For anyone who has experienced the massive and overwhelming wrath of NRF, it goes something like this: Wake up while it’s still dark outside, put on your business attire followed by layers and layers of clothing on top (yes, it looks ridiculous), endure the bitter New York wind that stabs you in the face, unravel yourself until you find your business attire, stand in the mile-long Starbucks line for the jolt of caffeine to get you over the ‘why did I get up so early’ hump, meeting, meeting, meeting, coffee, meeting, lunch meeting (more coffee), booth duty, coffee (thank you to those exhibitors with the free coffee at their booths), meeting, dinner meeting, escape to the sweet relief of a bed (only to repeat tomorrow).
For those who did not, or do not attend Retail’s Big Show, they’re probably thinking: Why would you put yourself through that? For those able to attend (and now experiencing what we call the ‘NRF hangover’), they’re gearing up for next year’s show. That’s because there are so many new technologies, services, trends and success stories jam-packed into one location, it’s nearly-impossible to walk away without some sort of tidbit of information or nugget of inspiration, that makes executives excited to get back to the office and share the wealth.
Whether we saw you at the Javits Center, or you’re following up here to see what you’ve missed, CGT’s editors have you covered. Here are the top trends, companies-to-watch, technologies and more, making an impact on the consumer goods (CG) industry this year (and beyond):
-- Integration of point solutions: There’s certainly no shortage of new and exciting technology, solutions and services emerging at NRF, but one theme that also emerged was how to better integrate them. Consider the latest announcement of a global alliance made by BT, Intel, NexGen Packaging, RetailNext and SATO Global Solutions. Named the Acuitas Digital Alliance, these companies are combining their networking, hardware, software, analytics, cloud services and security globally to encourage digital adoption in store, with the intent of bringing in-store and back-office together seamlessly. In a world of RFID, beacons, The Internet of Things (IoT), 2-D barcodes, big data and predictive analytics, among many other buzzwords — it is evident that many solution and services providers are starting to collaborate on the next step: How to better integrate these solutions and services into one cohesive and seamless ‘one-stop-shop.’
-- While RFID itself is still being used primarily for high-margin products tagged at the item level, now including fresh meat and fish, Intel also had some breakthrough examples, which reminded us of the early promises made by RFID technology. Partnering with T+ink and WestRock, Intel demonstrated real-time inventory management through smart shelf and printable tag technology, which could be a game-changer for suppliers in terms of inventory visibility and OOS monitoring as well as planogram compliance.
Intel also demonstrated capabilities implemented in conjunction with Accenture at a high-end Italian grocery store that used a Microsoft Kinect sensor to provide consumers with detailed product information, allowing for CG-supplied digital content to interact with the shopper at the shelf. With the explosion of consumer facing content, including recipes or upsell recommendations, the potential here is impressive!
-- Along the lines of collaborating technologies, Microsoft had no shortage of partnerships to highlight at its booth. In conjunction with Neal Analytics, Microsoft invited Coca-Cola Arca Continental’s CIO and Director of Revenue Growth Management, to talk about their latest success story called ‘Project Why.’ When Coca-Cola Arca’s COO wanted to know what was driving sales, there was a lack of trust in the answers, and with good reason. The assumption was that there were poor sales because of external factors (i.e. weather), however when looking at the measurable factors, there were 95 that made up their ‘sales DNA,’ and the external factors were, in reality, very small. That meant that there were many measurable factors that were in control of sales, and when addressed properly, presented many growth opportunities. It was said that, “predictive analytics don’t tell you why things happen.” In conducting Project Why, Coca-Cola Arca’s newfound insights have made its sales more actionable. Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage on this story.
In the same booth, CGT experienced a vending machine (in this case, used by Mondelez International) that was running with Microsoft’s Azure and Kinect, which gave it the ability to capture demographics (how long a consumer is standing in front of a machine), interactions, the health of the machine, and it can even predict when the machine will need maintenance, and keep track of inventory. Microsoft also highlighted Sitecore, which started out as a content management system (CMS) turned consumer engagement platform boasting CG clients like Dyson and Graf von Faber-Castell, that are shaping their customer experiences through a CMS website.
