 billion the prior year.

Self Service Checkout

Dr. Howard Schneider invented the concept of self service checkout in 1992 for Price Chopper in Clifton Springs, NY.

Self checkout lines proved to significantly reduce the amount of labor needed at the checkout lanes and improve customer satisfaction. You can now find self-service checkout locations at almost every major retailer.

Some retailers have attempted to take self-checkout a step further with mobile checkout. Mobile checkout allows the customer to scan items with their mobile phone as they add them to their cart, paying automatically via credit card.

Smart Lockers

Similar to barcodes, online shopping, and self-service checkout, smart lockers have been around for some time, but we are just now starting to see this technology explode on a global scale.

The customer benefits from smart lockers because they allow for secure and convenient order pickup. The customer simply places an order online and picks it up when it is most convenient for them.

Retailers benefit greatly because smart lockers keep foot traffic coming in their stores that they would otherwise lose with online orders. Employees can spend less time managing the customer service desk and focus on more important activities.

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