We had a great time at NRF this year! Attendance was up from previous years and after two slow years in retail, everyone seemed to be in high spirits. Along with promising conversations with prospective customers and potential partners, the content of the conference was quite impressive. It is apparent that technology is rapidly evolving in the space of retail.
For those of you who couldn’t make it to “Retail’s Big Show” this year, here are a few trends that we saw on the show floor, that retailers should and are looking to leverage:
- Mobile: According to a Retail TouchPoints report, nearly half of retailers surveyed reported that they either have an optimized mobile site or a smartphone app. Mobile technology is becoming a part of virtually all aspects of retail, through customer relationships, marketing, payment and support. An excellent article from Avanade puts it well, “Retail is no longer about ‘where’ the customer is shopping, but ‘how’ the customer is shopping.” Mobile technology will continue to change the way retailers do business.
- Analytics: Analytics are an advantage. Data analytics are being applied to everything from customer behaviors to merchandise trends. Companies today are implementing social media into their data analytics to gauge customer sentiment about products. Leveraging your business’ analytics not only grows your bottom line but allows you to work more efficiently which is the key to becoming an operational differentiator today.
- Omni-channel: Are you omni-channel enabled? Omni-channel retailing was abuzz this year. With tomorrow’s customer already here, today’s retailer is forced to execute through all channels with equal effectiveness in order to remove barriers that separate these various channels and streamline the entire customer experience.
- Alternate payment: The payments space is evolving at a truly rapid pace—from Google Wallet to various other mobile payment models. Retailers are presenting their customers with more and more ways to pay. In the old days, cash gave way to cards, but now even plastic is losing its prestige.
- Interactive innovation: There was no shortage in digital signage at NRF. The display technologies and interactive applications went way beyond simple kiosks. More and more retailers are using this type of technology to engage with the consumer and enhance the shopping experience. One of the most impressive interactive innovations at the show was Facecake’s Swivel properly coined, “World’s First 3D Virtual Dressing Room,” a Kinect for Windows technology that allows shoppers to virtually try on items of clothing.
- Security integration: And of course, my favorite: Security. Being a veteran of the show, I have witnessed the evolution of security. As mobile and cloud computing and wireless data have become more mainstream, so has integrated security (read more about this here). While security and compliance solutions used to be sold as one off solutions, they are now being offered as packages by larger partner providers. Security has evolved from a hot trend to a must-have requirement for all retailers.
From a security standpoint, 2012 is the year for retailers to drive more efficiency into security architecture, and the question that should be top of mind is how can cost and complexity be removed? In years past, it was a mad scramble to get security solutions in place to meet compliance deadlines and pass mandatory audits. Now it’s a matter of how well security solutions are integrated to drive operational efficiencies and enable applications.