NRF 2015 was well attended compared to previous years with an emphasis on mixing digital technology into the store physical experience. In addition to the traditional store solutions of POS, planograms, WFM, CRM, security, and shelving/presentation, NEW digital technology rooted in eCommerce is being blended in including the mobile app, the mobile PMT, and other digital form factors (kiosk, large interactive display, etc.) to aid both the customer and the sales associate. The fundamental idea is to combine the best of eCommerce (digital) and the best of the Retail Store (physical experience) into a single optimized customer experience.
The convergence of Digital and Physical is here in real ways and everyone is “in” on the game!
The second theme was the goal of putting the store sales associate on the same footing as the consumer. In the past, there was an asymmetric information problem where the consumer was significantly more informed than the sales associate. In the future, new technologies on a common eCommerce platform are delivered to the store associate on a mobile form factor (phone, tablet, etc.) that allow a 360 degree view of the customer order/shopping cart, history and interests that are agnostic to a specific sales channel. In the future, it will difficult to differentiate between a POS and a mobile digital commerce screen that ties it all together. For the POS supporters, just because you heavily invested in your VHS or DVD collection, doesn’t mean you’re not going to join NetFlix!
The third theme was the evolving network track and trace technology to support convergence and the 360 degree view. Wifi networks, smart cameras, HTML5 and native apps are all being used in unison to spot, engage, and record unique customer behavior. Yes – this is on a knifes edge of “creepy.”
Finally, the larger back end systems including Planning, Allocation, Order Management, Distribution, etc. continue to evolve. These systems are reasonably mature to begin with and all the major changes can be characterized as “creating oneness vs. siloed architecture” to support a unified customer experience. We did not see a whole lot new here. Large tier 1 vendors continue to march now their roadmap with the “Cloud” becoming more present in the foreground.