NRF Showed 2018 Will Be the Year of Data, Analytics and Intelligence for Retailers

Last month, our own VP of Retail Solutions, Matt Worley predicted some emerging retail technologies he expected to see at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show in New York City. He described five technologies that, when combined effectively, will let in-store retailers create a frictionless, more personalized experience for their customers, all while making their operations more efficient and cost-effective.

Now that the show is over, I can confirm Matt’s prediction of where in-store retail is headed this year, namely that retailers will apply these technologies to make the entire store more customer-aware.

Store and Customer Analytics
When a shopper visits an online store, the retailer knows where they clicked, what they looked at, what they read, how long they stayed on each page—and that’s just for starters. The site collects data on the items you put in your “cart,” the ones you removed, and what you replaced them with. All this data is analyzed to reveal the customer’s behaviors and underlying preferences, allowing the experience to be customized on future encounters.

So, why shouldn’t brick-and-mortar retailers gain the same type of insights? It’s all about analyzing and applying the data collected in the store.. Retailers can use it to optimize inventory management and store personnel scheduling—traditional back office functions—but also to elevate the customer’s shopping experience to levels they are only accustomed to finding online.

Shelf Analytics and Order Optimization
Show attendees were very excited about potential applications of shelf analytics. For example, a fresh foods store can keep track of how long items have been on the shelf or in the cooler, to better maintain freshness levels of the inventory. Today, many retailers use RFID tags—to better manage inventory levels and loss prevention. Using RFID tags isn’t practical. Not only are they expensive from an investment standpoint they are wasteful, as tags typically get thrown in the trash when the customer discards the packaging at home.

A less expensive and more environment-friendly alternative is NEC’s machine-learning order optimization application that helps retailers predict sales numbers to reduce inventory or overstock shelves. Shelf inventory and digital signage solutions can identify an item as the customer removes it from the shelf, then determine whether the customer puts the item is the basket or returns it to the shelf. Once in the cart, nearby displays can offer helpful tips, related videos, coupons or other shopping assistance, all based on the item selected.

By tracking all the items in the basket, the solution helps manage inventory control, ordering and stocking, not to mention preparing the customer for the checkout counter.

Such solutions can be adapted to a wide range of retail verticals and applications, to promote additional purchases, reduce waste, automate and optimize inventory orders, and more. All the while, they promote a healthier bottom line, make operations more efficient, and improve the customer experience—just like an online experience does or better.

It’s All About Data, Analytics and Intelligence
This year the focus of the show was less about hardware and more about artificial intelligence, data gathering and mining and analytics. Yes, you need hardware devices to perform all these things. Interactive kiosks, IP cameras, smart tags and displays and so on, not to mention the enterprise software and storage. What it really comes down too, is the ability to connect all that data to the back office, taking and using it to make data-driven decisions based on actionable insights in the store.

Here retailers can see actual, functioning AR and AI retail solutions like CaliBurger. If NRF 2018 was any indication, this year’s retailers will be focused on data, analytics, and intelligence. From the customer perspective, it’s all about the store experience and convenience these solutions bring. From the retailer’s perspective, it’s about bringing customers back from online and into the store. But what it’s really about, is making the entire store smarter and more efficient.

What’s does retail intelligence run on? A robust foundation on which to gather, store, analyze and act upon the resulting insights. Watch this space for articles about the NEC Smart Enterprise solutions that provides a secure foundation for retailers and other industries.

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Understanding Purpose Over Place in Retail

Choice is a good thing—especially if you’re a shopper. Today’s consumer seamlessly moves from online, in-store or a combination of the two when making purchases. For the traditional retailer, shopping options beyond the bricks-and-mortar store can feel intimidating.

Want advice on how to enrich your customer experience?To survive and thrive in this environment, in-store retailers must provide an experience that is different from the traditional, staid and disengaged experiences of the past. To bring shopping into the 21st century, retailers can take advantage of the latest technology to make shopping more convenient, secure and enjoyable for customers.

Changing the In-store Experience

To create a unique in-store experience, retail has become more niche and product-focused. Technology continues to play a big role in retail success by providing real value, not just cool hype.

Data visibility in the store also helps retailers dive deeper into captured data to uncover buying intentions. Stanchion™ Store software from NEC strives to help retailers better Know Your Customer to understand their objectives — or their purpose for being in the store — to make it easier for retailers to meet their needs and provide unique shopping experiences. Based on previous in-store shopping behavior or experiences, retailers can predict a shopper’s intentions.

Combining a 360-degree camera to monitor shoppers’ movements with video analytics helps retailers track gender, ages and number of visitors in their locations. This data enables stores to manage staff better, making sure the proper number of associates are on hand during peak traffic times.. Checkout how we enabled Becker’s Central Canada (Couche-Tard, Inc.) store owners to see up to-the-minute sales information for smarter product ordering and overall improved store efficiency.

NEC is working on a solutions to take store analystics a step further, by tyingdemographic data to POS transactions to allow retailers to better understand the kinds of customers they’re serving and what products are purchased. This information improves merchandising, store operations and customer interactions, such as determining which product displays appear to be most effective and which areas of the store experience the most traffic.Retailers can also use heat mapping to track a customer’s product engagement and “dwell times” at a particular display or locations in the store.

Improving the Omnichannel Experience

Consumers tend to want a combination of technology and human interaction while shopping. Research shows that many purchases begin with online browsing, followed by an in-store interaction. Improving a seamless omnichannel purchasing experience is one way traditional retailers can connect with their customers. In-store associates can provide more personalized service by knowing preferences through browsing history and offering convenient payment options.

Get a closer look at the Connected Consumer with this Infographic:

Cashless AND Card-less Payment Options

Easier payment processes are another important component of a seamless customer experience. One of the advantages of online shopping is easy check-out. As retailers turn to new methods of accepting and processing payments, the concept of waiting in a check-out line to pay may become obsolete.

Check out NEC’s mobile POS solutions

NEC’s facial recognition technology, can take it a step further toward eliminating not only cash payments, but even credit cards. Your own face becomes your currency. Payment through facial recognition offers several advantages. Authentication using facial images helps reduce potential fraudulent payments (added security) and eliminates the need to carry multiple forms of ID (more convenience). Since facial data is stored in numerical data, it’s difficult or even impossible for a data thief to actually the identify the faces. Additionally, facial recognition information can be stored in a way to make it accessible at a retailer’s multiple locations around the country.

Another shopping option uses an interactive projection system to enabling ordering, research or payment without a physical device being present. This is a perfect solution for restaurant tabletops or counters in hotel lobbies.

Future of Retailing

With increased consumer confidence, shoppers will continue to spend, both online and in store. In the near term, high-tech solutions will improve supply chain efficiency. Artificial-intelligence-powered chatbots and faster checkout through improved POS and other mobile devices will continue to improve the shopping experience.

To remain a viable option for shoppers, traditional retailers must continue to use technology to gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ preferences and shopping habits to provide a seamless, enjoyable in-store experience for their customers.

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