Augmented reality’s place in retail and more from NRF 2016

Mobile technology a hot topic, while big data and security take a back seat

nrf-tradeshowfloor-360x240The customer continues to be the brightest star in retail, according to presenters and exhibitors at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York this week.

Retailers like Kroger and Macy’s presented sessions titled “Getting personal through customer science” and “Delivering personalized shopper journeys.” On the show floor, about 34,000 attendees experienced the latest and greatest in technology designed to help engage customers throughout the purchasing process.

Big data, which has been a strong theme at the show for the last few years, was less prevalent. Hershey’s and American grocer wholesaler Supervalu shared an interesting business case on micro-insights that allow retailers and suppliers to grow business by better understanding shopper motivations.

On the other hand, mobile technology and the concept of the connected consumer was a hot topic. Payment is increasingly added to the mobile conversation, as applications that make transactions easier are being developed and offered to consumer.

Retailers are also seeing benefits from providing unique experiences for their customers, even if those experiences don’t directly lead to a sale. Outreach effort is a critical way to stay relevant to the consumer.

For instance, it may seem counter-intuitive for a supermarket retailer to offer free yoga classes when they don’t typically sell mats or apparel, but these kinds of experiences are becoming all the more important as millennials choose to forgo traditional shopping trips in favour of shopping online.

One session at the conference gave the example of Target’s Cartwheel app, with which shoppers receive personalized deals based on their shopping history and can scan products while in store to see if there are deals available. The presenter, Google’s retail industry director Julie Krueger, said it was a “wonderful way to reward customers and add a little thing to the shopping experience.”

As always, there were a few real innovations presented. Augmented reality, for one, can be best described as incorporating stock images into an actual view on a digital device. For example, adding stock decorations from a catalog to a dinner table for a consumer or enhancing a store aisle set with images of new products or signage. IBM has an app that uses augmented reality technology to provide shoppers with personalized information while browsing the shelves.

Gamification is used by retailers to make otherwise onerous tasks like training and labour scheduling fun. LevelsPro, a start-up from Brooklyn, provides technology that helps retailers engage their employees through the playing of games that provide incentives to work smarter.

One interesting no-show at NRF this year was enterprise security. Last year, after a series of spectacular data breaches, dozens of vendors were promoting the safety of their systems and several more were presenting specific applications that addressed issues like payment fraud and cyber attacks. This year, the issue was barely discussed in the sessions and only a few exhibiters had signage on their booths around the issue, even as cloud solutions that have long worried retailers and other in terms of security have proliferated.

This article originally appeared at

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