At this year’s NRF Big Show, I focused my time on discovering and searching out new tech and experiences that will be incorporated in the stores of tomorrow. During my time, here are three quick observations that I made:

  • Computer vision AI is taking the first steps to transforming brick and mortar. Computer vision AI has the potential to solve multiple issues for brick-and-mortar retail, including: identifying store inventory in real-time; providing real-time analytics on customers and employees (similar to web analytics); eliminating checkout lines; and reducing fraud and loss. Furthermore, layering in facial recognition capabilities can open new opportunities for customer service, loyalty, and payments. There are hurdles on the path to computer vision nirvana that are too numerous to detail in a blog post (namely, privacy and trust concerns). As customers become more comfortable with it and experience the convenience and CX enhancements, computer vision will begin to take hold over the long term.
  • New connected lighting technology helps create better in-store experiences. Wi-Fi has often been used to connect the store to consumer in-app experiences, but customers have to go through the friction-filled process of logging into their app to access the Wi-Fi. Diebold Nixdorf was showcasing an in-store in-app experience that utilizes connected store lighting from Philips that provides indoor location services. The lighting pulse (not recognizable by the human eye) can be picked up by the selfie camera on a user’s device. The tech can orientate the user for wayfinding, and if customers need assistance, they can push a help button in their app and a store associate will easily locate them.
  • Store visits disappoint. We visited several New York flagship brand stores looking for creative or technological experiences that wowed shoppers. Many of the stores had unique experiences (such as areas for customization, hands-on demos, and art installations), but they were not being utilized to their full potential. Retailers are attempting to create retail theater, but instead we found underutilized props that did little to enhance the customer experience — more to come on that in 2019.