3 Takeaways from Retail’s Big Show NRF 2017

January 23, 2017Perry Kuklin

This month, retailers converged on New York for Retail’s Big Show. And big it was. Having attended the show for many years, I can say that this felt like the biggest and most energetic yet. It seemed that vendors and retailers are beginning to really embrace the ‘new normal’ of operating in a world saturated with cloud technology, brick-and-mortar shakeouts, and higher-than-ever shopper expectations. How these realities translate to business offerings and strategies was interesting to observe at NRF 2017 and resulted in some key takeaways:

1. Data is (officially) commoditized.

At this year’s event, there were an almost endless number of solutions offering data in the form of people counting and footfall analytics. From cameras to sensors to mobile tracking, retailers have many options available to count and track shoppers as they move in, around, and through their stores. All of this data was enough to make one’s head spin. The solutions that really stood out were ones that provided a simple way to automatically turn big data into actionable, real-time results. It’s one thing to capture data, but it’s much different to put it to use, and I’m proud to say that our suite of Qtrac technology solutions passed the test with retailers. Through live, in-booth demos, we showcased the real ways that Qtrac can optimize service delivery, increase efficiency, and ultimately improve the customer experience by using big data and analytics to automatically affect real-time changes in the store.  

2. The Internet of Things Needs the Pieces Pulled Together

If you boil it down, there are essentially three areas of the Internet of Things (IoT): At the top, you have companies managing cloud services, making sure that data is safe and secure and accessible. At the other end of IoT are companies making physical devices. This is the hardware that captures all the data and sends it up to the cloud. In the middle is communication back and forth between the cloud and the devices. At NRF we saw companies working in all three spaces of the IoT. But it’s rare to find companies that are pulling it all together. This, in our minds, is where the value is found. When it comes to queue management, Lavi is delivering the total solution. We are collecting data and analytics, analyzing it, and sending it back to use in a meaningful way in real time. And it’s more than just sending an alert. We can automate both the alerts and the actions that take place. For example, our footfall analytics tracking system can detect higher-than-expected foot traffic entering an area of the store. The system can be programmed to send a real-time alert to managers. And at the same time, can automatically divert customers to other areas of the store where open registers are available, or redirect associates working elsewhere to where they are currently needed.  

3. There’s a New Twist to the Customer Experience - Associate Facing Apps Are Hot

Customer experience is an obvious hot topic in retail and just about every other industry. At last year’s NRF show, the customer experience took center stage. This year, we saw the customer experience transform from being ALL about wowing the customer with whiz-bang technologies and experiences to being a bit MORE about giving associates the tools they need to be more efficient, helpful, and successful. If an associate needs big data or analytics, they’re getting it through an app. To give an example from our Qtrac VR virtual queuing technology, the VR app can allow associates to see how many people are waiting or if wait times are starting to get too long, it can enable an associate to requeue a waiting customer, send alerts when a customer needs help, etc. Of course, these associate apps directly lead to a better customer experience so it’s a win-win for both the business and the customer.   All in all, NRF 2017 did not disappoint. I learned a lot from the experience and enjoyed meeting up with customers, colleagues, partners, and others in the retail industry. What will 2018 bring? I can’t wait to find out.

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