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01/19/2022

Best of NRF 2022: Top 10 Takeaways

Back together again! NRF's annual Big Show can be overwhelming any year ― so many people to see and places to be ― but at a time where the retail industry was finally reunited, you’re bound to have missed something. Never fear, every year readers check in with RIS to see what retail news, trends and sessions were vital to the industry and to catch up on what they might have overlooked. The following are all the top takeaways from The Big Show 2022, presented in 10-not-to-be-missed highlights.

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NRF lobby
NRF lobby on Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. Photo credit: Jamie Goodman.

The 2022 Big Show Kicks Off

Despite any concerns over the omicron variant, NRF’s three-day retail event kicked off with a full keynote session hall. NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay expressed how grateful he was to “see all of you here,” as he sat down for a chat with Target board chairman and CEO Brian Cornell, the recipient of The Visionary 2022 award.

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Shay looks out over crowd
NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay expresses how grateful he is to see a packed keynote audience on day one. Photo credit: Jamie Goodman.

Cornell noted that customers returned to physical shopping over the holidays and were out there enjoying what retail can provide, as he shared his thoughts on Sunday, January, 18, as the show opened. “We feel more optimistic than we probably did six months ago about where we are, but we’re still living with COVID,” he said.

In 2022, focus on agility, adaptability, and flexibility will continue to be as important as ever and retailers need to anticipate and adjust as needed, he said. Staying close to the consumer will also be important. “Each day we’re going to have to listen to consumers,” to flex and adjust. Listen, learn, adapt, and be flexible, he advises.

Discussing the investments that Target made in its team, stores, and fulfillment network, Cornell said that in the beginning these ideas weren’t well received, but they were important during the pandemic. The investments and fulfillment capabilities Target has developed, these habits will be sticky going forward.  “It’s not either or, it’s an ‘and.’” Even during the pandemic, customers have gravitated toward both the store and online orders and contactless fulfillment.

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Target CEO
NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay sat down with Target Board Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell for the opening keynote. Photo credit: National Retail Federation.

In the store, Cornell predicts the “ability to find one location where you can consolidate shopping will be an important feature for many of us going forward.” Therefore, he says, partnerships (such as Target’s with Ulta, Disney, and Apple) will be so important.

Touching on supply chain issues, he noted “short term, the best thing we can do is share data” as we wait for investment and infrastructure to make changes. He also predicted that inflation is going to change shopping patterns this year. As gas prices rise, people will "drive fewer miles [and] consolidate the number of locations where they shop." They might also look at private label brands as an alternative. “We have to anticipate that some of the historic ways people react to inflation will play out again in 2022.” Retailers are there to service the consumer.

“Ultimately consumers get the vote with their wallets and their footsteps,” he said. “We’re going to learn a lot about how the consumer reacts in the next 60-90 days.” Part of being adaptable is to listen and react.

As the keynote took place, down in the Javits Center, lobby staff adapted to new safety procedures for attendees by checking for proof of vaccination on-site, providing attendees and exhibitors COVID-19 self-tests and masks, and offering a mobile PCR testing unit.

Eye-Catching Booths

On the show floor there are always a few standout booths displaying dazzling tech to attendees. While robots took the stage this year (see video below)Samsung’s booth once again offered an array of gorgeous digital screen solutions to impress show attendees.

In addition to screens, such as its digital signage stretch display, its indestructible mobile solution for retail was on display, the Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro smartphone — the one Walmart gave to 740k employees. The phone offers both work and personal sides, sandboxed off from each other so retailers can’t access associates’ personal data. Samsung partnerSprinklr was also on hand, displaying its new app that can be downloaded to Samsung digital displays, giving retailers a way to connect social media content to in-store screens. The feed can provide live social data, such as local trending social data, and a social command center where employees can see ratings and comments. It also provides a way to bring all of the good content brands are posting online, into the store.

FastSensor was in the booth as well, showing off how its tech gathers, analyzes, and delivers foot traffic analytics and engagement metrics from physical spaces. As shoppers move about the store, it collects data to see things like who’s really engaging or browsing. Then the tech can customize content on Samsung screens inside stores based on the engagement profile of the customer in front of the screen.

 

Salesforce was also back at NRF with its signature camping-themed booth, where attendees could gather to learn about the company’s retail tech solutions. Digital signage company Crown TV showcased how it wants to help retailers bring NFTs into stores. The company’s solution enables retailers to display an NFT they own or any NFT publicly available on OpenSea, an NFT marketplace. Users can display additional information like the price, provenance, description and a QR code that retail shoppers can scan to purchase the NFT on their phone right from the store. Also on display, Hanwha Techwin’s ACO A5 automated checkout solution, which it’s now bringing to the United States, eliminates the need for manually scanning barcodes. Consumers or associates can simply slide the groceries through the scanner — it detects when an item doesn’t have a barcode — and check themselves out once they’re done.

