Retail’s Big Show left its big imprint once again on the retail industry. No question, NRF 2018 lived up to its promise, as news of retail’s behind-the-scenes transformation seemed to flow at conference goers from every angle. Dominating this year’s discussion? The evolution of the customer experience. Personal, cross-channel experiences took their place front and center, as retail reimagines its future through data-driven customer experiences in-store and online.
Innovation proved to be extending itself across the retail landscape, from the big box organizations to start ups, solving organizational problems and informing a more complete customer experience. To give us more details about NRF, we asked a few industry leaders to give us their takeaways on some of the hot topics that floated around throughout the show:
Innovation & Technology
The exhibit halls were filled with major technology solutions providers like Microsoft (cloud), Impinj (RFID), Axis (Camera / computer vision) and NCR (POS) showing off retail tools that help retailers redefine their customer experience. We saw how Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a significant force in this transformation, helping retailers engage with customers and create more personalized interactions while enabling them to deliver products anywhere. It was clear, retailers leading the transformation are thinking about the customer’s end-to-end journey in commerce. Deep learning is becoming mainstream and AI is helping retailers improve that journey and transform the entire customer experience. Companies that are using deep learning and data analytics are making better pricing, staffing and assorted planning decisions.
Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality
It was clear that retail Augmented Reality will be taken to a new level this year when combined with other technologies. For example, using technologies like Qualcomm’s Lumicast (provided by Acuity Brands) allows LED lights and Bluetooth beacons to provide in-store navigation accuracy to 3cm - this allows customers to engage with extremely accurate Augmented Reality product-locator apps. Combined with dynamic LED ESL (Electronic Shelf Label) from companies like Ses-imagotag, we saw how this allows the customer to trigger and engage with an even more personalized Augmented Reality experiences.
Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, moderated an interesting panel titled “Retail Disruption: The Science of Pricing and Competitive Differentiation,” where panelists discussed how data can be used to inform business decision-making. Richard Flaks, SVP of Finance, at Chico’s FAS, said that pricing is not simple and that companies need data analytics to inform their decision-making. He said that simply reducing prices is not an effective way to compete and that retailers could use data to differentiate their products and experiences.
This year was all about IoT—specifically connected devices. There were smart connected price tags that allow retailers to replicate Amazon’s practice of using analytics to make millions of individual price changes per day. There were IoT applications that enable security cameras to measure how long each customer has been waiting in a checkout line. What’s exciting about these solutions is that they generate millions and millions of data points for smart, connected stores.
NRF 2018 has officially kicked off the year for retailers around the world. It will be interesting to see if the key takeaways get applied to retailer goals for 2018. Learn more about the push for connected devices by downloading our Connected PLM report now.