By Girish Nazhiyath – NEC 

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.

Source: NECToday
Video: YouTube
Photo Credit: iStockPhoto.com
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