A preview of what we can expect from NRF 2018
New York has been experiencing some record low temperatures this year but things are starting to hot up in the City ahead of the NRF’s annual Big Show – that runs January 14-16 – when the heat from the annual mash-up of technology and senior retailers will no doubt help to further push up the temperature.
This will not be from the hot air they all generate but from the solutions that will be brought to the table by the world’s leading technology vendors because at no time in history has IT been as hot as it is right now. This is a result of a combination of the advances in new solutions being made at an unprecedented rate and also the needs of the retail community being at an all-time high as they now fully realise that adopting a digital-first approach is critical.
This is not just to enable them to have a crack at future success but to ensure their very survival. This is how essential technology has become to the health and wellbeing of the retail industry. The leading decision-makers from the top retailers will be at NRF hoping to access the tools that they need for their companies today and to also hopefully gain an insight into what the future might hold for them and what solutions they need to future-proof their businesses.
Last year we saw the rise of solutions based on Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and machine learning and this year they are expected to take a little more of the limelight as they become increasingly recognised as usable technologies. They are no longer regarded as far-out technologies that simply excite the PhD graduates who are now lending their skills to developing solutions for the retail sector. They are influencing real world products.
Attracting richly qualified graduates to retail technology was very unlikely a mere few years ago but NRF this year will have many such individuals present. They’ll be manning the hundreds of booths on the exhibition floors demonstrating their clever solutions.
These technologies are now driving personalisation solutions such as chatbots and recommendation engines as well as impacting on forecasting and merchandising software. We’re guessing there will be few solutions at NRF this year that do not include – or at least allude to having – some form of AI within their architecture.
The rise of voice-based solutions
The one thing we’ve seen only sparingly at NRF in the past is voice-based solutions. We expect this to change this year. Massive investments are being made into Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant to ensure that a whole eco-system is being built around them by third-party developers and consumers are becoming aware of using voice to initiate search, issue orders and undertake transactions. This should be an exciting area at NRF this year as consumers move beyond the QWERTY keyboard.
Last year saw the introduction of the Innovation Lab that highlights early stage businesses with cutting edge solutions and it is back again this year with more interesting solutions being showcased. It is also the case that a plethora of smaller retailers are to be included in the presentations taking place on the main stages at NRF. This highlights how new tech vendors and retailers are very much pointing the way forward.
Putting the basics in place
They are arguably giving the established players a glimpse of the future. Their relevance has increased dramatically in recent years as they have collectively pushed up the levels of innovation and developed new exciting retail models.
But what many retailers will be at NRF for is not to necessarily look for exposure to the bleeding edge of technology. They simply want to undertake the digital transformation journeys that will deliver them things like single customer views and 360 degree visibility of their inventory. As boring as it sounds they now acknowledge that all the exciting cutting edge solutions are irrelevant without them first having the relevant digitally-focused foundations in place.
Are you attending Retail’s Big Show? Do you want to meet up with our team in the big apple? Drop us an email.
We look forward to seeing you there.