In: Tips

Every January thousands of retailers ascend to New York City to talk retail trends, demo the latest in retail tech and share insights on where the industry is going. This year over 35,000 people visited exhibitors, rushed to break out sessions, listened to keynotes from industry leaders, networked and hosted tweet chats focusing on everything from mobile retailing and sustainability to research and global trending.

Here are some of the top trends making the Lionesque team and I excited for the year ahead:

NRF Rundown AI

Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics:
There is no surprise technology is continuing to evolve and empower consumers, but we are finally seeing ways in which brands are understanding how to harness our digital footprint to better serve its customers. Companies are partnering and sharing data to create powerful ecosystems leading to experiences that truly feel personally contextualized. Combining data from social logins, browsing history and past purchases retailers and brands are making more educated predictions.

“Companies now have the ability to create real time displays for customers via Dynamic Merchandising with data to support an accurate recommendation to a customer. This will create a deeper trust and connection between the brand and consumer market that was never there before.” Senior Account Manager, Aliana Galan

“It’s all about analytics: Today, technology allows for uncovering customer insights more accurate than ever. Understanding customer behavior will be key companies who plan to deliver personalized experiences in the global marketplace.” Project Manager, Gabriela Castelao

It’s still evolving, but at some point responsive storytelling and merchandising will be the norm. We are seeing hints of it now as we walk by billboards and see personal messages that differ from the person before or after us. Someday, all messages delivered to consumers will be customized messages, tailored incentives and personalized support.

NRF Rundown RFID

The Connected Store & The Endless Aisle:
Apparel, shoes, nail polish, tech gadgets, you name it, are equipped with tags that tell more than the name and price of the product. Via RFID (radio frequency identification) once deemed “barcodes on steroids” customers can learn about garments as they pick them up and try them on. It can also empower the back-end infrastructure of a company creating end-to-end efficiencies with real time inventory updates enabling on-demand fulfillment.

With stores trending to be smaller, flexible and modular, the connected store experience allows retailers and brands to deliver an interactive experience with access to a full catalogue of options while curating actual in-store inventory. And by connecting the physical environment with the digital world, stores have the ability to incorporate interactive windows to deliver a 24/7 brand and shopping experiences.

NRF Rundown Dressing Room

Store Associates are the new Concierge:
Companies are beginning to understand that at the end of the day, the customer IS the channel and are investing in more engaged and educated brand advocates. They are empowering staff with technology that provides cognitive insights and better allow them to serve customers needs.

Companies are really focusing on the consumer and how to make the shopping experience easier and seamless. This includes apps to request assistance, dressing room technology that let you request items or even checkout within the dressing room, virtual reality mirrors that allow shoppers to see themselves in outfits and browse through colors and other styles. Visual Design and Project Manager, Megan Ohr.

NRF Rundown Virtual Reality

Full Immersion via Virtual Reality Devices:
Understanding the shift in customer expectations to be surprised and delighted, immersive experiences will continue to evolve thanks to virtual reality technology like Rift by Oculus. TOMS, the brand that gives back, hosted a pop-up shop and transported visitors into the behind the scenes story of their brand and the communities you help when buying their products. I rode a helicopter, visited a small village in South America, entered the home of a young boy who took me on a tour of the one room home he lives in with his sister, parents and dog. The experience was educational and moving and lead to sales conversions all day long despite being in a B2B convention environment.

NRF Rundown 3D

(image courtesy 3dsystems)

Hyper-customization via 3D Printing:
Imagine feeling like a kid again, and creating whatever you want with clay, and then adding layer upon layer to create a three dimensional object. Hershey’s, whose leadership spoke at NRF, has been at the forefront of fine tuning customizable chocolate with its partner 3D Systems. Consumers interact with a library of 3D graphics on an iPad to get the machine to form the chocolate design of choice and select dark, milk or white chocolate. This capability is still in its infancy with industries including food, toys, jewelry and home décor and has been changing the game in retail for on-demand inventory replenishment and customized product creation. As machines continue to get faster and easier to use the scalability can truly begin to evolve how retailers plan for just-in-time inventory and sustainable resources. Someday we will all be able to be our own custom DIY “whatever we want” makers!