What is the best way to peruse the annual NRF Big Show? It's a bigger challenge every year. To help, the Retail TouchPoints editorial team has put together a list of 10 trends to watch:
Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief
1. Managing The Omnichannel Inventory Challenge, Without Breaking The Bank.
Retailers are struggling to manage the challenge of getting the right products to the right customers in an efficient manner. Shoppers expect to have all purchase and delivery options at their disposal, but how are most retailers able to accommodate that without taking a loss? A few key questions include: Which business unit should pay for the packaging and employee hours when fulfilling online orders in-store? How do we avoid over-selling inventory when sales exceed expectations across channels? Are there technology solutions that help manage this entire process?
2. IoT In 2016: Wearables, 3D Printing, Biometrics.
Conversations are heating up with ideas around these innovative technologies that are inspiring new consumer and business products. Retailers and solution providers have to figure out where to focus their efforts and when. Should they be developing consumer products that feature wearable technology or should they be looking into IoT for internal operations first? Companies like Normal (www.nrml.com) and Lowes are ahead of the game with products using 3D printing. Should others jump on the IoT bandwagon now for fear of being left behind? I'll be interested to learn about new solutions and products being developed for both purposes.
Adam Blair, Executive Editor
3. Contextualization: Personalization On Steroids.
Personalization has been a buzzword for several years, and retailers are beginning to realize that it comes in many flavors. One of the most effective recipes will include contextualization: adding factors that are related not just to who the customers are but what they are doing at the time the retailer reaches out to them. From the basics, i.e. adapting messages to device screen sizes, to highly sophisticated analyses of precisely where shoppers are in a multi-stage purchase cycle, technologies that add context to communications will be of interest at this year's Big Show.
4. Can Brick-And-Mortar Stores Be Transformed Into 'Experience Centers'?
The recent department store slump was due to more than unseasonably warm weather during the holiday season. Consumers, particularly Millennials, are willing to purchase experiences (unique vacations, fabulous meals) but are less willing to spend on tangible things. I'll be interested in ideas and solutions at NRF that give retailers the tools to make the store experience more, well, experiential. If all this sounds too touchy-feely, aligning physical stores with the digital experience is also a must-have requirement in the age of omnichannel and mobile-enabled customer empowerment.
David DeZuzio, Managing Editor
5. Drones: Who Will Be The Retail King Of The Skies?
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…my new pair of Levi’s! The days of drone delivery may be upon us as just days ago, CES showed us that drones for people are here. While 66% of consumers expect drone delivery to soon be a reality, neither Amazon nor Google have brought the high-flying future to us. Will someone get the jump on them at this year’s NRF? And while drones will initially make the customer experience exciting and infinitely easier, are people truly ready for flying robots to bring them a pair of pants?
6. Keep Your Customers Secure And Your Shoplifters Prosecuted.
The challenges of maintaining databases of information about customer interests and behaviors — and making that data available in real time to store staff — leads to greater security and privacy concerns. Shoppers expect their information to be secure, but how can retailers allay a customer's fears of breaches and retain their trust as real-time data analytics become the norm? And what are the latest innovations that will address self-checkout theft? Are the days of the shoplifter truly numbered? It’s going to be very interesting to see the latest solutions that help retailers guard against new vulnerabilities across all channels.
Glenn Taylor, Associate Editor
7. Will Beacons Ever Live Up To Their Initial Hype?
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon technology has been a topic of discussion within the retail industry for a few years now, and has felt like a great fit for a retail environment that relies on the mobile phone more than ever. However, beacons haven’t quite caught on the way many industry analysts thought they would. While retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Target and GameStop have tested the technology in select stores, only a few companies have been willing to deploy the devices on a large scale. Macy’s and Hudson’s Bay have led the way thus far in expanding their beacon tech to all stores. With mobile becoming such a vital part of the shopper experience, 2016 will be a huge test (and represents a huge opportunity) for other retailers looking to integrate the beacon tech in their stores.
8. Which Technologies Will Help SMBs Make The Leap Into Omnichannel?
While omnichannel remains a key buzzword throughout retail, its goals often remain associated with larger retailers that can afford cutting edge fulfillment technologies, payment systems and large customer service teams. But what about SMBs? Many of these smaller retailers have found success by standing out on their own, but they seem to be excluded from the omnichannel conversation. I am looking forward to seeing if more solution providers at NRF are willing to tackle this feasibility issue with Main Street retailers so that they can truly align their brick-and-mortar and e-Commerce channels.
Klaudia Tirico, Associate Editor
9. Mobile Wallets Are Flooding The Scene; Which One Do We Choose?
Apple Pay, MasterCard MasterPass, PayPal, Samsung Wallet and Chase Pay: retailers are choosing which form of payment they want to offer. So how will they decide what is right for their customers? With all of these mobile wallets launching from every direction, are companies going to make consumers sign up for them all? Mobile shopping is on the rise; therefore, adding these digital wallets is sure to make the shopping experience easier. Bigger companies like Walmart are even launching their own wallets. I’m looking forward to learning how all these “pays” will differentiate themselves from each other and if there will ever be a time where having one will suffice.
10. The Digital Evolution Of The Brick-And-Mortar Store.
Retailers are quickly learning that digital technologies are an asset in the brick-and-mortar setting. For example, 47% of consumers prefer to shop online for the option of comparing prices. With that said, I’d like to know when and how physical stores will implement these technologies to align the experience across all channels. Plus, what else can they come up with to change the in-store shopping experience? I remember getting a discount at H&M just for checking into the store on Foursquare; will brick-and-mortars ever consider this again?
Be sure to stop by the Retail TouchPoints booth, #416!