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NRF 2017 Recap: New Technologies Aspire to Take Retail to the Next Level

NRF's 106th Annual Convention & EXPO was bustling this year. Nearly 35,000 of the retail industry elite gathered in New York City to sit in on hundreds of educational sessions and scan miles of the latest and greatest retail technology solutions from some 4600 vendors on the show floor.  

The NRF show is often seen as a barometer of retailer confidence and optimism. Industry influencers say the high attendance at this year's show is indicative of the need for retailers to seek out new technologies to help them succeed in being seen as relevant to today's new digitally empowered consumers and operate more efficiently.

I had a chance to walk the show floor; here's my key takeaways for the most promising technologies that are helping retailers establish relevancy and optimize their physical store footprints to drive greater revenues.  

Analytics Take to Store Shelves - The Shelfie Retail Shelf Analytics Platform uses computer vision to optimize store shelves and can incorporate fixed cameras, robotics and drone technology. Shelfie knows what the "perfect shelf" looks like and sends alerts to store staff when adjustments are needed for real-time management across stores in a region, or across product segments, and even down to an individual product level.

Innovating Inventory Management - Inventory is a significant investment for any retailer, so pricing it and positioning it to sell is essential. Business Intelligence can crunch lots of data and factor in lots of parameters to provide insights on exactly how best to accomplish this. I saw a few powerful examples of BI solutions in this area - showing inventory aging and recommendations on redistribution, promotion, close out, and seasonal hold.  While most of this was for clothing, there are great examples for hardlines retail products where your data can be pushed to make better decisions faster.

Electronic Bin Tags Come of Age
- Many notable retailers such as Kohl's have successfully deployed Electronic Shelf Labels which can be dynamically updated quickly and efficiently, without the need to print paper tags or to deploy multiple employees to change them out manually. 
There were many providers showcasing the next generation of ESLs at NRF which are becoming both more cost effective and more durable.

Eclipsing the Credit Card - Millennials have very different attitudes toward credit cards than prior generations - in fact a majority don't have them. The AcceptanceNow solution enablers shoppers to purchase items without credit with reasonable payment plans. This seems like a win-win; the solution allows individuals to build credit. For retailers, this requires no investment and opens up new revenue opportunities - especially key to support the sale of higher price point items in retail stores - to bring on the impulse buys. 

Power to the Point of Sale - There are a dizzying array of options when it comes to POS devices, offering retailers tremendous flexibility and giving sales associates exceptional information access and mobility so they never have to leave the customers' side. 

Ingenico was demoing its new all-in-one device that is lightweight with support for EMV and 2D scanning in a mini tablet footprint - and it is also convertible to mount as a fixed POS device.  

Google was showcasing a new POS hardware provider in its booth from Unique Secure, an international company that offers a new space-saving POS device that has five different modes - from fixed POS to a mobile POS device -- and features an integrated payment security and integrated scanner.  

Counting and Cultivating Customer Satisfaction - You can't manage what you can't measure. A number of interesting solutions on the show floor focused on capturing key store metrics - giving physical stores the same rich analytics regarding conversions, etc., that digital retailers have leveraged for many years. 

One of these is CountWise - the company's solution incorporates a camera that counts people as they enter the store but does not do facial recognition due to privacy laws and regulations. Analytics reveal the total number of people who entered the store, the number that went down each aisle; tied to a retailer's transaction statistics this provides conversion rates and "dwell" statistics - providing key insights to effect inventory and merchandising strategies. 

Another player in this space is ClickIt, which measures frequency and duration of store visits, distinguishes between the behavior of customers and employees, alerts upon the arrival of repeat customers, and reports on which locations customers have visited locally and nationally. This is done through an anonymous tracking ID on shoppers' wireless phones (assuming phones are wifi-enabled with wifi access turned on).

The solution provides near real-time customer satisfaction ratings with Happy or Not - depicted by a green smiling face to red frowning face. This can provide the ability to track and monitor customer satisfaction ratings by 15-minute intervals and by checkout lanes or a specific area in the store. 

Posted by Jim Holden, VP Sales, Retail and LBM


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