Insights from the Innovation Lab & Stage in NRF 2018
In this series, we cover retail trends from NRF 2018. Part 1 highlights our store tour. Part 2 brings insights from Expo and Stages. And Part 3 covers the exhibits and sessions of Retail 2020.
How do we survive the Retail Apocalypse?
In NRF 2018, the Innovation Lab and Sessions were designed to show retailers where they need to be by 2020. As Ann Marie Stevens, founder of Retail Innovation Lounge says:
“Innovations are all about HOW”.
#1 Rule – Enable Your Company to Innovate
Emily Culp was the innovator beyond Rebecca Minkoff high-tech store. Today she’s Chief Marketing Officer of Keds Shoes. How does she spend her time? Watching shoppers!
The secret to success, according to Culp, is learning the pain points in the Customer Journey. Then do something about it – first in process and then with technology.
This is true even for old school brands such as Sonic Automotive. The Eco Park facility was designed to take out the pain of shopping for a pre-owned car.
“Communication and organizational alignment are critical. With transparency in the pricing process, we battled the negative perceptions and also injected the positive.” – Marti Eulberg, Director Brand Management, Sonic Automotive.
Retail 2020 is “Back to 2015”
Retail 2020 Innovation Lab featured interactive booths by the stages of the Customer’s Journey – Awareness, Consideration, Engagement, Service, and Post-Purchase.
This year, the key themes were 360 view of the customer with AI Analytics, Voice Search, and Mobile Apps. The Innovation Lab felt familiar. And yet this is the year where fantasy turned into deployment. We are starting to see these technologies in stores.
“Actual innovations felt more like back to 2015” – RSR Research
To respond dynamically to customers, the leading retailers are already deploying Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning.
Personalize “Your Search” (Text, Voice & Video)
Google transformed Text Search. Amazon brought us Voice Search with Alexa. And a plethora of startups are offering variations of personalized search engines.
Visual Search is a side-effect of Vision Analytics, which is the core of driverless cars. It helps to find products even when they don’t know what to search for. This is an advanced search for unstructured data, and indication of how far we can go with advanced analytics.
Personalize “Your Product” (3D Scanner & Printer of Shoes)
How often did you find a shoe that fits? If you are like my mother, it takes five runs to the store and a couple of returns to Amazon. When she finally finds something she like, by next season it is no longer available. The 3D Scanner creates a customize assessment of each feet, which can be printed with a 3D printer.
The 3D Scanner is a win-win solution. Customers get shoes that are customized to their individual needs. And the retailer gets a lot of personal information, which can be tailored for future sales. The technology is already available in more than 1000 stores. It’s rumored to increase sales by 21%.
Automate “Store Marketing” (with Personalized Windows)
Digital screens have taken over shopping malls, inside stores, and even over bathroom mirrors. But what would you do if you could digitalize your store window?
What if you could change the display for specific demographics? What if you could change the theme every hour? What if you could change the “Sale of the Day”?
The trend of “digitizing the store” is pushed forward by the marketing department. And yet, the most effective data-oriented disruptions are already in the store.
Automate “Store Operations” (with Tag, Track & Stack)
Internet of Things (IoT) is already a reality. A key theme in Store Operations is Dynamic Management, which means monitoring and measuring in real-time.
For example, Trax Retail and the Nielsen Company joined to provide Shelf Intelligence Platform. The system processes over 10 billion images, 125000 items, and 4000 metrics. The solution is versatile. It is deployed with mobile applications, fixed cameras on shelves, and in robots.
Automate Your “Store” (Augmented Reality Gets Serious)
Smart fabrics, talking robots, and endless aisles are no longer in the realm of science fiction. There seems to be an endless debate whether retailers should be technology companies first.
Amazon is a technology first company. It’s is also a platform. Despite the media hype over Amazon Go, in NRF 2018 retailers were focused on next steps. This was the idea behind Retail 2020.
Should Retailers Care About AI Ethics? If you think retail success depends on being part of a social community, then YES
The panel with Tenzin Priyadarshi of MIT Media Lab, Francesca Rossi the AI Ethics Leader in IBM, and Anindya Ghose of NYU’s Stern School of Business, was serious.
The panel provided thought provoking views on Artificial Intelligence. What sort of data is feeding the system? “Good” vs. “Bad” is tested on a daily basis by the type of data and training of AI systems.
How Ethics be embedded in the system? How do we make the system “trust worthy” especially when the decision is made by AI? In medical applications, for example, IBM requires a human decision during the process.
As we see in the challenges of “Fake News”, owners of data are “biased”. What are the requirements for transparency? How do we know to ask the “Correct Question”?
The true challenge of AI is scale. If we make a mistake today, can we fix it in the future?
Retail’s Future? The Venture Capitalists (VC) Perspective
According to the investors, the key is not technology but leadership. There are options to innovations in technology, and in process. Today, you can outsource almost everything to a solution provider and access the data in the Cloud.
“The advantage of digital brands is that data is a part of their DNA. And that data advantage is faster and faster because the brand has direct connections to their customers. If you hit on a concept, you can reach a million dollars in sales in the first month.” – Scott Friend, Bain Capital Market
A word of caution, however, is keeping the retailer’s unique identify. In Store 8, for example, Walmart created the environment for innovation. But incubators are not a panacea. Nor is being digital.
“Online digital business should be fully integrated with physical stores.” Scott Emmons, iLab Leader Neiman Marcus
Customers have many options, in product, pricing, and brands. The stores are evolving into a variety of distribution points and experience centers. The essence of retail is re-imagined.
“With that kind of change, and disruption, and volatility come enormous opportunity.” – Matt Shay, President NRF
What should retailers do first?
The best piece of advice comes from Nike –
“Just Do It!”
Ronny Max is the founder of Silicon Waves Agency and Behavior Analytics Academy. We specialize in In-Store Conversion Optimization (CRO) for physical retail. Learn more on BehaviorAnalytics.Academy