-- With omnichannel the overarching theme from NRF in 2015, this year, companies like Shelfbucks are helping to complete this strategy. Through the help of Menasha, this partnership brings digital capabilities at the point of purchase (POP) displays. With CG companies losing money in trade promotions every day due to lack of data in store (not knowing if your costly displays or promotions are being set up properly – or at all), this technology is one to watch as it gives suppliers better visibility into their promotional displays, as well as, captures shopper behavior in the store, and in real time. Key metrics include dwell time, conversion rates, product reviews and other benefits helping to keep the consumer engaged right at the shelf. With over 50 percent of displays that don’t make it to the floor, this tech could be a game-changer for suppliers, providing insight on promotional displays from the back room, to the store floor and all the way to the trash — just ask Gamestop or Mondelez International.
-- Although still in pilot stages and awaiting clearance from GS1, Mobeam has surfaced as a technology to keep an eye on in 2016. Mobile payment wallets have been heavily covered in the news of late, and this is the next step in helping shoppers to have a truly mobile payment experience. The current payment options on the market can only handle one type of payment (credit/debit cards), so shoppers tend to still pull out their credit cards to swipe them during a transaction when they have other items that need to be scanned anyway (it’s just quicker). With the Mobeam technology, shoppers can now have anything with a barcode (loyalty cards, coupons, gift cards, etc.) beamed to a laser scanner through their smartphone. Coupons (think Sunday newspaper) are one of the last paper components present in the CG and retail industries. Now, CG brands will be able to follow their digital coupons throughout the entire shopping transaction. Furthermore, CG companies can eliminate the cost of liability on bad coupons, the coupons are cleared faster (since it’s all digital), which frees up funds to pay the retailer faster. Once GS1 standards are in place, this could change the shape of the way CG brands create coupons in the future (and make for a much lighter Sunday paper).
-- Virtual reality is now just reality. For all the luxury brands, apparel, footwear and accessory manufacturers out there, GoInStore offers a new tech with the help of Epson, creating ‘value through real-time, human to human connections.’ Let me explain: there is a 20 to 30 percent conversion rate for in-store purchases through the help of a sales person. There is a 2 to 3 percent conversation rate of sales online. That is a big difference. With GoInStore, employees or in-store sales people, can now interact with an online customer to further personalize the shopping experience. Think about how many times, you call a number on a website, or press the chat button with a representative only to get the ‘call center experience’ (they don’t know the product!). Now imagine hitting a button on your screen and being able to see what a sales person is seeing in the physical store that has the product you are looking for (and don’t worry if you’re shopping in your pajamas – they can’t see you). There are major opportunities for high-ticket items (think cars, shoes, complex items that require research). Through wearable glasses from Epson (based on a recommendation from an optician), sales associates in the store can flip a switch that makes them available to help an online customer, while not causing disruption to the physical line of customers in store. It also offers a binocular view, which means the sales person can look through the glass, and also can receive a stream of data (collected through the website cookies) that tells the sales person about that customer. Luxury shopping can now feature a luxurious shopping experience.
-- Zebra Technologies had some new announcements centering on the backend, actually a refreshing change from all the front of store consumer focus. The new TC8000 scanner is driving 14 percent higher productivity for warehouse workers based on better ergonomics and advanced functionality. In high-volume warehouses, that adds up quickly! It’s also worth mentioning a layer of software built on this new technology from Wavelink (anyone using a handheld scanner knows the familiar green screen), a company that floats under the radar, but has a big impact. In fact, many companies are using this software, and don’t even realize that it’s Wavelink. Increasing productivity is at the core of this company whether it’s tied into the warehouse management system, ERP, or minimal impact updates for major results.
We also noticed several new monitoring capabilities, including better use cases of IoT for manufacturers. Zebra, for example, has a new service where they install wireless sensors in refrigerators to capture temperature and light data which is stored in the cloud and then accessible for reporting, insuring food traceability and quality standards are maintained.
-- Being on a team of mostly women (sorry guys), we had to make a shout out to CEO and Founder of KWOLIA, Anne Marie Stephen. Celebrating inspirational women in digital and retail technology is definitely a cause worth mentioning. Especially with many CG companies and different industries focusing on STEM for women, it seems a natural fit to help spread the word to this industry.
How was your NRF experience? Let us know in the comments below, or drop us a line directly (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) as we gear up for next year…
Want more NRF content? Check out CGT's Guide to Retail's Big Show, here.