 

Hot Topics:  Supply Chain & Sustainability

One of today’s most significant issues surrounding the supply chain — and one that will be accentuated for the next several years — is its effect on optimizing profitability within e-commerce, Hilding Anderson, head of retail strategy, North America at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient, told RIS News. “Most retailers even today are actually losing money in e-commerce,” he said.

This is often driven by the supply chain and the fact that retailers haven't optimized it for today’s new model of selling, he said, as well as failing to take advantage of certain incremental data monetization strategies.

To navigate these challenges, some retailers are embedding data and artificial intelligence more aggressively into their platforms in order to improve their inventory management and predict how much they’re going to sell in one store or across the entire fleet.

Fulfillment optimization is also a key component of this, but many of today’s retailers lack the right systems to make informed decisions, said Hilding. With the right technology, retailers can choose intelligently and even anticipate the most efficient and cost-effective location to ship items, whether that’s from their warehouses or stores. This kind of visibility will be crucial to continued success in the retail landscape ahead. 

Retail Leadership in Action 
Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furner pointed to the value of both measuring progress and partnerships when it comes to advancing sustainability initiatives. Rather than trying to solve everything within this daunting task, the retailer is focusing on a few significant goals, such as moving to sustainable sources of energy. 

“This is something that we need to do together, and we're going to have to do together,” he noted in a fireside chat with NRF’s Shay. “This is bigger than any one organization, one company, one country.”

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Albertsons Companies CEO Vivek Sankaran in a fireside chat with Sara Eisen, co-anchor of CNBC's Closing Bell. Photo credit: National Retail Federation.

Earning Customer Loyalty
Albertsons Companies, a food and drug retailer that operates stores across 34 states under such banners as Albertsons, Safeway, Shaw's and Acme, has grounded its ESG agenda around climate change, circularity, food waste reduction, and community impact.  

“In food waste, it’s one of those things where if you get really good at it, it's not only good for society, but It's also really good from a cost standpoint. And right now, we're focused on what we can do within our food chain,” said CEO Vivek Sankaran in a fireside chat with Sara Eisen, co-anchor of CNBC's Closing Bell.

The company is currently deploying a solution developed with a partner that uses artificial intelligence within its fresh products category that’s reduced both inventory and shrink. As this moves forward, Sankaran expects the technology will enable the grocer to start working with its suppliers further back in the supply chain. “We have a really good demand signal on what we need in fresh and can start taking that backwards.”

At the end of the day, this commitment to reducing food waste is good operational thinking that’s going to help make a big difference to society, he noted. 

When Climate Becomes a Business Imperative
IKEA U.S. CEO and chief sustainability officer Javier Quiñones took to the main stage to discuss the retailer’s commitment to sustainability and the real-world steps the global furnishings and home goods giant is taking to reduce its economic impact.

Quiñones joined the company in 1997 as a part-time worker and remembers having to attend sustainability training as part of his onboarding. “IKEA has been involved in sustainability for decades,” said Quiñones. “It is part of our DNA.”

With a long-standing and engrained commitment to lessening its environmental impact, it makes sense that Quiñones plays the dual role of CEO and CSO. “Combining the CEO and CSO roles was natural for me,” he said. “It is a leadership issue, and we all need to be on board, and that starts with me. It is all about leading by example.”

In retail it is a race to zero, in terms of environmental impact. Quiñones pointed to efforts made by Walmart, H&M, and others as key to a sustainable future, and urged those in attendance to push their sustainability agendas.

To do its part, IKEA has embarked on a number of sustainability initiatives that Quiñones touched upon during his talk:

  • By 2025, all IKEA products will be circular in some way
  • The retailer currently rebuys used furniture to resell/reuse to ensure it doesn’t end up in landfills
  • IKEA has electric delivery vans in operation in NYC currently with plans to scale across the U.S. by 2025

“If you don’t have a strong social agenda, your business will eventually disappear,” Quiñones said. “Less consumers will be willing to purchase from you, and your best workers will leave you."

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Chewy CEO
Sumit Singh, the CEO of pet e-commerce retailer Chewy, joined Bob Safian, host of Masters of Scale, on the stage. Photo credit: National Retail Federation.

Hot Topics: Customer Engagement

Consumer demands are constantly changing. A recurring trend across the industry, however, is that today’s customers have high expectations for services and offerings provided — and instant gratification is always top of mind. So how have today’s businesses delivered customer service that is engaging, builds brand loyalty and also strengthens relationships at both the in-store and digital levels? 

Many of today’s top retailers agree that customer engagement as a core in company culture is a must — a conversation piece interwoven throughout many of the sessions presented at NRF 2022. A part of that culture is remembering one thing: customers are human beings, and being treated with respect through thoughtful and personalized offerings can really help strengthen relationships. From providing interactive experiences in the metaverse to simply lending an empathetic ear on customer service calls, consumer engagement is the key to providing differentiated service that survives in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

Balancing Growth and a Customer-Centric Culture
The North Star for Sumit Singh, the CEO of pet e-commerce retailer Chewy, is the speed of innovation and level of customer experience a company can deliver. Singh joined Bob Safian, the host of Masters of Scale, to discuss why, as a leader, he places deliberate attention on building a culture that values creating new innovations with customer needs at their core.

