One thing was very clear from this week's Big Show in New York City: a retail revolution is happening and those who are not ready to follow it will fail.
The 2017 National Retail Federation Show has brought together more than 500 exhibitors from 95 countries. From the big names of the tech world such as Google, Samsung, IBM, Intel to new startups like Mode.ai and Augment featured in the Innovation Lab, the 22.000 sqm of exhibition space at the Javitz Center had been frizzling with activity for three intense days.
If you didn't make it to the show here are 5 things that you must know to keep up with the fast changing world of retail.
1) Artificial Intelligence
AI was the buzzword at the Big Show and the most disruptive innovation about to hit the retail business. In her presentation "Trends 2017: Retail Opportunity for the Fast Changing World and the Human Mind", Anne Ancketill, CEO and Founder of GDR Creative Intelligence made a clear case on the three main areas disrupted by AI applications: new forms of interaction, adaptable manufacturing and delivery, personalization and autonomous activity.
Among the new forms of interactions robots seem poised to appear soon to a store near you. At the show we met the cute Mr. Pepper by Softbank available in two versions one for brand engagement programmed to draw people in the store and one as a sales assistant programmed to give information about products. While these robots do not completely replace sales associates, especially for the apparel industry where the human touch and sensibility is still important, they are definitely changing the skill-set required for sales associates. On the other hand, AI is already successfully implemented in e-commerce. After less than 6 months from the deployment of FindMine software designed to upsell by suggesting combinations and variations, John Varvatos online store boasted a 6% increase in sales.
The Internet of Things a vast network of objects constantly connected, tracked and analyzed is what the new retail business model is all about.
RFID is the building block of the omni-channel connected business and it will soon be ubiquitous for the apparel industry. RFID labels allow not only monitoring of the supply chain from cutting to delivery therefore eliminating human mistakes -which are almost inevitable dealing with the quantity of variables of fashion production, but also detecting counterfeits and rogue distributors. In the store RFID tracks inventory, location of the garment and sales combinations, all data that is fed back into the software to analyze and optimize the customer experience, inventory and distribution.
4) Big data
The management and analysis of all the data produced by IoT is the battling ground of the tech companies present at the NRF Show. Microsoft's Dynamic 365, IBM's Watson, SAS, just to name a few, seamlessly integrate a variety of applications that cover all the aspects of enterprise management from financial to customer service and transaction, from digital to brick-and-mortar.
In this area a winning card will be the visual approach to data. JDA Retail.me planning tool for merchandising replaces spreadsheets with an interface similar to that of e-commerce making it more immediate and intuitive. For a more advanced approach, SAS and Samsung visualized retail data in a virtual reality environment.
Another tool made available by the convergence of data and AI is predictive analytics. Software can now analyze historical trends and actual trends in real time, detect shopping patterns according to customers profile and locations to optimize inventory and customer experience. For example Tyco's experimental multiscreen tower surmounted by a camera is able to detect age group and come up with appropriate shopping suggestions for the customer.
The customer experience it's a crucial factor for driving sales, beyond price competition. The solutions presented at the Big Show included TrueFit, featuring a new shoe fitter platform created for Cole Haan. TrueFit scans feet up to the calf and builds a personal profile, which is refined with purchase history. Datalogic introduced its Digital Tailor, an AI based body-imaging software for fitting rooms. Finally, Samsung featured an integrated solution for brands that brings together app and store management software to offer a customized shopping experience based on the customer's previous interactions with the brand both in store and online (personal app settings previous purchases, wish lists) and seamless inventory management.
In conclusion, the store of the future will have more screens, more robots, less employees and even less merchandise on the shop floor. For the customers the future of retail will revolve around the experience and interacting with technology, while for the retailers it will be about managing a constant flow of real time data with the help of AI.
For more information on trade shows check out DFV Group’s expocheck.com.