NRFtech 2019 was as much an event about what was there as what comes next.
Leading retail technologists sharing their successes and challenges while discussing their next big tech projects and opportunities. We got a chance to meet with several customers, and get introduced to new executives at those customers as well as meet new prospects. We’re a team-first company and always happy to make personal relationships. The networking events were excellent, with lots of time and staged interactions that drove good conversations.
Here are the highlights, as we saw them:
Sephora presented for the second year in a row, and gave an excellent discussion of how they have positioned themselves from an organization and technology perspective to be omnichannel. Sephora has long been a leader in omnichannel execution and the deployment of technology to their stores and online. Great insights on how the use the store to drive people online and mobile to drive people to the stores.
Some key insights included aligning the organization structure so every part of the company has a stake in, and gets recognized for, a sale. For example, Sephora recognizes store sales when they take a customer’s online return and help them exchange it for another product. Similarly, when I customer comes to a store for a makeover, a follow up e-mail explains every product used, identifies where on the face it was applied, and uses a before and after picture to show the results. Then if an order is made, the store gets sales credit for those purchases. You can keep track of all of this and other things with SD-WAN retail.
WGSN presented their annual retail research findings, pointing out distinctions in consumer trends, unique markets that are growing and traditionally underserved and asking what retailers are looking to identify and serve these and other markets, and highlighting how these trends are converging to create distinct buyer and buying behaviors that impact retailers and how retail technology will enable interaction with these buyers.
Voice computing was a big topic, with several retailers and technologists talking about the role voice computing will play. A lot of the discussion revolved around ‘buying in the moment’ referring to customers being engaged in some activity and wanting to execute a transaction based on some new info that arose in that moment. Examples included someone making coffee in the morning, and then realizing they needed more coffee, or a parent changing a diaper and recognizing the need for more. These moments could occur on the road while in a car, or while exercising, and being able to use voice as a tool to transact in the moment is seen as one of the new areas for retail technology.
Autonomous checkout was another big future technology being discussed. The idea being that the checkout line is a big point of friction in a retail store, and removing it frees up resources to work on more customer-centric activities and creates a much more positive customer experience. Amazon Go stores were the starting point, but it was quickly noted they traded a checkout line with a check-in line (to gain access to an Amazon Go store you have to load the app and get scanned into the store, trading one line for another), and a panel discussed ways around that and where the next batch of technology will be different and do more.
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