“We try to come at it from a point of view of compassion,” when dealing with customer scenarios in times when customers and team members might be stressed. When you’re dealing with pets, it’s the only category outside of kids where customers refer to themselves as parents, he pointed out. Yet, when an organization grows, how do you maintain that customer orientation and passion? Singh poised the question, do you have leaders who are scaling along with you? Do you have leaders that deeply care about customer service? 

Despite scaling, the pet retailer has stayed true to having a human answer customer service calls in four seconds or less and being empathetic when they answer. Chewy also allows customer care workers to stay on calls as long as they want.

“I think a lot of organizations focus on output metrics,” he said. Profit and revenue are output metrics. Organizations should focus on input metrics, such as reviews, in his opinion. 

Retailing in the Metaverse
WGSN Insight senior strategist Cassandra Napoli presented a primer on monetizing within the metaverse, noting the maturity of the immersive virtual environment will unlock new economic opportunities that will redefine brand engagement, product discovery, and online conversions, with augmented reality serving as a stepping stone into the virtual experiences.

NFTs similarly were cited as the easiest point of entry for the metaverse, with their potential extending to new retail formats and shopping incentives. All told, the global metaverse revenue opportunity could become $800 billion, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

The metaverse will be especially impactful for Generation Alpha — ages 0 through 12 — which will be the first generation to grow up in the metaverse and will prefer digital goods to physical goods. “The metaverse is a way for Alphas to experiment with creativity and self-expression, and there’s an economy attached to that,” said Napoli.  

Whereas Alphas are playing in the virtual world, millennials and Gen Z are using it to escape from their harsh and/or boring realities, and “for brands and retailers, this provides new opportunities for growth and communication.” (Learn more about the session in this story.)  

Staying Ahead of the Curve
In a (virtual) fireside chat with NRF’s Shay, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry detailed the five trends she believes will continue and sit at the core of retail: 

  1. Safety matters: Even after two years, safety remains important to consumers, and it’s something that will be defined by each customer. 
  2. Convenience: This too is defined by the customer. Barry noted that even though the vast majority of their products can be shipped next-day for free, 40% of what they sell online is picked up in its stores.  
  3. Juxtaposition between digital comfort: Both physical and online retail needs to provide amazing experiences for consumers, whether that’s digital personalization or experiential retail. 
  4. Employee control: Today’s employees want — and have — more control over their jobs, including through their benefits, career path, pay structure, or professional development.  
  5. Data as the new currency of the future: Today’s retailers have access to so much rich data around how they can inspire customers, as well as support them by continuing to refine customer experiences and know them better than any other seller. 

The Art and Science of Merchandising
To kick off the final full day of the Big Show, Nordstrom’s president and chief brand officer Pete Nordstrom took to the main stage (virtually) to provide an update on the iconic department store’s latest merchandising efforts.

To keep pace with changing consumer demands, the retailer has been relying on a host of new- and old-school approaches to pinpoint the categories and products its customers’ desire. “We have always had a broad assortment,” said Nordstrom. “We have been able to be flexible and provide customers what they are most interested in. A big part of the job is acquisition, we need to continue to get younger shoppers engaged with the brand.”

Two big product categories Nordstrom has entered into over the past few years to keep place with consumer demand are branded sportswear and home goods. Late last year, Nordstrom partnered with Fanatics to expand itsbranded sports apparel business. On the retailer’s website, shoppers can search for thousands of SKUs from their favorite professional and collegiate teams. 

“Clearly our customers buy that stuff,” Nordstrom said. “The idea was to offer it without it becoming a burden on our merchandising team. By partnering with them, we don’t have to own all those SKUs.”

On the home goods front, Nordstrom is building a tailored assortment designed to attract impulse buys from their core customers. “Home is such a broad-based business with a lot of competition,” Nordstrom said. The key to success for the department store retailer in the crowded marketplace is understanding its customers and building a home assortment based on their unique style and demand. 

Leadership Lessons on Ruling Retail
To close out the final day of NRF 2022, a trio of retail CEOs combined for the “Power Hour: Leadership Lessons on Ruling Retail.” The chief executive officers from WW International, Stitch Fix, and Old Navy spoke to the crowd about their latest initiatives and how they are leading their respective companies through the uncertain retail landscape.

CNBC’s retail reporter Lauren Thomas played the role of host and moderator, interviewing each of the CEOs starting with WW’s Mindy Grossman.

Since Grossman took over as chief executive in 2017, she has overseen major changes at the digital subscription business and behavioral weight management program, most notably changing its name from the iconic Weight Watchers to simply WW.

“Transformation is not for the light of heart,” she said. “It requires large wholesale radical changes, but the results are powerful.”

