Until this year, I spent every January holed up in hotel rooms and running across the vast Las Vegas Convention Center at CES leading client tours, live blogging and producing trends reports. This year, I opted out of the insanity and decided to finally make it to the National Retail Federation's annual conference in New York City instead. Blogs and newsmakers reported signs of hope for retail with bigger crowds at this year's event with attendance up to 27,000.
Bigger crowds at NRF: http://www.cnbc.com/id/46012947/Better_Times_Bigger_Crowds_at_NRF_Conference
It's always interesting to try and view a show like CES or NRF through the lens of what trends are collectively emerging from vendors and try and get a sense of where the industry is headed. Not surprisingly, the words that were everywhere this year were "big data," "analytics" and "mobile." Seeing this groundswell (or was it something less subtle, like a tsunami?) of activity in the area that we are focusing on at Inmar Analytics was exciting. After years of discussing the promise of applying digital technology to the physical retail store, it appears to be becoming a reality. Although, it looks different than we might have thought. For example, Facecake's Swivel technology is an example of what we might have imagined in the future — a world where you don't have to try on clothes, where cameras can sense your size (sigh) and where screens reflect our better selves. But in reality, the promise is not just about spiffy, shiny toys (I'll share a few below), but something more mundane sounding: the application of real time shopper data to deliver improved customer service, targeted and relevant content (whether ads or promotional offers) and elegant dashboards that bring it all together.
I can't wait to share Inmar's take on that soon…but, in the meantime, here were some of my favorites from the show:
Microsoft Media Studio
Neat to see Microsoft bringing the surprise and delight of the Xbox/Windows 8 interface to customer- facing tools. In this case, Microsoft Media Studio allows smaller entrepreneurs to manage their digital assets, buy media (i.e. search on Bing or even Xbox) and track performance.
Adobe Marketing Suite
I have always admired Adobe's products and was particularly impressed when Adobe decided to turn their creative suite from a software package into a cloud-based, subscription model last year. But seeing where they are taking enterprise services is really inspiring. From analytics software to creative work flow to real-time online retail software, Adobe will help small to mid-size retailers reach and message their targets with a high degree of flexibility and intelligence.
The mobile phone payment collaboration between Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile carriers made an appearance at NRF with the NFC/ISIS-powered vending machines. I was able to get a swag notebook using the ISIS wallet. The best part about the mobile payment system is that it would allow me to carry all my loyalty cards and payment sources in one place — and when I use ISIS, it will automatically apply any coupons I have in my digital wallet. Whether or not shoppers adopt ISIS over PayPal, Square, MCX, etc. remains to be seen; moreover — retailers may resist adoption of a whole new hardware set to make ISIS' NFC dream come true. Still, fun to buy from a vending machine using NFC.
Who knew that POS bar code readers could be so cool looking? Somehow Datalogic managed to create one of the most appealing, futuristic looking booths at NRF. This year the company was launching a first ever multi-plane scanner scale - the Magellan 9800i (who comes up with these names?) that "allows the checker to seamlessly read both 1D and 2D bar codes without requiring special item orientation by the cashier." Better yet, like at the airport, the scanner unit incorporates a customer-facing scanner that allows for mobile bar code scanning from shopper cell phones.
Not a media or analytics dashboard but almost as sexy — Translook enables transparent, touch capacitive LED glas displays. Really beautiful use of technology and amazingly engaging.