Generix Group’s teams are back again for the NRF Retail Big Show. During the event, they’ll offer an analysis of the latest retail trends observed at the Javits Center in New York. The 108th edition was aimed at analysis of sales locations, omni-channel and customer data, and presented several innovations brought to market by major players in retail and their partners, many of them start-ups. In this article, we go through 2019’s major trends in connected retail.
Emerging AI technologies still at the forefront and increasingly geared towards customer experience
Robots present at sales locations
Mobile robots—self-operating or associated with a preparer—are very present in warehouses, particularly during the order preparation phase. These machines enable accelerated automation of logistic channels and reduced processing time. As they are now deployed in-store, they can pick up on and indicate missing products to ensure they are restocked and use visual recognition to perform inventory. Some are even able to fill stocks in aisles automatically.
A visual and a voice to make ordering easier
Voice search and visual recognition offer advantages for order placement, as they are omnipresent in the halls of the trade show. In the US alone, 20% to 25% of searches are performed using voice. Voice assistants are increasingly present in all areas of daily life (smartphones, computers, cars, and so on), and even though Google Home and Amazon Echo have not yet fully penetrated the retail market, they will undoubtedly spread to the sector soon enough.
Many start-ups currently occupy the promoter and visual recognition position. The technology is particularly appreciated in the home and fashion industries, where taking a picture of an article for a search engine can return similar references in a seller’s catalogue.
Artificial intelligence in all its forms
From automatic linear label update to customer analysis, AI is at the heart of recent retail trends. Using intelligent cameras and RFID sensors, automatic registration of products picked up in stores will help eliminate long lines at the register.
Start-ups are continually seeking out innovation, competing to come up with a register-free retail solution. And since artificial intelligence is omnipresent in sales points in many forms, it can help with the transformation and make the customer journey smoother.
For further reading: Collection: a more customer-focused front office
Stores, an analytical data fishbowl
As sales locations continue to digitize, brick and mortar sales has once again become attractive to retailers. After all, stores are chock full of sensors and digital devices, making them a formidable playground for data analytics. What’s more, connected stores offer precious data on consumer buying behavior. It is now possible to verify what articles consumers looked at or touched, and even the places in the store they stopped to think, in order to adjust product offers and improve customer experience.
With machine learning, data can serve a greater strategic purpose. Analysis algorithms help optimize the logistics processes where product flow is already well established. And since omnichannel now comes standard, it is also much easier to improve the customer journey.
Retail trends: towards an OMS that includes last-mile and feedback management
Last-mile management on the horizon
Until now, order management was geared towards unified commerce (physical and digital), warehouse management, and visibility of inventory to offer end customers full satisfaction. With omnichannel, focus has shifted to the ways emerging technology can be harnessed and data can be collected, both on the Web and in brick and mortar stores.
Retailers and OMS have entered the system refinement stage. Current issues involve last-mile operations and how best to approach them.
For further reading: 3PL, meeting the challenge of last-mile delivery
Reverse logistics, or how to handle customer feedback
To better meet consumer requirements, companies must now integrate reverse logistics so they can handle in-warehouse or in-store feedback for products ordered online. Amazon has an elegant solution to this issue: Since the main issue lies in quality control, several sellers specialized in textile retail use sniffers to detect whether returned clothing has been worn.
Although delivery flows are under control, managing returns remains a key optimization concern for those in sales. It is a newfound challenge for both retailers and digital solution publishers.
Major players specialized in digital (SAP, Microsoft, and Google) and distribution (Amazon, Alibaba) are now working as a community to come up with new services that can meet customer needs. By relying on a microcosm of innovative partners and including the latest retail trends, these mega-structures are shaping the future of product sales in a technological battle. Whether its via robots, voice and visual search or artificial intelligence, innovation as an optimization factor was more than ever a hot topic at NRF Retail’s 2019 Big Show.