Trending at NRF: Digital transformation of retail
For the past three days I’ve been at the 2017 National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show in New York City. It’s been exhilarating to be a part of the biggest retail show of the year and see all the amazing ways technology is transforming the retail value chain from product development to in-store and online shopping. Our tools are changing how retailers operate, make business decisions, empower employees, drive growth and create better customer experiences.
Top retail trends
As always, the show is abuzz with the latest retail trends, but a few stood out to me as game-changers:
- Bots are helping retailers create personalized customer experiences that bridge online and physical shopping. Intelligent chatbots are driving conversational commerce at a much higher level, enabling retailers to differentiate themselves, provide more personalized service and maintain stronger relationships with customers on their shopping journey — moving them seamlessly from online to mobile to in-store and back again.
- The latest generation of IoT devices — along with AI and advanced analytics — are helping retailers gain business insights and activate, engage and retain customers. IoT is one of the hottest areas at NRF with a variety of new, retail-focused devices that gather and deliver actionable information to retailers and customers alike. AI and advanced analytics are helping retailers turn all that data into insights so they can make better decisions, optimize forecasting and inventory levels, more precisely customize their offerings, improve customer service and response time, and better manage their supply chains to accommodate customer demand.
- Technology is empowering store associates with information and tools that improve productivity and sales effectiveness. The people on the front lines of the retail shopping experience don’t usually have personal offices, desks and computers. Mobile devices and role-optimized dashboards are providing these deskless workers with anywhere-access to product and customer information. Mobile productivity solutions are enabling better collaboration and productivity so employees can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on the floor serving customers.
Microsoft news from NRF
NRF has been particularly exciting for me because Microsoft is in the thick of this technology-driven transformation. Our presence here has been extremely strong, with the largest and (I think) most interesting booth on the expo floor.
We’ve also made significant announcements that demonstrate how Microsoft, our customers and our partners are using retail solutions powered by Microsoft Azure, Power BI and Microsoft Dynamics 365. These examples underscore how digital innovations are transforming shopping for retailers and consumers alike:
- Nordstrom Rack is using the Microsoft Cloud along with beacon technology from Microsoft partner Footmarks to gather data about customer behavior and use that information to increase speed and convenience, personalize the shopping experience, and build customer loyalty. Read more about in-store beacons, drones and robots in the Official Microsoft Blog.
- Hickory Farms has integrated its catalog, mail order, web, retail and wholesale operations into a single platform with the help of Microsoft Dynamics 365. This helps streamline time-consuming manual processes, break down business silos and better manage inventory. Read more about Hickory Farms on the Microsoft Dynamics Blog.
- The Retail Personalization solution from Plexure and Microsoft shows how the Internet of Things (IoT) leverages beacons, sensors and strong cross-channel analytics to provide retailers with a connected solution that not only enables them to better understand customer preferences by sensing where customers are spending their time inside the store, but also lets them to direct personalized messages and promotions to a customer’s phone, wearable device or an adaptive digital sign. Learn more at the IoT blog.
- Also making waves at NRF: the new Microsoft Office mobile app called StaffHub, announced last week. It is designed specifically for deskless workers and helps retailers empower their employees to access and share information across their teams and to communicate, update and manage their shift schedules. The Office blog has more details.
I’m happy to say that it’s been wonderful to connect with people across the retail industry and learn how they are transforming their businesses through new uses of technology. And it’s particularly exciting because I know this is just the beginning — there’s much more innovation to come.