NRF 2019: Improving the customer experience at the heart of innovation

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The 108th edition of the international exhibition of the distribution of the NRF (National Retail Federation) took place in New York from the 13th to the 15th January 2019. Once again, thousands of retail specialists gathered from all over the world to discover tomorrow's business and ecommerce trends.

Theres was a common thread throughout the three days: how to improve the customer experience with available technology like artificial intelligence (AI). Here are some of the other key trends we identified; 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the self check-out, the future of retail?

Faced with the arrival of AmazonGo, distributors are looking for an innovative way to make the customer experience more efficient and simplified in their stores. For this, they want to integrate payment methods into the purchase process itself, to mitigate this irritating step of the shopping journey. Several solutions, using visual recognition, will allow the creation of pop-up stores without the need for a cashier.

As a customer picks up items on the shelves, their digital shopping cart will change on their mobile. If they put back the product, it will automatically be removed from their cart. The purchase then becomes autonomous (self-checkout): when a customer leaves the store, the customer's account will be debited automatically, without having to go to the cashier.

 Automation on a large scale

Having developed over the last two years in warehouses, robots will now make their arrival in-store. Robots that are able to fill shelves will also provide stock updates and alert businesses when items need to be replenished.

Another generation of robots has also been developed to personalize customers' in-store experience, simplify ordering and payment.

Personalized customer experience through visual recognition

If voice - one of the ecommerce trends we announced for 2019 - was the star of CES 2019, this year it's image recognition that have been in the spotlight at Retail's Big Show. In addition to being able to recognize products, being able to recognize customers is an important factor in improving the customer experience. Indeed, the recognition of a customer allows businesses to curate a personalized relationship as soon as someone arrives at the point of sale.

Sales assistants equipped with AI-based tools, will be aware of the customer's purchase history as well as their brand preferences. They will be able to guide them to the most relevant products with even more efficiency armed with information like previous purchases.

Towards hyper-personalization and hyper-localization

Until recently, personalization in the retail trade was a competitive advantage; now it is a necessity. Consumers now expect retailers to know what they want, and offer them recommendations. They also appreciate brands recognizing and rewarding them, for example with discount offers, based on their preferences.

 With hyper-personalization, the trend of hyper-localization is also apparent with promotions or products offered depending on the customer's home.

 Personalization vs. confidentiality of data

However, to continue to offer these experiences, brands must use customer data, which can be a barrier for buyers who are reluctant to share personal information and are skeptical about how it is used. It is, therefore, important to continue collecting information, but to use in a useful to retailers and not invasive for consumers.

It is essential to keep in mind the very principle of personalization: consumers belong to different segments, which must be adapted. It is for this reason that data security must be one of retails top priorities for the year.

Conclusion

So, what to remember from the 2019 Edition of Retail's Big Show?

First, in this new year, retailers will invest primarily in mobile and personalization. Part of the investment will be dedicated to AI and its implementation in physical stores. AI is also about to start being used in-store more widely with the use of robots to monitor stock levels etc.

 

The biggest challenge for retailers is to continue to exploit the collected data to better understand and engage each customer, but most importantly too intrusive! 

This post has was originally published in French.

 

 

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