NRF reported that more than 33,000 individuals, 3300 retailers and 94 countries were represented at the NRF BiG Show 2017, in NYC's Jacob Javitz Conference Center, January 15 -17, 2017. The top theme – enabling the blending of the digital and physical so that customers can engage with retailers in the stream of life. Technologies featured included everything from shopping at home via voice interactions through completely automated biometric based purchases.
The biggest draw for retailers:
- Technologies that enable smarter omnichannel business, which start with collecting, analyzing and augmenting more data from more touchpoints to drive better real time decision processes - that ultimately drive the best experiences.
- "Lighting up" more data, autonomic process and interaction opportunities with IoT.
- Vendors that make it real, that make it all work – the systems integrators and managed service providers.
My colleague Greg Girard has written a blog on point 1, so I'll skip to points 2. Three will be covered separately.
Almost all of the big booths at NRF 2017 featured some aspect of IoT this year, either as a component of personalized interactions or of productivity initiatives (of people, process and other assets, including inventory). Software and service providers including SAP, IBM, Cisco, Aruba (HP), Verizon, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), InfoSys, Accenture, Capgemini and many others demonstrated how they are bringing these solutions to retail. Last year, we highlighted the Acuitas Digital consortium's (Sato Global Solution, Intel, British Telecom, RetailNext and others) value to retailers planning IoT deployments.
But proving that technology vendors are evolving quickly to meet the needs of experiential retail, Intel upped the ante at the NRF Big Show 2017, announcing the Intel Responsive Retail Platform, expanded partnerships and a planned investment of $100 million over the next 5 years in retail IoT. Timely, given the current degree of interest in IoT from retailers.
The promise: a platform that will provide the foundation for immediate IoT efforts, but also a standard base and partner ecosystem that will continue to speed the delivery of new capabilities. The list of innovators featured in the Intel booth alone was impressive, and booth tours were a hot ticket as a result.
The conversation about how ready the technology and partner ecosystem is to deliver improved visibility to inventory is no longer necessary. Instead, Intel partners Tyco Retail Solutions and Smartrac demonstrated retail hardened examples of end to end product visibility in their own booths. It is abundantly clear at this point that retailers need to have more accurate visibility to inventory in real time in order to fully orchestrate product fulfillment to customer.
I also visited with Smartrac in the busy RAIN-Alliance booth, where they demonstrated how the U.S. Ski Team's (USST) latest outerwear collection by Spyder, is equipped with NFC (Near Field Communication) tags that light-up several use cases including visibility and analytics of supply chain activities, but also for consumer experiences. The consumer experiences of product post purchase include real-time content and media engagement (YouTube, Instagram and Twitter); featured videos; ski events; and information sharing (world-class USST members and rosters). Smartrac’s Experiences solution also provides contextual and location-based information such as snow conditions, trail maps and points of interest, personalizing the user experience and continuing the customer journey past the point of purchase.
The well trafficked Tyco Retail Solutions booth featured familiar solutions including: the TruView inventory sales floor visibility and fitting room analytics solutions; from last year's acquisition, the ShopperTrak Solution and Global Index; the Sensormatic Shrink Management solution; and interactive displays; and less familiar cycle counting robots. But perhaps the most practical bit of cool technology, a new dynamic pricing tag – essentially a hard security tag with a display that enables real time price changes to individual items.
Another important vendor to note: TrueFit. TrueFit fosters the discovery of products that best fit consumers, and this year they partnered with Intel to utilize an Intel RealSense powered shoe sizing device. If customer's can confidently identify the right size, they will not have to return as many goods, which is a costly and profit draining process today.
We also saw dozens of vendors showcasing shopper tracking / interaction apps, interactive shelves and electronic shelf labels. These all fit into the category of capabilities that improve consumer experience and employee productivity, and it seems the time has come for these solutions to gain faster adoption. Our recommendation to retailers regarding this set of vendors – talk to the experts that can help you make sure these solutions / technologies have staying power, and whether they will ultimately fit within the plan you have for standards based IoT solutions.
IDC Retail Insight's believes that 2017 is the year of retail reckoning. What we mean is that the pressures driving change in the industry and within retail business models, will force dramatic shifts to technology investment strategies, as technology enables the next leap in experiential retail. Retailers will take capital out of physical store footprints, and double-down on consumer engagement that blends physical and digital streams of life. Retailers are shifting technology investments to technologies that enable faster, better decisions and actions in the stream of life and work.
Top priorities include managing data better, making analytics more actionable, and leveraging sensors to engage consumers more and make employees and assets more productive. Mobile, IoT, and cloud are simply become a part of the fabric of running a retail business.
For more information, click here to register for the IDC Retail Insights 2017 Web Conference series.