New Ideas and Trends Revealed at Retail’s Big Show

While the rumblings of the retail apocalypse have been growing louder this past year, retail was alive and well during NRF’s 2020 Vision:Retail’s Big Show this past week. This year’s conference was record-setting, with 40,000 attendees from 100 countries visiting New York to discuss the critical industry issues, technology innovations and workforce changes that will be impacting retail this year and beyond.

KWI was onsite on the show floor, showcasing new innovations to our Cloud 9 POS system and a new partnership with CLEAR® – a biometric identity and security platform – that provides retailers with an easy, quick, and secure way to verify their identity.  Instead of using a username and password, now store associates and managers can log in to Cloud 9 POS with just their face in a more secure and faster manner. Our Chief Client Officer Frank Weil was also on hand and moderated a lively session with Supermodel Coco Rocha, TechStyle Fashion Group and Viacom Nickelodeon about influencer marketing strategies for social commerce.

Key themes included customer engagement and service, using technology to enhance human connections, the continued rise of eCommerce and what the east can learn from the west to grow sales. Here’s a look at some of the specifics that caught our attention:

Tech to help humans be more human

As tech advances, human connections become more important and sales associates are on the front lines to make this work. John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., spoke about the need for retailers to provide better training and treatment of retail employees, especially since successful omnichannel retail means the expert use and deployment of digital and mobile technology by retail workers. Starbucks is using tech to free up time for baristas to spend more time with customers and uses its Deep Brew AI technology to calculate a store’s inventory needs and predict how many baristas are needed. According to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, “It’s about finding ways to help humans find more time to be human. It’s not about robots that replace baristas. It’s about tech that frees up baristas to be better and connect with customers.”

Don’t forget about brick and mortar

With the rise of DTC brands and the ongoing growth of eCommerce, many newcomers are skipping a physical store location. But experts at NRF argued that getting loyal customers is more easily achieved when a physical store is involved. Leaders from AREA15 and Showfields both discussed the human desire for connection and gathering helps drive traffic to stores. Doug Stephens of Retail Prophet told RetailDive, “We’re not accounting for the value of stores. Stores are not about the distribution of products anymore, they’re about the acquisition of customers.”

Look to China for testing and growth

Allbirds International President Erick Haskell spoke about how they test and learn in China and apply the findings to the rest of the world. Haskell also noted that sustainability messaging is not as important in China as it is in the west in making purchasing decisions, adding that China’s media is also much more fragmented. Partnering with Alibaba helped the company better understand how to reach China’s consumers, using digital platforms. Alibaba Group’s Tmall Luxury Division Head of Fashion and Luxury Christina Fontana advised established brands entering the China market to target consumers 10-15 years younger than they would in western markets. Coresight Research CEO and Founder Deborah Weinswig also encouraged brands and retailers in the US to create shopping holidays to drive sales: China’s consumers celebrate four Valentine’s Days per year including Alibaba’s self-created Single’s Day which earned $38.4 billion in 2019.

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