In addition to overseeing major marketing and branding changes, Grossman has also been at the helm of the preverbal ship as it traversed the dangerous COVID waters. A huge portion of WW’s revenue streams from thousands of workshops it hosts around the world every week. During the height of the pandemic, WW was forced to find new ways to connect and engage with their members, including increased virtual meetings. 

“Whatever we do has to give people the ability to live the life they want and get healthy at the same time,” she said of the company’s ability to pivot and continue to meet its members' needs.

Following Grossman’s talk, Stitch Fix’s CEO Elizabeth Spaulding was next to the stage to discuss the thriving apparel subscription brand. Spaulding has been in the corner office for six months and was drawn to Stitch Fix because of “the power of data science that is changing the data landscape. And helping our clients feel more attractive and be their best selves.”

One of the biggest shifts Stitch Fix has undertaken under Spaulding’s leadership is customers’ ability to make a purchase without being a subscription client. Prior to this pivot, only members were able to purchase individual items from the retailer — now that capability is open to all.

While Stitch Fix’s assortment is now available to everyone, it still maintains its data-focused approach. Whether a customer is a subscription member or a one-off customer, all content and offers are tailored to their particular style and needs. “Our whole model is built on understanding the customer and meeting the customer in the moment,” said Spaulding.

Following Spaulding’s comments on the future direction of the disruptive Stitch Fix, Old Navy president and CEO Nancy Green was next up in the interviewee chair. Green, like Spaulding, is fairly new to the CEO gig, having claimed the top spot around two years ago.

One of her biggest initiatives since joining the brand has been overseeing Old Navy’s development and launch of its expanded plus size line.

“We were not the best at serving all sizes and shapes in the past,” she said. “We always had a plus size business, but it was small and always seen as a side thing.”

One of the biggest challenges from a customer engagement perspective in the plus size market is pricing. Traditionally plus sizes cost more than standard sizes for the same product. Old Navy’s new plus size selections cost the same as its standard size offerings.

In conjunction with the new business segment, Old Navy has launched a training program to inform associates on the new approach. "We give associates training on the new products, being body positive, and how to best resonate with customers."

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Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner
Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furner pointed to the value of both measuring progress and partnerships when it comes to advancing sustainability initiatives. Photo credit: National Retail Federation.

Hot Topics: Retail and CG Workforce

With companies across the globe facing labor shortages during what has been coined “The Great Resignation,” it’s more important than ever that today’s businesses ensure a workplace culture that is inclusive, promotes growth, and provides a collaborative and innovative environment. What do today’s retail employees look for? The topic was addressed at length during NRF 2022, with DEI, transparency, and valuable amenities like work-from-home flexibility at the forefront. 

Recruit, Advance and Retain: Scaling DEI Efforts inToday’s Market Landscape
James Rhee, founder of advisory firm Red Helicopter, helmed a keynote session with James Fripp, chief equity and inclusion officer, YUM! Brands; Sharon Leite, CEO, The Vitamin Shoppe; and Paige Thomas, president and CEO, Saks OFF 5TH

As each panelist spoke to personal experiences, Leite revealed she will be on an episode ofUndercover Boss this Friday, Jan. 21, displaying when she went “undercover” to experience how her new operational changes and innovations are impacting the front lines. Leite said she got to know store associates on a much more personal level, and learned what they deal with at work and at home and how that makes them who they are — and what that means in terms of engaging with customers.

“It really taught me the importance of taking the time to really ask the questions the next layer down, to be curious, and to really take leading with empathy to the next level,” said Leite.

Rhee noted sometimes we overthink DEI and it can be just about slowing it down. He then moved the conversation onto the topic of women. Thomas noted she tried to think about what women are dealing with during the pandemic and it was very overwhelming. 

“I do believe that’s sort of what’s guided a lot of our conversations,” she said noting “I want to hear about this from their point of view, not from my shoes because I’m not facing the day to day.” In this vein, she said Saks OFF 5TH did surveys and roundtables with associates, which led to the company instituting a formal hybrid work environment. Fripp agreed, noting that one of the things really working for YUM! Brands are its employee resource groups. 

The key to Best Buy’s current and future success hinges upon an engaged workforce, Best Buy CEO Corie Barry noted during her session, which means that not only are they prioritizing meeting the needs of their customers, but also their employees, vendor partnerships, and communities.

“In order to create that healthy Best Buy of the future, we believe strongly in a balanced approach between our constituents,” she noted, which translates through their diversity and inclusion initiatives, showcasing the R&D work of their vendor partners, and helping the communities in which they operate thrive.

“It's constantly trying to listen to that voice of the customer, voice of the employee, voice of the partner, voice of the community, and always pivoting and really trying to take action on all those fronts.”

Barry foresees a disruptive labor market for a protracted period of time thanks to the myriad reasons people are choosing to make job and career changes, including a lack of childcare access and an increase in remote opportunities. She’s currently working with her teams to avoid trying to solve for perfection in six months or a year, but instead using the information and resources at their disposal in this moment — while incorporating flexibility and a focus around the customer — to build their models, and then adjusting as necessary.

