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Written by Anna Murphy, Communications Lead
After another day of walking the show floor at the NRF Big Show, we have even more highlights to share. From robots to holograms, digital displays to in-store apps, we have our top takeaways from Day Two, all topped off with fascinating insights from top retail influencer, Andrew Busby.
Hero is an app that allows customers to interact with store staff from the comfort of their own homes. Initiating a chat through the brand’s website, the customer is connected to a store assistant, preferably within the customer’s locality. The store assistant is then able to send photos and product recommendations to the customer, answer any queries and is also able to show live video – a huge help for customer queries regarding size and fit as the assistant would be able to not only show the item in detail, but also try things out. Throughout the chat, the store assistant is also able to track the customer’s journey through the website and see what other items they might be browsing, to offer the best shopping experience and bring bricks-and-mortar into the home environment.
Whilst robots seem to feature most years at NRF, we noticed an increase in the functional support that robots offer, helping to improve the customer experience.
Chinese mega-brand, Alibaba, was showcasing its robotic waiters; customers simply walk into the restaurant based in their Freshippo supermarket (formerly called Hema) in Shanghai, China. After ordering through their app, the robot waiter collects the food from the kitchens and delivers the food to where the customers are sitting, before flipping open its lid, allowing the customer to take the food out.
Conversely, Tompkins Robotics have designed a robot to support warehousing, with an automated material handling sortation system. Their t-Sort system has a tray that sits onto of a wheeled mobile unit; the robotic unit can wheel in any direction and the tray on top flips to help sort items into boxes placed around the robot’s path.
One stand that impressed us this year from within the Innovation Lab was delivered by Hypervsn, a digital display system that integrates a holographic display. The system is comprised of LED lights and air fans, delivering vivid, intense colour and a 3D effect. With awe-inspiring visuals, the image appears to ‘float’ in mid-air – quite magical!
Andrew Busby is the writer and founder of Retail Reflections, with a finger firmly on the pulse of all things retail.
Offering his thoughts on the show this year, he said: “One thing I’ve noticed is that, two years ago, artificial intelligence was being talked about in isolation for the sake of technology. However, going around the show, I’ve noticed that it is now embedded in the solutions you see, with phrases used like ‘driven by AI’ or ‘deep learning’.”
The death of the high street has been a hot topic across all media outlets, but Andrew had his own take on evolution on retail.
He said: ‘Retail, in general, is in a fork in the road. People talk about the retail apocalypse, but I don’t believe in that narrative. It is in a fork in the road and it needs to take the right direction. Shows like NRF help to do that.
“Whilst there will be casualties, which is sad and unfortunate, particularly for those whose jobs are affected, but it’s an exciting time as retail is going ‘back to the future’. Harry Selfridge said that his store would be a place to socialise and gather, and to share social experiences, regardless of whether or not the customer made a purchase. Guess what? People are talking about that now in 2019. It’s quite interesting that he was so right all those years ago, because now what we’re hearing from NRF is the idea that it is all about the store experience, to create spaces for people to enjoy.”
Summarising, he said: “Far from being dead, retail is in great shape. Retail is in rude health and is heading into a much better place; that’s exciting for retailers and that’s also exciting for us as consumers.”