There’s a reason why more than 40,000 attendees travel from across the globe to gather at New York’s Jacob Javits Center each January: to glimpse the future of shopping at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show. It’s a large-scale event, with sessions, keynotes, exhibit floor activity, store tours and other events all occurring simultaneously. So, whether you were able to experience the Big Show firsthand or not, we wanted to share the first article in a series of takeaways we observed on the important retail industry trends that will shape the business in both the near- and long-term.
Many of the themes that have dominated retail store technology over the past few years continue to reign, often driven by consumers’ ever-evolving expectations. What’s exciting are the advancements in technology and mainstream execution taking place.
Here are five key consumer and retail technology takeaways from the NRF 2020 Big Show:
AI, Computer Vision and Machine Learning will touch nearly every aspect of retail.
That’s why these technologies are top priorities for many retailers across their operations, for everything from refining their supply chains, assortment recommendations to operating stores more efficiently to providing responsive and personalized service to customers. There was much discussion across the show about coupling AI with facial recognition to drive payment as well as for loyalty programs. Walmart shared details about its Intelligent Retail Lab, which Mike Hanrahan, CEO, called its “artificial intelligence factory,” while Starbucks talked about AI’s role in making a human connection.
Sustainability is the new ‘Green’.
Consumers have a heightened interest in knowing where products come from, and they want to hear that they are sourced with environmental and social factors in mind. At Sunday sessions, for example, speakers talked about fair trade, ethical sourcing and eliminating single-use packaging. But the interest in sustainability is not limited to the products themselves: While they want convenience, consumers are also concerned about reducing the carbon footprint attached to transporting the things they buy. Allbirds retailer not only boast the most comfortable shoes but makes them from natural materials like merino wool, eucalyptus tree fiber, and sugar cane as well as recycled materials (Find out more about the top retailers and most amazing stores in our upcoming article). An example of “technology for good” includes new distributed order management systems, which calculate the best point of fulfillment to ship orders to customers as quickly as possible whilst reducing carbon footprint. At the NRF Big Show, Cegid Retail promoted its new Distributed Order Management solution, which leverages a retailer’s entire footprint — including stores — to optimize for both speed and sustainability in omnichannel fulfillment.
Robotics will improve routine tasks.
Retailers are enthusiastic about the ability for robots to perform routine, repeatable tasks that help streamline operations and improve visibility. The supply chain is the big focus, with robots — increasingly integrated with warehouse management systems — to take up tasks such as each picking, goods to person, mobile manipulation and sortation. The NRF Big Show was also the place to see how computer vision-based AI in robots can perform essential in-store tasks, including cleaning and taking inventory in stores, although this requires overcoming consumer resistance to sharing aisles with a robot.
The store is taking on new roles.
With consumers able to summon almost any products right to their door with just a few clicks, tech innovation is helping retail stores take on new roles. They include dark stores designed only to fulfill digital orders, stores being used as fulfilment hubs, showrooms, and pop-ups and concept stores where retailers can test new ideas and get closer to customers – all being highly instagrammable. Many of these roles were on display both on the show floor as well as on store tours that ferried attendees to some of NYC’s most innovative concept stores and experience stores, including Nordstrom NYC and the Chanel, Atelier Beauté Studio. Cegid thought leaders addressed the startling transformation of the role of the store and the emergence of concept stores in a popular session.
Digitization will transform the store experience for consumers and associates alike.
Tied closely into the store’s new role is the in-store technology that enables retailers to deliver those experiences at scale, from endless-aisle solutions, ship from store to magic mirrors to automated returns kiosks. One big trend that NRF attendees were buzzing about is empowering sales associates. Retailers are working to elevate the role of the store associate to become brand ambassadors, expert product consultants, logisticians and more by providing mobile, clienteling and backstore inventory devices that connect them with powerful apps and access to data. Cegid helped retailers experience the opportunity to never miss a sale via demos of our own Cegid Retail Mobile POS solution — in-store technology that helps associates become more efficient, motivated and informed salespeople.
What the NRF Big Show Means for Retailers
The NRF Big Show is a cauldron into which retailers, vendors, developers and other thought leaders pour their most exciting ideas to shape the future of shopping. While not every new retail store technology concept takes off, it’s critical to be aware of the trends and themes that emerge from each show, especially with the frenetic pace of change that’s now the norm in retail.
Stay tuned to find out more about the most amazing stores we visited for you during NRF!