3 Digital Trends for Retail in '18

February 1, 2018 Ryan Hall

For brick and mortar retailers curious what they should be mindful of entering 2018, there is a place to go and learn about the latest retail technology.  With over 30K attendees, hundreds of sponsoring companies, and three days of compelling thought-leadership, NRF (known as the ‘Big Show’) kicks off retail’s calendar year with a splash.  As can be expected, a cross-section of emerging trends and technologies across the industry are on display and are discussed during the conference. 

With that, let’s take a look at some of the key digital trends that were commonly-identified at NRF ’18.

1. Data-Driven Insights

An over-arching and reoccurring point of emphasis throughout NRF, data analytics is a broad, sweeping topic and could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  In the specific context of physical retailers, the use cases and potential business benefits are evident; if brick and mortar stores are to continue to deliver a quality shopping experience and remain profitable harnessing data analytics will be key to their success

For retail stores and chains, data analytics not only delivers valuable business insights to the business they also have the ability to enhance the shopping experience for consumers.  Speaking on digital transformation Joe Jensen, VP and GM of Retail Solutions at Intel, suggests that “data is the key to the future of physical retailers.” Jensen cited that data empowers businesses with operational analytics related to in-store movement and engagement, product placement and performance, and customer preferences and buying behaviors.

Physical retailers have a unique advantage compared to digital retail in that the customer can physically engage with the products as well as consult with a sales or service staff in-store. But to deliver that value-added experience in-store retailers need to collect and leverage actionable analytics.        

2. Personalized Experiences and Engagement

Personalization was a heavily-discussed topic among vendors and thought-leaders at NRF as it continues to be a highly sought-after goal for retailers.  The underlying question seems clear: “How can retailers personalize their digital solutions and deliver a customized experience to shoppers?”  This is a goal that’s shared across the industry, including massive brands like Macy’s, whose Executive Chairman Terry Lundgren told Forbes that “the whole concept of personalization is simply on steroids right now.  It’s all about the consumer in that one moment in time.  We’re doing anything we can do to connect [with them] directly and make shopping more convenient.”    

With e-commerce retailers like Amazon already making huge strides with personalization online, in-store retailers look to also deliver this level of personalization and engagement with their shopping experience.  Strategic technologies that harvest location-based analytics and customer insights are incredibly valuable to retail stores and brands as they deliver the necessary intelligence for personalization.                  

3. Evolution of In-Store Staff

The traditional role of retail’s in-store sales and service associates is transforming, and the tools that enable their day to day tasks are transforming too.  No longer are they solely tasked with the upkeep of a store, or helping to locate the right products for customers.  Implementation of new technologies and access to actionable data analytics (as mentioned above) allows retail staff to be much more proactive, personal, and informed - augmenting the in-store experience for customers.

Scott Emmons, Founder and Head of Neiman Marcus Group’s Innovation Lab, drives digital strategy at the company and feels strongly that the convenience and practicality of their online shopping experience must be replicated in-store.  For this reason, he argues investment in customer-facing technologies should solve “real problems” rather than capriciously pursuing the “sexy new service” that fails to truly streamline and personalize the in-store experience.  To this point, he and his team developed an internal CRM app that staff have access to in real-time on company-issued iPhones.  Data procured from across company platforms is fed into the app with relevant information related to the customer and Neiman Marcus products, allowing sales associates to deliver a high-touch and personal experience in their stores.        

That was just a taste of the key trends from this year’s show, to explore more from this year’s NRF, all of the event’s panel sessions are available online.  To learn more about how in-store retailers can leverage technology to enhance your in-store experience, check out our Retail Solution Center

About the Author

Ryan Hall

Ryan is a Senior Vertical Marketing Specialist at Extreme Networks.

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