31 Jan NRF 2018: key topics for retailers
The NRF retail Big Show took place in New York City mid-January and B.D.C. couldn’t miss one of the world’s most important retail events. Meeting with retailers, discovering new startups, atttending high-level conferences and doing retail tours across New York City… It remains a key annual gathering and B.D.C. gives you here key topics off those few days.
AI & AUTOMATION : THE BIG DEAL
We’ve heard a lot about artificial intelligence (AI) in 2017 and it seemed to remain one of the hottest topics during the NRF 2018 edition. It has been made clear by AI experts or speakers that instead of seeing AI as a threat, retailers should embrace the science. According to experts, AI will not eradicate our jobs through automation but change the way we solve business problems. AI should not be an end in itself and as Michelle Bacharach, co-founder and CEO of FindMine said “if you start there, you’ve already failed”.
Joe Jensen, vice president and general manager of the retail solutions division at Intel also insisted that AI provides retailers with more data about inventory and customer’s behaviour. One given example was to use computer vision to determine if customers are able to reach products in store (on the top, middle or bottom shelves), see how they interact with products or POS installations and they move around a store. With a broader adoption of voice or gesture interactions (i.e.: products recognition moving on shelves), retailers will collect enough data to turn it into actionable intelligence. They could then optimize where and when they place products to drive more sales. Yes, we hear you say that observation could be done by human sales representatives. True. However AI can automate it, allowing sales associates to interact more with customers more, strengthen the brand relationship and perform other tasks.
During a a panel on robotics and AI held on January 14th, Bernd Schoner, CEO of DeepMagic (a tech startup that uses computer vision to monitor shopping activities and flag suspicious behaviours) highlighted that providing real-time information to store managers through AI-technologies is key to automate retail transactions and make them “frictionless.”
Pano Anthos, Joe Jensen, Michelle Bacharach, Bernd Shoner and Marco Mascorro discuss AI and robotics at NRF 2018
STORE OF THE FUTURE : EXPERIENCE FIRST
Less stores, more experience. It is probably how we would have summarised the “stores” discussions at the NRF 2018. Physical retail stores are more than ever open to innovation and ”phygital” belongs now to our retail vocabulary. However it is worth saying that brands big and small “can’t try everything and go with every shiny thing” as said by Brian Kavanagh during a panel. Digital in-store is not just a gadget anymore and retailers must start looking at their brand DNA to seamlessly implement the most relevant technologies.
Retailers must make the in-store experience like something shoppers want to take part in and they will manage to do so thanks a highly interactive and immersive technology perspective. Big retailers like Home Depot, Target, American Eagle,Walmart, or Adidas have already partnered successfully with various startups to help them implement new technology into their shopping experience.
As examples of interactive & immersive experiences, Rebecca Minkoff flagship enables customers to shop on digital mirros and discover looks, Sephora sales representatives can scan customers faces with tablets in order to suggest the most relevant shades matching customer’s complexion, American Eagle allows visitors to do their laundry in-store free in charge to make sure they often come and visit the store,…
PAYMENT: THE DEATH OF CASHIER
Amazon Go opening to public in Seattle, Apple Stores…. no line, no cashier. Looking at the future of shopping experience, cashiers should disappear in few years. If several technologies exist already, the main challenge will be at the end to reinvent the role of checkout assistants to turn them into enthusiast shopping advisers.
The US-based startup Focal Systems, who was attending the NRF, displayed for example connected trolleys. The first one includes a tablet on the top displaying to shoppers to easily find about products location and promotions. The second one which is a prototype has two cameras that will recognise instantly products placed in the trolley and enable direct check-out.
BRAND : THE SIMPLICITY OF THE FRONT SIDE
He arrived on his bicycle, he makes jeans and products to wear with these jeans – Levi’s BrandPresident James ‘JC’ Curleigh gave a valuable talk during the NRF Big Show 2018. He reminded us that in an ”era of choice” we have to offer seamless and easy options to customers. The simplicity of the customers front side should be supported by a complex back office allowed by data management, smart platforms as well as artificial intelligence.
James Curleigh insisted that “the most powerful brands on earth found a way to deliver simplicity on the front side through a very sophisticated platform on the back side”.
According to him, meet and even sometimes exceed customers expectations is today more important than ever and this is all about being a solution provider in the ”moment of thruth”. Retailers must think about how easy and direct their offers are. And digital innovations when well integrated can support this effort. James Curleigh highlighted Levi’s collaboration with Google to create the connected commuter trucker jacket. Indeed this outerwear that connects to a smartphone allows commuters to check the time, control music and get directions, just by swiping their sleeve — it perfectly encapsulates how the iconic brand is harnessing its heritage, values and loyal fan base to move into the future of lifestyle brands.
Levi’s Brand President, James ‘JC’ Curleigh, began his session at NRF 2018 on a bicycle, highlighting Levi’s collaboration with Google to create the connected commuter trucker jacket.