IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 25 Jan 2012

NRF 2012…New York…New York!

This year saw us attend the 2012 NRF (National Retail Federation) EXPO in New York, Not only was this a great retail event, but it was also my first time in New York.  It was a welcome opportunity to see the current and new technologies being showcased, as well as meeting up with numerous retailers, and partners, and of course taking in the famous landmarks alongside indulging in some retail therapy. It’s been a week since we returned from the EXPO so I’ve had some time to reflect on the things we saw there. I wanted to share my main highlights from the show, which may differ from Borys’ (our Head of Sales) which included meeting the newly crowned Miss America! So… back to the technology. There were a few things which stood out for me, including the following:

Security camera surveillance combined with customer profiling data: There were a couple of stands at the show which not only demonstrated the ability to record people in store for security purposes, but also combined this with valuable customer profiling data. One solution provided information regarding footfall, male or female profiling, and confidence rating. However, much to the amusement of Alan and Borys it did define me as male (and despite my unisex name, I can assure you that I have no secrets to share!) so the reliability of some data may be questionable. Other systems had a similar concept, but also provided a ‘happy’ rating or floor mapping data analysis, tracking where shoppers were walking around the store. This enables retailers to understand where their product offering is drawing in the most traffic, for more strategic product positioning.

Combined RFID tags and NFC: Two organisations have come together to combine the technology of RFID and Near Field Communication (NFC), for wider marketing purposes. These tags were demonstrated via some Burton snowboard boots. When you picked them up it started a video clip on a nearby TV screen of some pretty impressive snowboarding, which is very compelling for snowboarders like me. This demonstrated the values and experience the brand would like you to feel as a result of owning the boots. Tailored messaging is used to try and capture sales; however the issue is the affordability of placing this technology in numerous products in store.

Google: One of the key stands to visit at the show had to be Google, who drew people in with their games machines, and flashing pens that they were giving away (some of which have ended up at our office) but also because people were keen to hear about their latest developments. Of these, one of the concepts was ‘Google wallet’ contactless payment via your mobile phone currently developed for Android. We also encountered this whilst out and about in New York as we noticed that American Eagle outfitters were advertising the fact that they have this functionality. It appears to offer seamless payment and simplicity but the issue is the continuing Android / Apple divide. The mobile handset which ends up with the most users will have the greater influence upon retailers’ investment decisions.

Kinect technology: There were a number of organisations at the EXPO who showcased technologies for the Kinect. One of which was based on augmented reality. I tested this technology to try on a virtual dress. This functionality has recently been implemented to some John Lewis stores in the UK. Whilst trying on the virtual dress I was also being filmed for CNN, so I could have been on the news too! Whilst this technology was impressive, you have to question whether this has a place in the store when you can try items on for real, or whether it is better placed in the home, when browsing via your TV screen and Kinect.

In-store online reviews: Whilst the use of iPads in store may become more and more commonplace and accepted, I witnessed a simple idea to enhance the omni-channel approach to retail. One organisation simply integrated online reviews regarding products in store via the iPad. Not only could customers look up an item online in store on the iPad to potentially order it in a different colour or size, but they could also look up reviews and ratings to discover what other customers had said about it. Prompts are given to the customer on the iPad to join the retailer on Facebook or Twitter, to engage audiences further via social media.

In conclusion, whilst some of the above concepts are great, it’s a question of how much they would increase margin, and how much of a return they would provide on the investment required. In many cases, only time will tell.

Did you attend NRF 2012?  What were your highlights from the show? Post your comments below or email

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