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NRF 2019 Observations

This is an archived post from OrderDynamics, now Tecsys retail division.
NRF 2019 Observations  [caption id="attachment_10702" align="alignright" width="440"] Hudson Yards - New York[/caption] Each year, the National Retail Federation Big Show attracts 37,000 plus attendees to NYC. Software vendors amaze us with all the tech innovations that are helping to drive the retail industry. We've seen omnichannel, unified commerce, customer experience, AI, AR innovations emerge and become real. However, it’s so critical to establish the right corporate culture for success. This will drive customers to your brand and attract the best talent. The consensus is that the worst days of the retail apocalypse are behind us.  There were positive economic indicators over the past quarter. Another encouraging sign in 2018, has been companies focusing their strategies around the customer experience. Retail is evolving into the theatre of all that is new and relevant in our lives. Aside from the inspiration at the Javits Center, directly East, is a new neighbourhood called the Hudson Yards. This is a mixed residential, commercial, retail and restaurant district. NYC is always evolving and re-imagining what a city could be. The same applies to retail. [caption id="attachment_10703" align="aligncenter" width="440"] Cloudpick Staff Free Store[/caption]

Three Prevailing Themes at the NRF 2019 Resonated Throughout the Expo Hall and at the Presentations. 

Grocery and Convenience Stores are Evolving and Transforming Personalized Experiences Powered by AI & AR Retailers and Brands are Redefining their Purpose

1. Grocery and Convenience Stores are Evolving and Transforming

[caption id="attachment_10699" align="alignright" width="440"] Intel JD.com Automated Vending[/caption] David Marcotte, SVP at Kantar Consulting, and Carl Boutet, Retail Strategist at CloudRaker, presented their views on how the grocery segment is ripe for disruption. The Amazon Go business model has emerged and in response, grocery stores are evolving. Multiple booths featured cashier-less checkouts, smart shelves, etc., to drive a better experience.            Moreso, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods back in 2017 was a call to action for the grocery industry. We have seen large grocery chains rise to the challenge to drive optimized customer experiences. Kroger highlighted this in the Microsoft booth with their Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS). Which uses the store, logistics or key components of business for the paid benefit of others. The company is transforming itself from a grocery company into a growth company. Shoppers in 1,000 stores can take products off the shelf and scan them in the Kroger app to purchase them. The retailer plans to add the technology to 800 stores by the end of the first quarter. [caption id="attachment_10694" align="aligncenter" width="440"] A Kroger customer scans the EDGE digital shelf to get an online coupon[/caption]

2. Personalized Experiences Powered by AI & AR 

[caption id="attachment_10695" align="alignright" width="440"] Salesforce - Brunello Cucineli Connected Commerce Stories[/caption] Recent NRFs featured AI and AR as a novelty.  This year’s event showed these innovations come to life. According to an IBM and NRF survey, 51% of retailers are leveraging AI to power customer insights. In addition, 48 percent are using it for demand forecasting, and 38% are leveraging it for pricing and promotions. These numbers are projected to increase to 79%, 85% and 73%, respectively, over 3 years. Salesforce featured the Rituals and Brunello Cucinelli client stories. For Rituals, the customer experience is unique. They offer customers hand massages, a cup of tea, and a choice of product samples. Also, with the power of Einstein's AI, Rituals drives personalized experiences. Brunello Cucinelli creates high-end clothing for men and women. The brand designs classic silhouettes and curates outstanding experiences. The brand's challenge is to preserve a personal touch across platforms. Cucinelli blends the traditions of Italian design with innovative technologies. [caption id="attachment_10701" align="aligncenter" width="440"] Salesforce - Rituals Customer Success Experience[/caption]

3. Retailers and Brands are Redefining Their Purpose 

[caption id="attachment_10697" align="alignright" width="440"] Patagonia - Save the Planet Campaign[/caption] Customers gravitate towards brands who have a greater sense of purpose and mission statement beyond their products. We have seen in brands emerge with a greater sense of social, environmental, and political points of view. Three brand stories and mission statements stood out at the event: Nike, Patagonia and Kroger. Nike took the courageous step of using Colin Kaepernick in its lauded marketing campaign. Which contributed to adding $6B to its topline revenue growth. Controversy clearly sells. According to Patagonia’s CEO Rose Marcario, the new mission going into 2019 is to save the planet. By building the best products and causing no harm, to the planet. Kroger’s “Zero Hunger” campaign is commendable as it addresses a fundamental challenge in the food industry. The company brings hope to the communities by donating fresh, wholesome food from their stores to local food banks.

What’s Next? 

There continues to be plenty of promise and hope in the retail industry. It's inspiring to see the close partnerships built between retailers and their consulting partners. The startup culture is alive, as companies leverage the talents and experiences of smaller firms. Purpose led business solutions powered by technology will rule the day in 2019.  According to Janet Yellen, former chair of the Federal Reserve, retailers are increasingly cautious. To mitigate these concerns, retailers should focus on driving better customer experiences. To truly meet customers’ needs in 2019, we can only accomplish this together.   Author:   Brandon Rael is an experienced retail strategy and operations expert who operates as a senior liaison at the intersection of the business, operations, technology, digital, and marketing worlds. With an innate understanding of the retail market landscape and the evolving consumer mindset, Brandon is a key partner for companies, as they evolve, adapt and grow more effectively. Brandon has an exceptional track record of success in delivering significant business improvements, driving meaningful return on investments, inspiring organizational change, all with a holistic view of the changing business landscape. Most recently, Brandon has driven retail industry thought leadership, white papers, social media blogging, content marketing, led retail conference speaking engagements and has joined the prestigious RetailWire Braintrust community LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/retailbrandon Twitter:  https://twitter.com/RetailBrandon RetailWire: https://www.retailwire.com/author/brandon-rael/
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