What Did NRF 2016 Tell Us About the Future of Retail?

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Image source: NRF

Mobile payments were the hot topic of last year’s National Retail Federation Big Show. Although NFC was still a buzzword at this year’s event, other issues – like omni-channel retailing and the increased spending power of millennials – came into play. We’ve analysed some of the emerging trends.

Swapping Virtual Reality for Reality

With last year’s raft of news stories explaining that millennials are more interested in purchasing experiences than material objects, it has become paramount for retailers to keep their customers engaged. In an increasingly tech-driven retail landscape, GoInStore’s technology gives in-store salespeople the opportunity to speak to online shoppers in need of assistance.

An in-store salesperson can wear a pair of GoInStore glasses, created by Epson, to allow an online customer to see items from the salesperson’s point of view. This could be a game changer for companies selling high-ticket items like designer goods, or indeed any items that are best seen ‘in the flesh’ before purchasing.

Augmented Reality Provides a Solution for Time-Poor Retailers

Earlier this month, advisory firm Digi-Capital forecast augmented reality (AR) revenue to hit $120bn by 2020. Unsurprisingly then, the trend for AR-enabled technology continued to shine through at NRF.

During a panel on AR, James Ingram, CEO of production company Splashlight, spoke of its benefits for fashion retail, commenting: “You can’t compete without personalisation.” Splashlight works with Looklet, a clever piece of tech that allows e-tailers to shoot one image of a model and then virtually ‘change’ their clothes with the brand’s newest lines – a perfect solution for today’s fast fashion landscape, which usually requires retailers to constantly photograph new product.

Mobile Devices are More Important Than Ever

The results of a survey into consumers’ mobile shopping habits, commissioned by the Economist Intelligence Unit, were revealed at NRF. Findings showed 69% of respondents use either smartphones or desktops for shopping but, crucially, 81% of millennials claimed to primarily use their smartphones to make online purchases. So, as long as the spending power of millennials is on the rise, it would be wise for retailers to think hard about the capabilities of their mobile apps or sites.

Mobile devices could also shake things up on the shop floor. Diebold has created a new technology that allows consumers to use their mobiles to scan items they wish to purchase while shopping in-store. They can then pay for the goods by simply tapping their phone on a self-checkout unit, alleviating the need to queue.

Retailers Need Exceptional In-Store Experiences

As tech becomes more powerful and relevant to today’s retail landscape, this year’s NRF really drove home the fact that bricks-and-mortar retailers need to offer exceptional in-store experiences in order to survive.

One example of a brand getting it right is Burberry, which, for several years, has integrated its extensive e-tail offerings with its ‘offline’ retail experience. In-store, staff use iPads to showcase products and profile customers, while LED screens stream recent footage from the Burberry runway.

At the other end of the market, a great deal of high-street giant Zara’s success can be put down to its speedy supply chain. The Inditex Group brand adds new lines every fortnight – comparably faster than its competitors – encouraging shoppers to return. Robin Lewis, CEO of the Robin Report, told Retail Dive: “Consumers can’t wait to go to [a Zara] store to see the new lines… Zara’s visitation rate is 17 times a year vs 4 for traditional retailers because [customers] don’t want to miss the nuance of that. That is a form of experience.”

So, what is the store of the future? Join us at SXSW in March as we explore this topic and many more. See more details here.

Reported by Grace Howard