NRF 2019: Cool new tech to solve retail’s oldest problems

There may be a reason why, as Sucharita Kodali from Forrester said on Sunday at NRF, some cutting-edge technologies are not on the hot list of priorities for retailers; it’s because they can’t help some of the problems retailers have had for many years, but now really need to fix. Call it a focus on the basics – how do I actually use my data to ensure better inventory visibility, movement and sell-through? It means that the customer may have changed but the basic principles of retail haven’t.

It was clear talking to retailers and vendors at the show that the need to fix the basics has become critical, as stories continue to emerge about companies that have had to throw in the towel; there is clearly not much room left on the high street for lazy retailing.

Fortunately, the range of tech now available to help retailers with their existential challenges, is extraordinary. Retailers can no longer say, as they have for many years, tech companies don’t really understand my business. Now, they really do, to the extent that retailers and vendors prepared to really collaborate to create solutions are demonstrating the sorts of ROI metrics that were once unthinkable.

Take a look at some of the newer pricing, forecasting and promotions software now available. Look at the latest options for RFID, a technology that has been 25 years in the arriving, but can now show a strong ROI on stock availability and replenishment. Look at some of the more advanced store traffic analytics tech that will enable store associates to literally act on insight in seconds.

And, given that retailers are running out of time to make these changes, mercifully, we are no longer talking about two-year development cycles for much of this tech. That will really make the difference over the next few years and I suspect widen the growing gap between retailers who get it and those that just don’t.

NRF 2019 ‘Retail’s Big Show’ runs from 13th to 15th January, at the Jacob K Javits Convention Center, NYC.

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