“Those that will thrive are those that are willing to embrace this constantly changing environment and actually double down on their differentiators throughout this time period and pivot as the economy, as inflation, as the labor market, as the supply chain, and as the overall consumer sentiment also pivots.” 

Walmart’s Furner emphasized during his session the importance of transparency surrounding its diversity and inclusion initiatives. The retailer reports progress biannually, with its most recent report stating that almost 56% of new hires are people of color and 44% of promotions to management were women, said Furner. Of these promotions, 39% were people of color and 18% LatinX.  

“Pick a goal. Find a way that you can measure it,” Furner advised. "The things that we measure are the things that tend to improve. Pick something where you can make a difference…Our businesses should be the very best of who we are and of our customer base."

Innovation Lab 

Once again, The Big Show’s Innovation Lab was packed with the next big thing from more than 55 visionaries who were on hand to demonstrate and discuss the latest developments in retail tech. From software and robotics, to drones and autonomous vehicles, the floor gave inspiration from cutting-edge ideas.

DE&I Stage and Showcase

Located within the FQ Equality Lounge, the NRF DE&I Stage and Showcase was a new program at the NRF Show. It spotlighted more than 40 Black and Latinx/Hispanic brands, including Glow Skincare, Nossa Familia Coffee, Naturally Drenched haircare and the Cora Spearman Hawaii fashion brand. Attendees had the chance to meet with many of the company founders and associates to learn more about their brands and the impact they seek to have on the retail landscape.

A few highlights included:

DroneUp: The company empowering efficient drone solutions for consumer deliveries started working with Walmart last year and had its drone technology on display.

NOBAL + Stylitics: The tech creates in-store visual outfitting and styling through an interactive mirrored display, which is available to consumers in Puma’s Fifth Avenue flagship in New York City, NY.

Gatik: Walmart made history when it was the first retailer to operate a fully driverless “middle-mile” delivery route via Gatik’s autonomous box trucks. One of its class 3-6 autonomous box trucks was on the show floor for attendees to see.

Obsess: The e-commerce platform, which enables brands and retailers to create immersive 3D virtual stores on their websites and on metaverse platforms, showcased mobile responsive virtual stores from Ralph Lauren, the Bravo Virtual Bazaar, and more.

Robomart: A Robomart van was on display in the hall, showing how customers can tap a button to hail the store on wheels platform in as little as two minutes.

EcoCart: The sustainability software solution enables retailers or brands to offset the emissions of their digital orders through front-end experiences. 

Fillogic: The logistics-as-a-service platform for retail is creating the alternative logistics network by converting underutilized space at retailers into micro-distribution hubs in the middle and final mile.

Brightpick: The fully automated order fulfillment solution automates multi-order consolidation using 3D-vision, AI and robotics.

Ultraleap: The hand tracking solution and software application lets users control digital displays using hand gestures without touching a screen. 

Technology has taken hold of retail in a way that’s creating increasingly immersive experiences for today’s consumer. From the metaverse, AI, AR, and more, retail therapy is a lot more involved than it used to be — and that means the modern retailer needs to think outside the box to attract new customers and retain brand loyalty. Take a look at how today’s leading retail and consumer goods companies are changing the game of retail, and what trends are likely to remain as we head further into 2022. 

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RETAILER DEPLOYMENTS

Lucardi Jeweler, one of the Netherlands’ largest jewelry chains, has deployed e-commerce technology partner Tangiblee to support its markerless, web-based augmented reality feature, Virtual Try-On. The experience allows Lucardi customers to interact with jewelry items and see how it’s worn on a model image or even on their own hand (AR). The Lucardi implementation of Tangiblee will be introduced across the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, serving upwards of 10,000 jewelry SKUs. Lucardi will also be leveraging Tangiblee’s management reporting dashboard to further optimize the experience and measure the solution’s impact to its bottom line. 

SML, a provider of retail RFID technology and solutions, revealed details of its complete solution deployment with Swedish sports retailer Stadium. The partnership launched in 2018 as a pilot and has seen the full deployment of item-level RFID technology across 180 Stadium retail stores in the Nordics, allowing the brand to count its stock in every store weekly, instead of its previous once a year stock count. 

LVMH, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a multinational goods conglomerate with 75luxury brands in their portfolio, has deployed Tangiblee’s interactive e-commerce solutions for La Maisondes Startups LVMH (Season 7) — a program developed to startconversations between LVMH’s Maisons and entrepreneurs to generate collaboration. The deployment will enable Maisons such as Givenchy andLouis Vuitton to view their bags on a model that can be adjusted to the customer’sunique body type. 

Sheetz, a major restaurant and convenience chain across the Mid–Atlantic, is deploying RELEX Solutions, a provider of unified retail planning solutions, to help position Sheetz for store growth, supply chain growth and dynamic product marketing opportunities. RELEX will enable the company to streamline Sheetz’ demand planning processes to improve workflows from suppliers to stores.

