The National Retail Federation (NRF), the global retail pilgrimage, has just closed its doors. Behind the ever more impressive figures: 38,000 participants, 99 countries represented, 800 exhibitors, what conclusions can be drawn from this 2020 edition ?
It's hardly possible to miss out on the booming of visual recognition, especially facial recognition, whose applications in commerce are multiplying: people counting, security, theft prevention, payment. Just to give some examples: there is the new Worldline solution presented at the NRF, the Smart Mirror in H & M’s Time Square store that allows you to interact with intelligent terminals and FaceFirst Customer Identification solution that recognize clients to push targeted marketing or inform employees.
To be honest, this starts looking a lot like Minority Report… Besides, it’s not clear if these solutions are GDPR compliant and there's a great chance they raise controversy in Europe, as European consumers are attached to the protection of their privacy.
"Personalization" is the magic word. Every brand is embracing this new trend: offering product personalization directly in the store or online. This ranges from articles customizing to gift wrap paper personalization. This approach allows the retailer to meet a growing consumer demand while considerably enriching the shopping experience, by giving the consumer the possibility of creating its own design, rather than just choosing among those available. Which undoubtedly sparks customer engagement. Another argument in favour of on-site customisation is that it considerably reduces the risk of unsold products and thus helps to combat overproduction.
We simply couldn't write this article without mentioning Amazon Go and its checkout-free shopping experience. The steps are quite simple. You download the application, enter the store by logging in your Amazon account, take what you want and leave the store. And don’t worry, nobody will stop you. For the most part, it works but it’s clear that Amazon is still working on the concept since there are still few errors made by the sensors in recognizing people’s movements. One question remains about the profitability of the model. 18 months ago Amazon announced the opening of 3,000 Amazon Go shops by 2021.
Amazon Go is one of the first ever examples of a truly seamless customer experience, a trend that’s predicted to be big in the world of retail this year.
Conquest is good, but loyalty is even better. In this field, Amazon Prime is further strengthening Amazon's position. On the one hand, it's a very profitable business, Amazon Prime's subscription rate has increased considerably to bring it closer to 100 million suscribers, and its renewal rate is over 90%. On the other hand, these customers spend twice as much as other Amazon customers ($1,400 per year vs. $700).
At the NRF, Bossa Nova Robotics announced the deployment of its inventory robots in a total of 1,000 Walmart stores. The company signed a first agreement with the giant Walmart in 2017 for 50 robots, a number then increased to 350, to reach now 1,000.
Designed to supplement or replace the tedious task of inventory, the robot scans the shelves for missing items, sending this information back to the back office. Automation and robotics were among the technologies that empowered employees at the show, particularly for their ability to free them from laborious tasks so that they can focus on those with high added value and customer experience.
This automation of workflows is estimated to help retailers reallocate 65 hours of labour per store per week to more essential tasks and support them in their "click and collect" and "ship from store" processes.
According to Walmart, the quality of the human relationship is what makes the customer come back to the store every day - which must be, more than a convenience, a real destination.
There has been little mention of sustainable development in this year's NRF edition, which is quite surprising as it is a major concern worldwide. Nonetheless, two innovations caught eyes: Flashfood application an app that offers shoppers to receive major discounts on food items nearing their best before date) and Foodini, a 3D food printer helping reducing food waste.
Starbucks President Kevin Johnson said he is not afraid to reinvent the future through technology and pointed out that innovation must come with an emphasis on promoting human interaction.
Security, Community Engagement, Customer Experience, Loyalty and Human Resources are major concerns for the retail industry. To stay ahead of the curve, retailers and e-commerce companies need to challenge conventions and rely on technology and innovation to move forward.
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