Advancing the Future of Retail Operations with Cutting-Edge Technologies

Submission opens September 15th 2024 

Submit your paper here!


The ever-evolving retail landscape is undergoing a revolutionary shift propelled by rapid technological advancements (a.k.a. Industry 4.0) (Morenza-Cinos et al., 2019; Ta et al., 2023). For instance, information technology is being infused with artificial intelligence to dramatically accelerate the pace at which companies access and analyze data in real time to dynamically balance their inventory and logistics networks (Sodero et al. 2019). Omni-channel retail has become the new normal, but traditional retail is still here to stay (Melacini et al., 2018). New fulfillment models, such as reserve/buy online pick up/return in store, webrooming, and buy in store ship to home have emerged to seamlessly serve customers across channels (Jin et al., 2023). New delivery modes are also in the horizon, such as drone or autonomous delivery (Merkert et al., 2022). Transformative technologies have shared significant changes across crucial supply chain management domains beyond delivery such as forecasting, inventory planning, in-store operations, and reverse logistics. For instance, retail firms have harnessed advanced models powered by Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve demand forecasting accuracy (Modgil et al., 2021; Chou et al., 2023). Furthermore, they leverage Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and Augmented Reality (AR) for enhanced tracking and authenticity verification, real-time data accessibility, real-time product visualization for customers, and the automation of return processing (Hartley et al., 2021). While many opportunities for enhanced operational efficiency are on the horizon, important challenges have been experienced by retailers in this pursuit (Angelopoulos et al., 2023).  

In this scenario, the synergy between technology and operations has become paramount for success. This special issue aims to unravel the intricate dance of retail operations and cutting-edge technological innovations, exploring how the marriage of these elements can redefine the customer experience and ultimately, reshape the industry.  

List of Topic Areas

The application of cutting-edge technologies in retail operations can have many fruitful avenues of academic inquiry. We envision this special issue to encompass a wide array of perspectives, including consumers, retailers, brands, competitors, platforms, markets, and policy makers. Further, as the past tends to inform the future, studies may also address retail management evolution and potentially conceptualizing novel theoretical frameworks. In line with IJPDLM guidelines, studies must be theoretically grounded, empirical and conceptual, and employ rigorous quantitative or qualitative methodologies.  

Considering the nature of the call with focus on emerging technologies, case studies or conceptual papers that offer a novel focus or theory are also welcome. We particularly encourage research endeavors delving into the constraints of current theories and/or presenting innovative theories to comprehensively address the intricacies of Industry 4.0 within the realm of retail management. Additionally, studies employing pioneering methodological approaches like mixed methods or action research are highly valued and encouraged to capture the complexity of this domain. Also important, studies must clearly present take-aways that showcase opportunities or actionable insights to managers and decision-makers involved in strategic, operational, and managerial aspects of implementing those technologies in retail operations.  

Our emphasis is on full-research articles meeting at least two of the following criteria: 

  • Present qualitative evidence or empirical data-driven insights into the applications of emerging technologies in retail operations.  
  • Develop new models or theories that will change retail management practices or contribute to new knowledge to the field.  
  • Offer managerial and practical insights into decisions around cutting-edge technology application in retail operation management.  

Submissions for this call should transcend mere general descriptions of retail technology applications or broad speculative inquiries of technology adoption. Similarly, research focused on mathematical modeling, simulation, or multi-criteria decision-making frameworks lies beyond the intended scope of this issue. 

Potential themes include, but are not limited to: 
Next-Gen Retail Supply Chain: The landscape of retail operations is undergoing a paradigm shift with the integration of revolutionary technologies. Advanced solutions such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are reshaping traditional supply chain models, enabling retailers to achieve unprecedented levels of agility and resilience. Likewise, in-store operations are being transformed through the infusion of IoT and AI technologies. Smart sensors, beacons, and connected devices are facilitating real-time monitoring and analysis, leading to more efficient and data-driven decision-making within the retail environment. Another technology trend that is transforming the retail experience are immersive technologies, such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). AR is being used for virtual try-ons, while VR creates virtual shopping environments, both enhancing customer engagement and satisfaction. Given the newness of these technologies, research has been limited. Most research so far is conceptual or qualitative in nature and proposes a general decision framework to incorporate the technology in supply chain management (e.g., Michela et al., 2023; Modgil et al., 2022) or to explore technology adoption decision (e.g., Hartley et al., 2022). Other technologies and critical inquiries in this realm have yet to be addressed.  