Ulta Beauty recently enlisted SAS Customer Intelligence 360 to support its MarTech needs. The partnership with SAS, which will help drive loyalty and unique experiences, according to the company, was announced in a virtual session at NRF 2022: “Amplifying Data and Analytics to Scale: Ulta Beauty’s Personalization Vision.” SAS Customer Intelligence 360 will manage several marketing and customer engagement programs that span credit to loyalty, customer insights and surveys.

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Announcing

TECH ANNOUNCEMENTS

Microsoft is opening general availability for its Microsoft Cloud for Retail on Feb. 1. According to the company, Microsoft Cloud for Retail is an industry-specific cloud that will help retailers “meet this new age of digital optimism,” unifying disparate data sources across the end-to-end shopper journey, allowing retailers to maximize the value of their data, and resulting in one holistic view of the consumer. 

BlueZoo, a foot traffic measurement and analytics solution, has released BlueFox 2022, a platform that measures the presence and movement of people using a new integrated data warehouse, analytics dashboards, user roles, and a mobile application to accelerate sensor calibration. BlueFox 2022 is GDPR-certified and delivers an integrated data warehouse built on Google’s BigQuery.

Seiko Instruments USA Inc. (SII) Thermal Printer Division, a thermal printer technology company, has launched the latest addition to its label and receipt printer line, the SLP720RT. The liner-free, compact label printer supports multiple media sizes, prints 7.9 inches per second, and also features an auto cutter. All key interfaces are supported, including USB / Ethernet+USB / WLAN, OS support for Windows / iOS / Android, and Seiko’s Smart Label Creator software.

NewStore, a modular, mobile-first, omnichannel cloud platform for retail brands, has launched NewStore Consumer Apps as part of its NewStore Omnichannel Platform, allowing  retailers to create branded mobile experiences to unify their online channels with their physical stores. The new functionality is a result of the company’s acquisition of Highstreet Mobile. Highstreet now operates under the NewStore brand.

OnQ, which manufactures custom retail displays, has expanded its Converge platform, enabling retailers to deliver touchless interactive experiences in store. Converge Display Control allows shoppers to control interactive content on any connected TV by scanning a QR code on their phone, creating a two-way connection between shoppers and any network-connected display.

Pathr.ai, an AI-power spatial intelligence platform, has launched three spatial intelligence analytics tools focused on helping retailers drive in-store profitability. Pathr.ai’s CPG Display Tool, True Conversion Rate Tool, and Brand Effect vs. Location Tool provide data such as shopper traffic and dwell impressions, group size dynamics in retail locations, and store-within-a-store metrics, among other insights.

Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions debuted a major expansion of its next generation ELERA unified commerce platform at the National Retail Federation Conference. Capabilities such as an updated IoT platform, and touchpoints and applications, and self-enablement tools, provide a new wave of smart, interconnected end-to-end solutions: self-service kiosk, point-of-sale, and loyalty and promotions. 

Ulisse, a new physical space analytics platform for connected spaces, launched a radar and computer vision-based IoT AI platform to help retailers incorporate intelligent places. The camera-free platform includes self-installing sensors and algorithms that provide privacy-minded, real-time analytics. Ulisse incorporates a radar-based approach and radio frequency-based sensors to illuminate the target with reflection point-clouds, not a true color image, resulting in unobtrusive and privacy-friendly technology.

AI-powered pricing platform Quicklizard — which enables retailers to monitor, calculate and apply optimal prices based on real-time market trends and business goals — debuted the launch of its new pricing modules at NRF Big Retail. The new pricing modules will allow businesses to navigate inflation, seasonal pricing, price elasticity, and inter-product relationships using AI-powered best practices. 

Ricoh USA, Inc. and 6 River Systems, LLC, a fulfillment solutions provider, have launched a new initiative to support warehouse efficiencies. RICOH Service Advantage will complement 6 River Systems' existing service team for its collaborative “Chucks” robots and expand its geographical reach to provide technical support to customers faster. RICOH Service Advantage provides an extensive technical and customer support infrastructure, enabling 6 River Systems to continue to scale up and expand quickly, as automated fulfillment needs continue to surge.      

Wiliot, an IoT platform that provides self-powered, stamp-sized computers and cloud-based privacy and sensing, launched the Wiliot Starter Kit. The kit includes Wiliot’s postage stamp sized computers — the IoT Pixels — pre-mounted on both cardboard and a coffee cup. The IoT Pixels can sense a range of physical and environment data, such as temperature, fill level, motion, location changes, humidity, and proximity. It also includes small Bluetooth bridge devices that energize and read the IoT Pixel tags. Using the starter kit, retailers can explore inventory management, consumption monitoring, anti-counterfeiting, product traceability, and more. 

