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NRF 2023: Retail tech for resilience and reinvention

By Miya Knights, Publisher | Thursday January 19 2023 | UPDATED 20.01.23

Retail Technology finds tech emerging as key to surviving upcoming challenges at the first major annual US trade event since the pandemic

Merchants and vendors revealed a newfound maturity in their understanding of the role technology has to play in helping to achieve resilience and enable reinvention.

These were the themes that emerged from the industry event, Retail’s Big Show, hosted by the US trade association, the US National Retail Federation (NRF) in New York this week.

John Furner, Walmart US President and CEO, pointed to the retail resilience built up during the pandemic and suggested this capability would continue to be essential through 2023.

Resilience for agility

“It’s more important than ever that we keep changing,” Furner told attendees. “This environment will remain dynamic, full of changes and challenges.”

His comments were echoed by other retailers, including Paige Thomas, Saks OFF 5TH President and CEO, who revealed that consumers were responding to luxury deals.

She said: “We’ve just come out of the most promotional season, attributed to very high inventory levels. But in the off-price business, inventory levels play out to be very low.”

Data-driven forecasting

The retailers in attendance were clearly aligned on the tech requirements to overcome macroeconomic challenges and their impact on consumer trends and expectations.

Jeff Gennette, Macy’s, Inc. Chairman and CEO, highlighted investment in a demand forecasting model as key to success through the challenges of last year.

“We got much better with data science,” he said. “Using trend and demand forecasting was helpful in how we built up our inventories. Allocation science decided where we put it.”

Digital growth strategy

Gennette added that the investment in data analytics and science was key to enabling Macy’s to grow its digital strategy, where online sales grew from 25% to 40% of revenue in two years.

He also added that those customers who shopped with Macy’s both online and instore were often three times more valuable than their single channel shopper counterparts.

As such, the sentiments expressed by retail executives were reflected by the suppliers exhibiting at the show. Many were keen to highlight the interoperability of their offerings.

Reinventing with tech

Both Diebold Nixdorf and NCR demonstrated proactive maintenance and the self-healing capabilities of their point-of-sale systems using device sensors and events monitoring.

Manhattan Associates showcased its Active Omni cart capability, which enables store associates to check multiple items out, regardless of whether fulfilled instore, remotely or for later pick-up.

The exhibition also focused on smarter sales solutions to integrate more closely with online channels, including a high number of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based innovations.

Driving efficiency gains

Radius AI, for example, developed Viztel, which integrates with existing security cameras to provide real-time and predictive analytics designed to empower data-driven retail decisions.

The Volumental 3D shoe scanner enables store associates to make informed product recommendations. Meanwhile, Proglove featured wearable wireless barcode scanners.

Overall, inventory management, customer service and loyalty, and online-to-offline integration were the most common tech use cases showcased at the event. This responds to retailer demands for greater efficiency through what is set to be another challenging year.

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