Exemplary questions can be explored in this area are:   

  • How retail companies select and implement cutting-edge technologies, such as blockchain, AI, and IoT and the likes to transform and optimize retail supply chain operations? 
  • How retail companies select and implement new technologies build agile and resilient retail supply chains of the future? 
  • How retail companies used innovative technologies to improve inventory management and streamlining operational processes for in-store, online, or omnichannel retail? 
  • How retail companies use augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to shape customer engagement and the retail experience? 
  • How do companies adopt or implement these technologies in retail operations? How might these technologies change retail supply chain structure?  
  • What novel theories and methodologies could or should be employed to explore the selection and implementation of these new technologies in retail SCM?  

Automated Fulfillment in Retail: Fulfillment centers are witnessing a revolution with the integration of robotics and automation. The introduction of Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) streamlines the movement of goods, while robotic arms contribute to efficient order picking and packing processes. This revolution extends to last-mile delivery, where autonomous drones are increasingly employed, enhancing the speed and precision of order distribution (Merkert et al., 2022). The integration of these technologies optimizes warehouse efficiency, reduces operational costs, and ensures timely order fulfillment. This transformation underscores a paradigm shift in retail logistics, promising enhanced accuracy and responsiveness throughout the supply chain, ultimately improving the overall customer experience. Within the limited research on these technologies, studies have focused on other areas of supply chain management such as robotic process automation in procurement (Van Hoek et al., 2022), smart sensor in maintenance (Akkermans et al., 2024), leaving notable gaps in retail operations. Questions of interest, to name a few, can include:   

  • How is automation, including robotics and drones, being integrated into retail fulfillment centers?  
  • How do retail companies achieve efficiency gains and address challenges associated with automated fulfillment processes in the retail industry? 
  • How are autonomous drones being utilized for last-mile delivery in retail, and what are the implications for speed, cost-effectiveness, and customer satisfaction?  
  • What challenges and regulatory considerations need to be addressed for widespread drone adoption in last-mile delivery? 
  • How can warehouses be optimized to accommodate and maximize the benefits of automated systems? 

Data-Driven Retail Decision Making: Big data analytics plays a pivotal role in optimizing retail operations. Analyzing vast amounts of data allows retailers to gain valuable insights into customer behavior, market trends, and operational performance. This data-centric approach empowers retailers to make informed strategic decisions, enhancing product offerings, marketing strategies, and inventory management. The utilization of big data fosters a deeper understanding of consumer preferences, facilitating personalized and targeted approaches. Ultimately, this integration of data analytics not only refines decision-making processes but also fortifies retailers in adapting dynamically to the evolving landscape of consumer demands and market dynamics. While prior studies have delved into examining big data analytics in demand and sales forecasting (e.g., Boone et al. 2018) or air freight delays (Mendonça et al., 2024), more research on decision making in retail operations is needed, given the significant challenges in full implementation of these technologies in practice (Xu and Pero, 2023). For instance, questions to explore can include:  

  • How do retail companies use big data analytics and machine learning to inform decision-making in different aspects of retail operations (e.g., demand forecasting, inventory management, pricing, targeted marketing)?  
  • What are the key challenges and limitations of using big data analytics and machine learning in retail, and how are these being addressed? 
  • How is the ethical use of customer data being ensured in the context of data-driven retail decision making? 
  • How do retail companies use real-time data analysis to improve supply chain efficiency and reducing stockouts? 
  • What models of collaboration between human workers and automated systems are effective in retail fulfillment centers? 