A2Z Smart Technologies Corp. introduced Cust2Mate Smart Cart — which integrates AI, computer vision and secure edge computing — at the NRF Big Show. The company says Cust2Mate reduces shrinkage, features anti-fraud technology, and provides inventory control and a personalized customer experience.  

New start-up Threatvision.ai unveiled a patent-pending technology at NRF 2022 which looks to tackle gun violence, armed robbery, and burglary in retail establishments. Threatvision.ai uses computer vision and AI deep learning neural networks to identify dangerous objects, assess human behavior, and evaluate the state of the environment in near-real-time to detect threats.

Ottonomy was selected as a part of the NRF Innovation Lab Showcase for its application of automation technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics for the retail industry. Ottobots are designed to help bridge the labor gap and provide efficient solutions for lower manpower while also reducing carbon footprint.

The new SAS Cloud for Intelligent Planning, part of integrating the Microsoft Cloud for Retail Launch, is a software-as-a-service solution available for private preview exclusively through Microsoft Azure. According to the company, the new offering allows retailers and consumer goods manufacturers to anticipate shopper needs and shipping disruptions more effectively. By using shopper data, the software recommends balanced, profitable commercial plans across a retailer’s channels and customers. 

GRUBBRR, a technology company that offers a self-ordering ecosystem, unveiled its new self-checkout technology at NRF 2022. The company stated it will make self-ordering technology accessible and affordable, simplifying and improving operational efficiencies for retail establishments. Using AI and computer vision, the tech instantly identifies any item placed on its counter, allowing items to be scanned simultaneously for a faster checkout experience compared to traditional barcode systems. All payment is contactless. 

Cassida Pro has launched Cassida Pro Split Recycler, a middle automation cash room solution, accessible to businesses of all sizes to optimize cash flow, save time employees spend on cash handling, and provide full cash cycle transparency. The Cassida Pro Split Recycler automates counting drawers and checking in cash, integrates into all major accounting softwares, costs less than a single year of maintenance for a back office recycler, and is modular, allowing for simpler repairs or replacements. 

Bookkeep, an accounting automation platform, unveiled three new integrations with Stripe, Sage Intacct and NetSuite at NRF 2022. The platform offers over 20 connections to the most popular sales channels such as Shopify, Square, Amazon, and Etsy.  The Sage Intacct and NetSuite integrations enable professional accountants and bookkeepers to generate accrual-based summaries, post journal entries and reconcile payment deposits automatically. The Stripe integration automates processing fee and payout deposit captures. Bookkeep eliminates manual data entry, reduces errors and saves time.

Digital marketing intelligence platformBOSCO  — a machine-learning SaaS offering — recently launched in the U.S., and is now integrated into Shopify — available in the Shopify App Store. All Shopify customers can access the BOSCO index and digital marketing budget planning tool for a limited time. BOSCO combines cross-channel data to create personalized reporting dashboards, enabling marketers to make informed digital marketing spend decisions with the help of data-driven insights.

Fluent Commerce, provider of the cloud-native distributed Order Management System (OMS), has released the next-generation Fluent Store web app, powered by Fluent Order Management. The modern, highly configurable web app will help retailers and brands increase staff productivity, reduce training time and order errors, and increase pick and pack efficiency. 

ReverseLogix, a provider of end-to-end returns management systems, recently launched Pulse, a new order tracking module. Pulse is a real-time, cloud-based, order tracking tool that provides organizations and their customers visibility of shipping activity in a centralized location. The Pulse module expands the ReverseLogix returns management system's (RMS) capabilities to include forward tracking of order shipments and end-to-end return shipment capabilities included in the RMS platform.

Brother Mobile Solutions, Inc. (BMS) a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brother International Corporation and provider of mobile, desktop and industrial printing, labeling and safety signage solutions, recently introduced two new additions to its lineup of RuggedJet mobile label and receipt printers. The new RJ-3200 models, including three-inch RJ-3230BL and RJ-3250WBL thermal printers, build on the performance and durability of the RuggedJet series, adding new connectivity and usability features for faster, more reliable on-the-go printing with less down time.

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partnerships

VENDOR PARTNERSHIPS

NCR Corporation, a global enterprise technology provider, has completed the acquisition of LibertyX, a cryptocurrency software provider. LibertyX accelerates NCR’s ability to rapidly deliver a complete digital currency solution to its customers, including the ability to buy and sell cryptocurrency, conduct cross-border remittance, and accept digital currency payments across digital and physical channels. The transaction includes LibertyX’s cryptocurrency remittance business, LibertyPay.

Import order management system Mercado Labs, which connects and automates global supply chains, has partnered with Topl, a blockchain startup. The collaboration looks to bring added transparency and new software solutions to the multi-trillion-dollar imports business. Mercado’s platform is built atop Topl’s Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) offering, making information more secure, auditable, and transparent to all involved parties. Data added to the Topl Blockchain  cannot be edited or erased. 

