NRF 2019: Isobar Commerce MD Patrick Deloy’s top 5 takeaways
The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show & EXPO wrapped up earlier this month, leaving thousands of attendees brimming with fresh inspiration for the year ahead. And this year’s Big Show definitely lived up to its name with big booths, big speakers and big ideas in abundance.
Experience is at the core of everything that Isobar does, and it was clear from this year’s Big Show that the industry and consumers are continuing to make experience a priority. But, if you weren’t able to make it to retail’s biggest event, here are my top takeaways.
AI – the mega-trend
AI is just the mega-trend that influences everything, from how customers are approached in a personalised one-to-one approach, chatbots and customer service, to how a whole retail organisation transforms in regards to decision making. Every technology stack now banks heavily on their AI capabilities, whether that’s Einstein (Salesforce), Sensei (Adobe), AiFi, Twentybn and every other customisation or marketing solution.
It is important to note, however, that AI capabilities at their current stage are mostly intended to support decision makers, not replace them. This is key. The core premise of AI is to make sure marketers, merchandisers and management can make better decisions, to the benefit of the customer and the business.
New year, new formats
Displaying digital assets of products in new formats is an ongoing topic and one that was prevalent at the Big Show this year. Evolving hardware enables superior experiences – whether that’s VR through ever more powerful headsets (like Three Kit), AR through a mobile or in-store smart mirror displays (like Mirow Tech) merging real images with online content, or 3D aided by new display technologies – the opportunities that brands have to engage consumers in different ways is truly exciting.
Some of these technologies stand out more through their novelty factor than through their usability. But in this lies opportunity, and it follows the normal trajectory of any new innovative technology that goes through the various stages of adoption, with early adopters willing to lead the field and a larger number of companies following suit when technology has matured and decreased in investment requirements.
Payment on the go
Simplification of payment and checkout technologies was also a huge topic at NRF this year, with new entrants following the pathway of Amazon Go cashless checkout closely. Innovative companies such as Cape AI, Zippin and LISNR showcased their impressive capabilities at NRF, and are emerging in this space.
Some of the most impressive technologies are implemented in Asian ecosystems, such as in China, which is not held back by a legacy credit card environment and where innovative QR code and image recognition payments have almost completely replaced cash, even with the smallest street-side merchants. This cashless innovation in Beijing developed by Shanghai Jiao Tong University clearly demonstrates the opportunities of new payment tech.
Seamless and personalised payment is one of the most exciting trends to come out of NRF for retailers this year.
Customisation & convenience
The mounting cost of product returns is a growing and scary problem for many retailers. In fashion retail, though, there are ongoing and increasingly more successful efforts to enable customers to use innovative measuring technologies to order products that are bespoke to their shape and size, lowering some of the costly product returns for retailers.
Though not a brand new concept, better and cheaper technologies as well as higher customer acceptance helps to increase convenience and leverage new at-home measurement concepts, such as the polka-dot suit of Zozotown. Other examples from the NRF floor and innovation lab included True Fit, Perfitly and Visenze.
People and networking
As expected, the global technology players dominated the Expo Center with impressive booths, demos and executive, sales and marketing staff coverage.
Salesforce, Adobe, SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, and many others, attended in force, amplifying the importance of digital in the evolution/revolution of the retail experience, and giving a continuous stamp of approval to the NRF Big Show concept with its huge expo area and hundreds of relevant presentations in particular.
Complementing the big tech players was a wide array of additional digital ecosystem and retail partners that are pivotal in driving innovation into the retail segment. With the omnichannel ecosystem becoming ever more complex, we will see both an ongoing drive to acquisitions of smaller players by the larger tech companies, as well as further diversification of services and technologies.
This increases the need for retailers and their service partners to constantly keep themselves informed about new emerging technologies and trends, and the NRF Big Show & Expo certainly continues to be one of the best opportunities to get a comprehensive view on what is going on.
Download Isobar's Emerging Trends NRF report, and get in touch to find out more about Isobar Commerce.