According to a Japanese proverb, “the customer is God.” Yet God’s needs and temperaments are constantly evolving. As must retailers. The annual National Retail Federation provides a huge platform to showcase new solutions and gather industry movers and shakers to predict and shape the retail future.

This year’s National Retail Federation conference featured approximately 2,000 exhibitors. It can be a little overwhelming. Attendees absorb endless ideas about technology, data, and retail insights. An ancient industry is rapidly changing and it’s exciting to witness. I came away feeling a combination of pressure, curiosity, and energy. I’m also excited that Clobotics is a part of the future of the industry!

Several things linger on my mind after NRF 2020. Here are my five takeaways:

The “Human” Touch of a Robot:

After all, the retail industry serves the Godly, or human. When we think of an industrial robot, we see it as cold and mechanical, even a bit intimidating. But think about how Alexa is changing that. Devices built for retail are portrayed as anything but robotic. We’ve given them a human-like friendliness. Even the brochure for the shelf and barcode scanner Zebra says “I’m not a robot, I’m a Zebra. I’m a trusted ally.”

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The Zebra exhibition was among many at this year’s National Retail Federation conference. (Photo by Lynn Xu)

Indeed it’s easy to imagine Zebra standing tall, just as the animal does. Now imagine it looking over shelves, scanning them and reporting out-of-stock and shelf compliance.

That makes me think of our cute little sloth, about to be reborn to take up a mission to manage client assets and improve performance.

It’s time to give him a real name and personality everyone will remember!

See it Real, See it in Real-Time

Mobile devices, computer vision, edge or cloud computing/processing…all promise that data returns instantly to the store or management. Seeing it in real-time has become a commodity. Or has it? Most of it is 2–3 years in the making and promise such features. After all, if you have only seconds to engage with customers, you must make an impact to convert them or lose them. Any wait seems too long.

I feel there is enormous pressure on us to deliver interactive and sexy-looking data and insights. We must make our RIAAS tangible and inseparable so clients can make smarter business decisions.

Laser-Focused on Where You Excel

Why were there so many different exhibitors and solutions presented at this year’s NRF? Because most of them focus their efforts on the one thing they do well in the retail solution chain.

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Power Price being demonstrated at NRF (Photo by Lynn Xu)

I saw some similar solutions on the exhibit floor. But everyone is trying to create their own differentiating space.

A Russian startup named PowerPrice caught my attention. They offer cloud IR capability that zooms in on dynamic pricing. Once the price tag is recognized and processed alongside competitors, the price can be adjusted on a shorter cycle. When shoppers use their app, based on their profile, they are provided with a personalized price to increase conversion.

Build an Ecosystem With Partners

Focus means letting others do what they’re good at to compliment your capabilities. Cooler Screens exhibited at the booths of their partners — Microsoft (cloud), Verizon (screen), and others. Their technology turns retail cooler doors into ad screens. When it senses a nearby customer, the screen door turns into a perfectly-executed shelf with inventory information and price tags. This allows it to build an ecosystem with the retailer, the brands, and shoppers.

Here’s what it looks like: Retailers delight shoppers by entering the media space. Brands use last-meter media to influence shoppers on the most important moment of decision. Shoppers receive a quality product and promotion information at the exact time they need it.

Humans at the Center of Retail

Technology is cool, data can be abundant, and insights should drive better decisions. The customer is God. The customer is also human. All technology, data, and insights are there to enhance the human encounter. It’s ultimately important to remind ourselves that our solution must empower our clients and their consumers. At Clobotics, we aspire to contribute to their success with our smart retail solutions.

From time to time, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that our solutions must empower our clients and their consumers. They sustain 31 percent of the world’s economy.

At Clobotics, we’re proud to contribute to their success with our Smart Retail solutions.

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