Walking around the EXPO Hall at NRF 2013 and listening to the various vendors’ latest updates and positioning statements gives you a good perspective of what’s happening in the world of retail technology. Certainly there were some new shiny toys; slick, next generation technologies from a handful of young, up and coming software vendors. But, for the most part, there were not a lot of new, game changing solutions, just the most recent versions of the basic blocking and tackling apps needed to run the business.
We did have a few takeaways from our time spent in the EXPO Hall. First, given retailers increased focus on engaging their customers in an omnichannel world, there was a lot more emphasis on technologies that enhance the customer experience. Applications that enable the store associates to connect with shoppers no matter where or when they shop help provide a more seamless experience between online and in-store destinations.
Since many retailers are sitting on huge amounts of data there was a lot of interest in business intelligence tools and analytics solutions to help them better understand who their customers are, and what their customers want. Retailers are looking for technology that gives them consistent, insightful, and actionable metrics that reflect the customers’ perspective.
What is still a bit murky is how they bridge the gap between the analytics and their transaction systems and how this information gets fed into merchandising and product development decisions.
The second observation was that mobility technologies were everywhere. There were more applications than ever on where to take advantage of smart phone and tablet technologies. It is clear that comprehensive mobile strategies are still in the early stages, but there seems to be a general consensus that you can’t sit on the sidelines and wait for mobility solutions to mature before sticking your toe in the water. Many retailers are feeling compelled to start trying various mobile apps now so they can get an understanding of what their impact will be to the business.
Mobile devices have changed the way consumers can research, buy and pay for products both in the store and online. Technologies for mobile payments, mobile POS, and mobile marketing are here, and mobility apps are helping shape the future of retail.
The lines between in-store commerce, eCommerce, and mobile commerce are blurring. Consumers expect a more integrated buying experience that is quick, consistent, secure, and available wherever they happen to be, at any time, and through any type of device.