NRF 2019: Retail’s hottest customer experience frontiers


What’s next in scaling unique customer experiences?

Retail Connections jetted out to NRF’s Big Show in NYC to check out some of the latest tech providers, showcasing innovations to transform customer experience, whether that’s in-store or online, to make the shopping journey more seamless and convenient.

Here we pick our favourite four top retail tech innovations we’ve earmarked as ‘ones to watch’ from the tech on display at the show’s Innovation Lab installation.


Hero – making store staff the star of the show

We heard from Founder and CEO of Hero, Adam Levene, who has created a solution that unlocks retailers’ greatest weapon in the fight against Amazon – their staff.  The solution leverages the insights and knowledge of store associates around the brand and its products letting them answer queries of online shoppers in real-time.  It’s a smart move – by playing to unique strengths of store, namely the abilities of store associates to make personal and relevant recommendations to assist the sale, it also allows store staff to contribute towards digital conversions.

Just like having a customer on WhatsApp, store colleagues can instant message, take video streams of in-store displays and capture other merchandise available in the store via live video, with the customer on a one-to-one basis, making the customer feel like they are in-store, no matter where they are in the world.

It also maximises the staff, meaning that even if the store itself is empty or has a period of lower footfall, they can contribute to converting online shoppers, meaning retailers can maximising every square foot of their retail estate.  Typically, Levene says, retailers using the solution see shoppers are ten times more likely to make a purchase and 60% end up buying more.


Lolli – taking cashback crypto

Cashing in on the BitCoin hype, Lolli is a tool that incentivises shoppers to buy from retailers in return for the chance to earn BitCoin every time they buy.

The next generation in buy-back companies, such as TopCashBack, Lolli brings a new loyalty scheme to the market which taps into our fascination with crypto currencies.  And with almost 22million BitCoin wallets already set up globally and with Bitcoin values reaching $20,000 per token in 2017 – this could be a smart new way to incentivise millennial shoppers.

With Lolli, each shopper has their own digital wallet to control and collect the Bitcoin they earn by making transactions via the Lolli app, which its makers claim gives shoppers a secure way to own the currency whilst shopping online – whether that’s retail purchases or travel bookings.  And thanks to the online and borderless nature of the crypto currency, it means shoppers can claim and spend points wherever they are in the globe.

Whilst we loved the concept, which gives traditional cash back loyalty schemes a new digital flavour, the only fly in the ointment as we see it is the volatility of the crypto currency market. With many reporting on a dip in Bitcoins share values, and continued uncertainty around how best to regulate these new digital currencies, it may make retailers question the longevity of the solution in driving loyalty.


Rohvi – recommerce for retail

Sarah Whiffen, CEO and Founder of retail recommerce solution, Rohvi, gave a polished and thought-provoking overview of the solution on the Innovation Stage.  This is another solution looking to tap into the mindset of Millennials and Gen Z demographics, but this time looking to help retailers benefit from the attitudes to ownership and resale amongst these demographics.

Our wardrobes are changing, Whiffen tell us, and we now have four times as many items of clothing in our wardrobe compared to the 1980s and retailers can benefit from this by embracing resale.  It’s something we as consumers are already used to doing when we shop for cars – trading in our old motors with dealerships to get a proportion of the value off the cost of our new set of wheels, keeping us locked down with that brand of car – so why shouldn’t retailers do the same when it comes to fashion?

Instead of consumers recycling their own clothes through the likes of recommerce apps such as Schpok, Vinted and ThreadUp, through Rohvi, retailers can reverse the resale, buying back items from the customer in return for store credit.

This not only usually sees consumers spending eight times the value of the store credit, but it also allow fashion brands to ‘keep their spot’ in a customer’s wardrobe and close the cycle of circular fashion to the benefit of the retailer.


T-Sort solution – robotic pick and pack

Mike Futch from Tompkins Robotics showcased his army of small format robots which are set to revolutionise warehouse, store replenishment and back-of-store operations.

Staffing warehouses and DCs can be a costly undertaking for retailers and many have sought to automate some of the processes around pick and pack with robotics.  Robotics in the warehouse is not a new concept; in 2017 Amazon reported it had 45,000 robots in its 20 warehouses and fulfilment centres.

But what makes these little bots exciting is their size – each no larger than a dinner plate, this fleet of mini autonomous robots, which integrate into the existing WMS and have in-built sensors to avoid colliding with each other, can not only help retailers pick and pack in a more efficient and cost effective manner, but they are essentially a portable resource, allowing the retailer to move them between locations to support ecommerce fulfilment, store replenishment, back-room operations or click-and-collect order collections when the need arises.

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