NRF 2019 Big Show

Retailers Should Tap Into Technology to Create Magic Moments for Consumers

Melissa Kress
Executive Editor
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Retail Technology

NEW YORK — As technology innovation changes at the speed of light, retailers are working hard to build up the customer experience, both online and at brick and mortar. At the intersection of the digital and physical retail space are "magic moments."

Presenting at the National Retail Federation's NRF 2019: Retail's Big Show, technology giant Cisco highlighted three magic moments from around the globe. In the Americas, it is the merging of online and in-store; in Asia, mobile is a way of life; and in Europe, it is synchronized inventory and pricing.

Susie Wee, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Cisco DevNet, explained that in the Americas, magic moments can be ordering groceries online and picking them up at the store, or buying items online with the ability to return them in-person.

In Asia, where people spend hours commuting to work, it's all about advanced technologies and their mobile phones. Asian consumers are accustomed to providing personal information on mobile devices and receiving goods and services, Wee noted.

In Europe, real-time price comparisons — including both online and in-store prices — provide the consumer with the best pricing information.

Despite location, what these moments all have in common is that "the experiences all consumers wanted were very human," Wee said. "These are small experiences, but how do you scale this?" she asked, advising that technology can help.

Cisco DevNet is the company's developer program that's designed to help developers and IT professionals who want to write applications and develop integrations with Cisco products, platforms and APIs (application programming interface).

Regardless of channel, all retailers know that a lot of disruptors come from nontraditional places. As Wee noted, disruption never comes at a good time. "Disruption is hard, but you need to be bold, you need to be smart and you need to get out there," she said.

To that end, she offered NRF Show attendees three big ideas:

  1. Make the store a destination. According to Wee, 88.1 percent of the retail purchased in 2018 was made in the physical store. Artificial intelligence and virtual reality can help enhance the consumer experience, turning a location into a destination rather than another point along a consumer's journey.
  2. Maximize intelligence. Retailers need to uncover blind spots across the physical and digital space to gain customer and business insights. "There is big opportunity in the blind spots," Wee explained.
  3. Build a programmable store. Retailers should think of their stores as a platform. Looking beyond cameras and RFID tags, retailers can place sensors around the store to find out what consumers are doing once they step inside. "You should automate to enable agility and experimentation," she advised.

NRF 2019: Retail's Big Show took place Jan. 13-15 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York.

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