Contactless Commerce and Future Transactions: The retail landscape is witnessing a rise in contactless technologies, transforming the way transactions occur. Contactless payments, enabled by digital wallets, biometrics, and Near Field Communication (NFC), are becoming increasingly popular due to their convenience and hygiene, especially pertinent in a post-pandemic world. Digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay facilitate swift and secure payments through smartphones, while biometric authentication methods, like fingerprint and facial recognition, enhance security. NFC technology enables seamless communication between devices, enabling quick, tap-and-go transactions at point-of-sale terminals (Shankar et al., 2021). The trend extends to e-commerce platforms, ensuring a consistent and efficient shopping experience across both online and physical retail spaces, such as Grab-and-Go format. Challenges include consumer education and addressing security concerns. Future innovations may include the integration of wearables, augmented reality, and gesture-based interfaces, further shaping the landscape of retail transactions (Ratchford et al., 2023). Overall, contactless commerce signifies a transformative shift towards faster, safer, and more adaptable retail transactions. Yet, supply chain research in this area is non-existent. To illustrate, supply chain scholars can consider the following questions:  

  • How do contactless technologies (e.g. digital wallets, biometrics, and Near Field Communication (NFC) affect retail transactions?
  • What are the key benefits and drawbacks of different contactless payment technologies for both retailers and consumers? 
  • How can contactless technologies be designed to be more inclusive and accessible for diverse groups of consumers?  
  • How can these technologies reshape retail formats?  

Sustainability and Resilience in Retail Tech: Investigating how technology is driving sustainable practices in retail operations provides a glimpse into eco-friendly initiatives. From energy-efficient lighting systems to smart waste management solutions, technology is enabling retailers to reduce their environmental footprint. Prior empirical studies on the nexus of technology and sustainability exhibit a tendency to employ a generalized approach. Some investigations, such as those by Belaud et al. (2019) and Bai and Sarkis (2020), adopt a focused stance by examining a particular set of technologies. Conversely, others, exemplified by Dwivedi and Paul (2022), opt for a more generalized perspective, treating all technologies as having uniform benefits. This suggests a need for nuanced research approaches that consider the distinct impacts in retail operations and implications associated with specific technology clusters, as well as comprehensive evaluations that account for the varied and context-dependent sustainability attributes of different technologies. Furthermore, the advent of Technology 4.0 not only provides avenues to enhance the resilience of retail supply chains and bolster service recovery (Russo et al., 2022), but it also introduces novel challenges, notably in the realm of cyber resilience (Richey et al., 2022). Examples of question include:  

  • How retail companies use technology to support sustainable practices in retail operations, including eco-friendly packaging and waste reduction? 
  • How can retailers balance the efficiency gains of automation with responsible and eco-friendly practices in their fulfillment operations?
  • How do retail (or technology) companies use technology 4.0 contribute to enhancing retail service recovery or developing business models that improve retail chain resilience?   

Technology in Returns Management: In the realm of returns management, technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall operational effectiveness for retailers. The utilization of advanced technologies is instrumental in addressing the complexities associated with product returns. Research on returns management in general has been scarce, and mostly focused on consumers’ return behaviors and risks (e.g., Confente et al., 2021) or to justify the fairness of the process (e.g., Jones et al., 2023). There is a dearth of research in the applications of contemporary technologies with the return landscape (e.g., Narang and Shankar, 2019). Research can further explore a vast array of important questions, such as:  

  • How do retailers leverage technology in returns management to improve the return process and reduce return rate?  
  • How do retail companies find out which technologies are most effective in optimizing reverse logistics processes for returned  items, and how do they contribute to cost savings, sustainability, and overall supply chain efficiency? 
  • To what extent do retailers benefit from automated return authorization systems or remote return inspections, and how do these systems enhance the speed and accuracy of processing returns while minimizing fraud and abuse? 

Submissions Information

The authors interested in submitting to the special issue are strongly encouraged to send their proposal and/or research idea to the Guest Editors to receive feedback before full paper submission. Proposals should be around 1,000 words (excluding references, tables, and figures).  
All the proposals should be sent to the Managing Guest Editor, Dr. Ha Ta, at [email protected] by July 15, 2024

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available here.
Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see here.
Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Deadlines

Submission opens: September 15, 2024 
Submission closes: January 31st, 2025 
Expected final decision outcome by: November 1st, 2025.  


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