With NRF 2014 still the talk of the town (and the industry), there seems no better time to offer observation on the tenor and takeaways of this major trade event. The convergence of the big C’s –consumer, commerce and channels – is dramatically shifting how retailers engage and how technology is developed, designed and deployed. Nowhere was that more evident than at NRF as exhibitors positioned and promoted themselves for this new mobile-first, consumer-led world.
Culled from the show floor and the meeting rooms, here are some first-hand insights on what was on display, is being discussed and will drive the next wave of technological innovation.
1. Omni-channel is Everywhere. Omni is defined as “all” and everywhere you looked at NRF, almost all exhibitors were showcasing Omni-channel solutions. That’s because consumers desire a seamless experience and retailers need to reduce costs while still enhancing their customers’ experiences. Exhibiting companies knew that retailers will be seeking to overhaul their legacy systems and create technology roadmaps leveraging e-commerce, business intelligence and analytics software hence the focus on Omni-channel positioning prevalent in their booths.
2. Are you ready for RFID? The next wave in data capture – RFID – is finally front and center, and it was definitely at the forefront at this year’s event. With retailers ready to incorporate RFID into their store strategies – from front to the loading dock – exhibitors displayed a number of RFID solutions that can help with everything from inventory management through self checkout. RFID and other data capture technologies, especially mobile devices, allow retailers to manage costs while ensuring a better consumer experience. It seems RFID may just be what retail ordered this year.
3. Infrastructure for a Consumer-Driven World. While the presence of the consumer loomed large at NRF, many, if not most companies highlighted a wide range of next-generation products (POS, scanners, mobile devices) specifically focused on fortifying and extending the retail infrastructure. Infrastructure solutions generated strong buzz in publications and educational sessions with number of sessions addressing issues around security, supply chain and merchandising. While customer-facing applications may garner the most exposure, it is infrastructure solutions being investigated and invested in by the retail industry.
4. It’s a Big Retail World. NRF may be held in New York City but it is truly an international event. A quite busy international lounge and retailers in attendance from Asia to South Africa, Atlanta to Alberta demonstrated that technology is driving retail forward. Multinational companies as well as national and local businesses packed the halls seeking e-commerce, mobile and infrastructure solutions that can help them compete in a global, 24/7 retail world.
5. What’s the Buzz? Its’ Mobile. Mobile remains a critical focus for retailers and technology companies delivered a broad range of mobile solutions – from Mobile POS to mobile payment solutions. Critical focus was on constructing an infrastructure that can securely exploit and manipulate the data pouring in from smartphones as well as consumer-grade and enterprise devices. Companies showcasing leading edge analytics software talked big data and attendees flocked to their booths to see and hear about the mobile, big data revolution.