Will 2020 be the year of less flash and more substance for in-store tech?
At the NRF Big Show this year, one could say there was a more sobering mood to technology adoption by retailers. While the need to constantly innovate is no less present in 2020 than in recent years, many attendees and speakers spoke about achieving more practical use cases in deployments of new technology in stores and realizing tangible results.
Hudson’s Bay Company CEO Helena Foulkes noted during a session about fueling future growth on the main stage, “We can all have dreams and vision, but we have to execute and produce results.”
Taking a global retail perspective during a panel discussion session on the impact of technology in the physical world, Dimas Gimeno, chairman of Skintelligence Investments S.L. and former president of El Corte Inglés, told the audience, “Technology is not the solution. It is the tool that, if used right, will help you develop the solution. It’s not about giving your sales staff an iPad.”
Leading to a discussion of enabling store associates with technology, panel members gave examples of how they measured improvements in customer experience and impact on in-store sales.
Thomas Andrews, group partnerships at Carrefour, indicated that for every point increase in Net Promoter Score (NPS) they see a 20 million euro jump in store sales. The retailer operates a live lab store in Paris where employees and guests can shop while experiencing various new technologies, including a cashier-less checkout. As technologies prove themselves in the live Carrefour lab store, they “graduate” to being deployed to production stores.
In recent years at the NRF Big Show, vendors offered only “what if” ideas of how technologies could be used to drive innovation along with the loosely defined desire to enhance the in-store customer experience, but this year seemed more focussed.
When it came to two of the most prevailing technologies, artificial intelligence and computer vision, vendors displayed clear examples of retailer deployments and demonstrated use cases highlighting the expected ROI from those solutions.
Numerous vendors showed versions of a cashier-less experience similar to Amazon Go stores with an emphasis on the ROI these solutions could bring the retailer in terms of sales and data insights, not just how they improve the customer experience by removing friction.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How should retailers balance the drive to constantly innovate to improve the customer experience with the need for proven ROI? Are you seeing a growing desire among retailers to return to business basics in applying new tech to stores?