It was great to be back in New York for the NRF show in January, surrounded by the brightest minds in the sector. This year marked the fourth time Ipsos Retail Performance has attended, and each time the show continues to grow – both in numbers and influence.
In an increasingly challenging retail environment, it was great to see so many in the sector looking to innovate to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. As a result of this creativity, 2018 is looking likely to deliver much stronger returns for the industry as the squeeze on consumers relaxes.
The range of in-store technology on show was particularly exciting. From a number of tech solutions that can improve the personalised shopper experience to RFID robots capable of constantly re-stocking shelves, the evidence shows that bricks-and-mortar is far from finished. While online will continue to grow, the store remains a crucial part of the retail environment.
As our North America business development manager, Kelly Fairchild, discussed in a previous blog, the major new technology on show was AI.
It is easy to see why so many people are excited about the potential of artificial intelligence in the retail sector, offering the opportunity to focus store workers on providing the ultimate, personalised customer experience.
What I saw at the Big Show, however, has tempered my personal excitement somewhat. As I explored the various offerings, I noticed that many booths were overstating the capabilities of AI, possibly as a half-hearted attempt to jump on the latest trend. AI offers great potential to retailers, but it is essential that it does not simply become a marketing gimmick.
After many interesting conversations, the most significant realisation was the true value of providing continued support to retailers.
The show revealed the level of frustration retailers currently have with their suppliers, failing to see a follow through after the sale until it came to renewal. This was incredibly surprising given the huge effort we make to work with our customers on the post-sales areas and add value to our product.
In order for our footfall analytics, store layout, and queue management solutions to be as effective as possible, our team is on hand to optimise our offering. The ability to analyse regular reports is invaluable in a fast-moving environment.
The New York Times summarised the range of new technology available to retailers as the star of the NRF Show. Used correctly, technology can allow for nimble responses to a range of elements of the customer experience. However, a consistent level of support from industry experts is critical to this success.
Peter Luff, President of Ipsos Retail Performance.
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