view of the Javits Center during the NRF Big Show 2018
Retailers, vendors and analysts packed the Javits Center to see what's next for retail during the NRF's Big Show PHOTO: NRF

Roughly 36,000 retail professionals took over the Jacob Javits Center in New York City last week at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show where technology took center stage. While exhibitors from Adobe, Amazon Web Services, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Salesforce, SAP and hundreds of others filled two conference floors, topics like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, customer experience, data, deep learning, digital experience, machine learning and virtual reality dominated presentations and conversations.

Key NRF Takeaways

Here are some notable takeaways from the Big Show:

Single View of the Customer Is Dead

It's about a "continuous view of the customer" now, according to John Allen, CTO of online retailer Missguided. He said "love" is a key part of customer loyalty, but that it isn't necessarily a single individual's love that leads to a sale. It could be an influencer’s love. Not only that, but responsiveness is key to reciprocating that customer love. In the case of Missguided, it promises to respond to Twitter and Facebook inquiries within an hour.

'Influencers and Notables' Are Key

James Connell, vice president of marketing and ecommerce of international retailer Roots, shared the important role influencers and notables play for the brand. Instead of relying solely on bought media, Roots also looks to engage, gift and entertain not only its best customers, but Instagram stars, sports professionals and other high profile individuals. Delivering digitally-enhanced unique experiences as well as live streaming and social are also high on Connell's to-do list. He told the crowd that on Dec. 12 alone, the company earned 11 million web impressions, 300,000 video views and 50,000 live stream views.

Mobile Chat Must Deliver Relevant Experiences

Janie Yu, partner at venture capital firm Fung Capital, emphasized the importance of chat offerings in today's retail environment. "Everyone is on their phones. You have to take notice. Consumers are spending most of their time on their phone and in chat channels — at least one to four hours a day, depending on where you are in the world. Retailers have to think about having a relevant experience there," Yu said.

Conversational Commerce Yields Personalized Customer Relationships at Scale

Customers of 1-800-Flowers.com can now use Google Assistant on their mobile phones to place orders via voice or text. These "voice-to-voice conversations" are personalized and one-to-one, according to Christopher McCann, president and CEO of the company. "We continue to embrace and invest in technology that makes it easier for gift givers to shop with us, wherever, whenever and however they choose,” McCann said. “We are making online interactions simpler for customers by providing another way to communicate." 

During another panel, McCann said 1-800-Flowers.com believes technologies such as chatbots are making online interactions simpler for customers by providing another way to communicate.

Digital Transformation Starts With Process

Adidas is the second largest sports manufacturer in the world. Gordon Lanpher, senior director of digital innovation at the company shared the "Explore, Imagine, Model and Prioritize, Pilot and Validate and Transition" process the company uses for digital transformation. 

During the Explore phase they brainstorm using input from internal, customer and technology stakeholders. In the Imagine phase they hold multiple brainstorm sessions which generate hundreds of ideas. In the Model and Prioritize phase they generate hypothesis based on the ideas and determine which will generate the desired impact. In the Pilot and Validate phase they build and measure. In Transition, they transition and implement the positive outcomes.

Adobe Marries Physical and Digital

It would be impossible to cover all of the vendor announcements that came out at NRF, so here's a quick look at what San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe discussed at the show.

Hyper-personalized digitally-driven in-store experiences

Adobe's research labs are working on breaking down the divisions between online and offline experiences, by giving brick and mortar stores access to the same insights as a website. Instead of tracking mouse movement, this future capability aims to track foot traffic in real time as well as segment shoppers based on last visit, loyalty, shopping preferences and push in-store offers on the shopper's mobile app. 

According to an Adobe statement on the research, "Adobe Analytics captures shopper behaviors while Adobe Target furthers optimize offers and delivers a hyper-personalized experience. Built on the Adobe Cloud Platform, retailers can also leverage third-party data from inventory, POS and CRM systems to further optimize offers for in-store shoppers."

Cindy Zhou, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, told CMSWire she sees this sort of a thing as a trend this year: "I'm seeing increased adoption of mobile apps in-store for instant inventory check, product information, offers, etc."

Panoramic, 3-D and VR Imagery Coming to Adobe Customers

Adobe announced it plans to introduce panoramic and virtual reality (VR) viewers sometime this spring. With the viewers, retailers can offer customers a peek at the virtual couch of their dreams, right in their living rooms. In addition, an integration of Experience Manager with Adobe Dimension CC will give customers the flexibility to repurpose any asset, from any angle, any light, in any setting. The company will also make available photorealistic 3-D assets to replace costly photography.

"This is Adobe's foray to addressing new mediums like VR. Instead of using expensive equipment, they are allowing designers to craft new large media formats with AEM and Dimension CC," Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research told CMSWire.

Flexible Commerce Microservices From Adobe

Delivering frictionless, connected customer experiences across all touchpoints is the end goal for every retailer. To make this possible, processes from digital, physical and CRM need to be exposed, so Adobe’s microservices are now pre-integrated with commerce and order management systems including CommerceTools, ElasticPath, Digital River, Hybris and Magento, and supported by integrations across Experience Cloud.

"Customers have had a pain point of bringing experiences back to CRM touch points and CX products," Wang told CMSWire. He added that the new capability will allow users to integrate any CX, CRM, and commerce system and then orchestrate the experiences.