Retail’s Big Show, located in New-York and organized by the National Retail Federation, is the biggest marketplace for discovering solutions to reimagining retail and also offers retailers opportunities and leads. This year, 16K retailers (1/4 employees in the US) and 700 exhibitors were present for more than 37K attendees. A huge success!!!
The show started after an historic year in 2018 for retailers as Chris Baldwin (NRF’s chairman) confirmed during the opening keynote. US sales increased by 4.5%, they contributed 2.6 trillion dollars to the GDP and more than 2000 stores were opened.
Sucharita Kodali, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, said “retail has demonstrated resilience in 2018, and in 2019 wants to innovate, but as inexpensively as possible”. And Jeremy King (Walmart’s CTO) added in a keynote, “the most challenging is not to identify the right technologies & usages, but to deploy them in all points of sale (POS) to deliver the same experience.”
So, with this in mind, we observed trends emerging from the show revolving around consumer experience and hyper-personalization challenges, omnichannel innovation (buy online, pickup in store) and computer vision of a frictionless shopping experience.
Consumer experience at the heart of concerns
The user experience is at the heart of concerns for online pure-players but also for brick-and-mortar brands. They all use and re-use augmented reality and tactile interfaces to create immersive experiences. Many virtual & tactile screens have been added to the in-store experience, like YouCam Makeup who highlight augmented reality through digital mirrors. In front of the mirror, the customer has the opportunity to virtually test different shades of lipstick or eye shadow by simply holding the product in her hands. It’s not new but the progress of the technology (AI + AR kit) is impressive. The final result is quite amazing!
Shopper personalisation and the Data privacy dilemma
Personalisation requires more and more data about customer lifestyle through in particular social media and consumer habits from e-commerce platforms. And in the context of worldwide data regulation (GPDR and more), retailers will have to find the right balance between the need to collect information in order to be more accurate and the fear of consumers regarding brand intrusion into their private life. So, data privacy is a key differentiator for the future of retail.
The omnichannel experience is still very much on going
While the use of mobile devices in stores hasn’t evolved much in recent years, consumers still compare prices, read reviews and search product information online. Shoppers have started using phones and other devices to augment their interaction with retailers outside of stores, at home or traveling to a store.
At the show we saw an increase in the number of pick-up store systems, allowing customers to order online and collect their package in a store. Amazon locker started this trend a few years ago, but this year the NRF seemed to confirm this way of shopping for the US brick-and-mortar stores.
Frictionless shopping thanks to computer vision
THE step forward for Retail this year at the NRF was computer vision. Most booths talked about the need to ease, fluidify and accelerate to a frictionless shopping experience. All this, thanks to the progress of Artificial Intelligence and in particular computer vision.
These AI engines analyse live video and identify a consumer (facial detection) and his feelings (when he picks up a product), detects behaviours and moves (traffic map, fill the cart…) like Smart Shelf and its “Frictionless Shopping” solution that allows a customer to fill their cart and immediately process the invoice. Note that consumer identification is done mainly through the Brand’s application, as well as the free checkout that provides validation for invoice payment. Computer vision is also used to analyse shelves in order to replenish them or update the inventory (Intel/Pensa with a Drone).
I would like to conclude with three main insights into the 2019 edition of Retail’s Big Show. One, data privacy will be the next challenge for personalization (maybe more in Europe) with the ability of retailers to find the right balance between experience and intrusion. Second, we can expect retailers to imagine new business models and associated services (web-to-store, pickup in store, mobile-first…). And third, even if computer vision technology is very advanced, there is still a lot to be done to deploy it in stores.
Meet us from 29 January to 28 February 2019 at one of our SQLI offices (find the nearest office) for a complete debriefing of the NRF 2019!