Pathr.ai, an AI-powered spatial intelligence platform, has partnered with Ombori, a retail technology firm. Retailers with installed Ombori products can now assess how their solutions are performing within a store, measuring traffic flow, customer paths, dwell analytics, and more. Pathr.ai integrates with existing Ombori devices and leverages a retailer’s available camera assets to acquire spatial intelligence insights without having to install specialized hardware. The spatial intelligence technology will launch in big-box retail stores and a large chain of grocery stores.

Salesfloor, a virtual shopping and clienteling mobile application, has acquiredAutomat, a Montreal-based, conversational AI platform that powers guided shopping experiences, product recommendations and personalization for brands. Automat provides advanced product tagging, recommendations, and post-purchase ecommerce website personalization. The new tech will be integrated into the Salesfloor platform and made available to Salesfloor clients, including Chico’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Ben Bridge Jeweler, Shiseido, and more. 

Pockyt, an alternative payments platform, has partnered with hospitality andentertainment company Delaware North, enabling the company to conduct rapid andcontactless cross-border QR-code payments across its 200-plus venues around the world.Pockyt has also expanded its global presence, nowsupporting 14 major digital wallets, including PayPal, Alipay, Venmo, WeChat Pay, UnionPay, andKlarna, among others.

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reports

STUDIES & REPORTS

Consumer preferences are shifting, with sustainability moving to the forefront and shopping journey preferences split between digital, physical, and mobile touchpoints. The Institute for Business Value (IBM), in association with the National Retail Federation, released its second global study, “Consumers Want It All,” which surveyed over 19,000 surveyed consumers, with 72% of respondents saying they use the store as all or part of their primary purchase method, while 27% report hybrid shopping as their method of choice. Sixty-two percent of respondents are willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact, up from 57% two years ago, and half of respondents say they’re willing to pay a premium for sustainability.

According to the Capgemini Research Institute, Gen Z and millennial shoppers are now more likely to order products directly from brands. A new report, “What Matters to Today’s Consumer,” reveals the wide-ranging impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and preferences. Though online shopping has surged amid the pandemic, the report finds there will not be a mass migration in the long-run, with 72% of all shoppers expecting to have significant interactions with physical stores once the pandemic subsides — up from 60% pre-COVID. However, shopping trends should see more permanent shifts as, post-pandemic, 22% of shoppers expect to have a high level of interactions with click-and-collect orders.

Edge retail is gaining momentum, with innovation likely to surge in 2022, according to a new North American survey of omnichannel decision makers, released by Jabil. The company commissioned SIS Research International to conduct the Edge Retail Survey between August and October 2021, polling more than 200 participants from leading retail and DTC brands in the U.S. More than eight in 10 respondents stated they have major digital transformations underway to improve operations, customer service, and shopping experiences. Nearly half (47%) are investing in online and in-store technology as part of integrated, omnichannel solutions. 

CleverTap recently released insights from its“Fit for the Future of Retail” report at NRF 2022, revealing four fundamental business objectives for engaging with today’s mobile-centric consumers. The report is the culmination of a six-month qualitative and quantitative research project on the state of marketing and customer engagement in the mobile channel. Efforts focused on understanding retail’s strategic objectives, most pressing challenges, and existing capabilities. The initiative also included workshops across all regions with Customer Success Managers with insights on customer behaviors and expectations. 

The retail and supply chain industries have faced several challenges amid the pandemic, with the ongoing supply chain crisis causing delays, product shortages and increasing costs. How is it impacting the shopping experience? A new global research report commissioned by SOTI, “From Clicks to Ships: Navigating the Global Supply Chain Crisissurveyed 10,000 consumers across eight countries, finding that 52% of U.S. consumers state items have become more expensive and almost two thirds of shoppers (61%) saying one or more items are no longer available for immediate purchase. Disruptions in the supply chain are forcing customers to shop online rather than in-store (49.1%). However, to avoid shipping delays, many U.S. consumers are opting for “buy online, pick up in-store” options.  

Two thirds of U.S. consumers are making their “retail resolutions” for the new year, according to Emarsys as part of its annual unPredictions report, which found that shopping trends will continue to shift in 2022. The study of 2,000 Americans reveals that a third (33%) want to be thoughtful and take more time to consider the purchases they make, with 21% putting an emphasis on sustainability, admitting they would like to shop more ethically this year. Overconsumption is also top of mind, with 21% of consumers in the U.S. wanting to buy less and an additional 19% looking to invest in higher-quality items that last longer. 

Retail workers on the frontlines provide key insights into the ever-changing trends occurring amid the pandemic. According to Microsoft’s new “Work Trend Index Special Report,” which surveyed 9,600 frontline workers across eight countries in eight industries, who are unable to work remotely, from October to November of 2021, culture is taking a hit. Sixty-two percent of frontline workers say their leadership does not prioritize strong workplace culture and 61% say communication isn’t trickling down. While innovation in retail is flourishing, with 60% excited about the tech that is emerging, 46% say they will likely lose their jobs if they do not learn the new skills necessary, presenting a steep learning curve with few options for formal training.