Whoever said retail was a dying industry? From the level of activity, intensity and conversation at NRF’s Big Show this year, I still feel that retail is far from dying.
This was my eighth NRF (in the last 11 years) and it was the busiest I have ever seen it – in terms of both number of customers AND number of exhibitors. Three days was simply not enough to see everything – you could spend more than three days JUST on the Expo floors.
Two things did surprise me at the show- payments and people. There were a lot of different options available for taking payment. Payments seem very mundane these days, so you might think that was sorted - but apparently not. Differentiating between the options was difficult.
Regarding people; there seemed to be a vast array of “people management” systems and technologies – around workforce scheduling and other areas. While there have been a high number of retail jobs lost over the past few years that the media has reported on, this suggests that people are still key for evolving and emerging retailers.
Beyond that, I feel that vendors of all sizes are responding to retailers’ desires to take on Amazon. The mega-vendors have increased investments with more and more elaborate booths while small one and two person organizations were roaming the Expo floor seeking out customers.
Alibaba, long considered an existential threat to traditional retailers (along with Amazon), positioned itself as a partner to help them – positioning itself as a pure marketplace rather than an actual retailer.
What struck me was the vast array of technologies on show. Every point in the customer journey - both buying and usage - was catered for. Retailers’ journeys from planning, execution and follow-up were all catered for, with technologies both physical and data based on show to address challenges.
Robots and artificial intelligence were offered for order picking and customer interaction. There were IoT-based solutions for physical inventory tracking and visual technology allowing customers to see products in completely new ways. I saw in-store automation of all kinds. Whatever problem a retailer might have, there were options to consider.
Given the number of vendors and technologies, combined with the different problems there were solutions available for, the thing that really hit home was that the days of being able to use a handful of vendors for 80-90% of your technology needs are a dim and distant memory. For me this really brought one question into focus: “How on earth do we get all this to work together?”
The answer was at our booth. Visitors were told very succinctly that Software AG is the global leader in system and process integration. We connect systems, people and Things in real-time in order to streamline, automate & provide intelligent visibility.
This message resonated strongly in every conversation we had; probably because - consciously or subconsciously - every person we met was asking themselves the same question: “How on earth do we get all this to work together?”
Take a look at the video from NRF featuring an interview with Glynn Davis of RetailInsider.com here. Find out how Software AG is helping the world’s leading retailers to drive synergy and value from all their technology investments by clicking below.