On one hand, much about the NRF’s 2016 Big Show seemed status quo. The big vendors of course were there in abundance, touting their strengths, their depth and their track records. Retailers were there in droves, focused on seeing the latest and greatest in retail technology, as well as networking and catching up with peers, former colleagues and friends.
Transformations in the Landscape
But on the other hand, it seemed there was an unusual combination of up-and-comers, re-branding and / or shifts in the landscape.
- As a good example, let’s examine Infor’s announcement about their significant investment in Predictix. This investment is about twice the sum Predictix received about a year ago from another round of funding, and there’s not a question that Predictix has advanced thinking on science and optimization in the retail planning space. The bigger question customers and prospects may ask is what will Predictix do with the funding. Will there be a new or expanded functional focus? And if the investment helps continue to grow their customer base, how do they manage the growth — ensuring they keep up with delivery, quality and customer satisfaction?
- The related question is how will Infor leverage their investment, and how does this fit in with their already bold strategic moves in the retail solution space? What is the timeline for Infor to move from strategy to mature solutions, and to back up their marketing campaign and sales talk with real innovative software?
- On the flip side, given the moves by the up-and-comers, what will the established “800-pound gorillas” such as Oracle and SAP do to stay on top and be viewed as having fresh, innovative solutions?
- Another highlight was product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions provider Tradestone rebranding as Bamboo Rose – perhaps not a strategic change in the company’s direction, but clearly a new perspective.
Clouds on the Horizon
As with everything we’ve seen and read over the past year or so, many retailers were investigating which solution options in their landscape should be considered for the cloud. Human Capital Management (HCM) still seems to lead in this focus, followed by Financial Systems. But leading system providers are at least talking about having virtually all components of their ERP or Core Merchandising solutions in the cloud, and not just in a hosted or managed service model, but true cloud. Despite the marketing emphasis and eagerness of many retailers to move towards more flexible delivery models, the question still looms: When will these full cloud offerings be ready for prime time, and perhaps more importantly, will most (especially larger) retailers be prepared for this change?
A Bright (but Cautious) Outlook
Solution providers like PTC with PLM, planning and related optimization tools are talking about how to better utilize customer and store interaction information into their solutions. We are not sure how practical this is or will be, but it seems to be a next potential thought leadership step. From The Parker Avery Group’s perspective, the reality of these seems unclear, and we wonder if retailers will actually leverage in-season and virtually real-time information to make adjustments to demand signals, replenishment, allocation, or just the next season’s line and plans.
Beyond the demand side, it was interesting to see that some vendors, such as FirstInsight, are trying to tie predictive analytics tools with crowd-sourcing or other feedback mechanisms to link this feedback into product development with the objective of increasing new product launch success in the marketplace.
Fundamentals Still Rule
Along with innovation and new sizzling technology, many discussions Parker Avery had included the basic components of retail technology success: business ownership, quantitative value, process focus, change management, and rigorous program management. Some fundamentals simply do not change.
Finally, from an NRF logistics standpoint, it was refreshing to see the abundance of new seating and food options that were added. Thank you NRF and Javits.
– Clay & Robert