Four Trends in Retail Tech to Keep in Mind Coming out of NRF

By Andrew Petro

That’s a wrap on NRF 2020 Retail’s Big Show! This year’s event brought together more than 40,000 people – from solution providers to Fortune 500 retailers – to share visionary ideas for retail and experience the latest technology that’s transforming the industry.

Each year, Matter attends on behalf of our roster of retail tech clients. In addition to meeting with reporters, staffing media briefings and sitting in on informative keynotes, we also get the opportunity to explore the show floor. We’re always amazed at the new technologies that are helping retailers improve customer experience both instore and online. Below are a few themes and trends that stood out this year:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer just a buzzword. 

AI and machine learning (ML) continue to be buzzworthy, but this year we witnessed many retailers putting the technology in action. Retailers and solution providers showcased how they are seeing noteworthy results from AI to reduce out-of-stock inventory, improve pricing models, predict demand and more.

Starbucks president and CEO Kevin Johnson spoke in front of a packed audience about how the company is using AI to free up its employees, enable better engagement with customers and create more human interactions. While many are concerned about AI taking away jobs through the digitalization of everything, this is not necessarily the case. Retailers are using the technology to empower their employees, not replace them.

Experiential retail is here to stay.

Retailers are increasingly using new and unique in-store experiences to draw shoppers. For example, Barbara Carlson, senior director of global creative services for American Girl, spoke at NRF about how micro experiences in physical stores can have a major impact on customers and their brand loyalty. American Girl is a leader in this space – its stores offer doll hospitals for toy repairs, restaurants with seats for dolls, and even a salon where kids can get matching hairstyles with their dolls.

With e-commerce on the rise, consumers need a reason to shop in-store. In 2020, retailers will focus on implementing these experiences to draw customers into their brick-and-mortar locations and make the case for why the physical store is still relevant.

RFID is seeing widespread adoption.

Several solution providers at NRF 2020 demonstrated RFID-based technology as tool for better inventory management practices.

Omnichannel retail has proliferated in the past few years and retailers everywhere are now offering fulfillment solutions like “buy online, pick up instore” (BOPIS), curbside pickup, etc. Inventory visibility and management is critical to deliver on these initiatives and retailers are increasingly turning to RFID to do this. The technology’s ability to provide store associates with an accurate view of the products available in-store at any given time is unmatched and leads to fewer cancelled BOPIS orders, increased sales and a happier customer.

The secondhand clothing trend is enabling sustainable retail. 

Sustainable practices in retail are now more important than ever and retailers are investing in solutions that help them lower their carbon footprint. There’s also a growing trend among consumers to buy secondhand clothing at thrift shops or online marketplaces, like Poshmark and Threadup. The general concept with thrift shopping is that when you reuse and recycle clothing, less of it ends up in landfills or polluting the environment.

Phil Graves, the head of corporate development at Patagonia, elaborated on the secondhand clothing trend in a session at NRF and highlighted how the company’s Worn Wear business has seen 40 percent growth in revenue and profitability since it launched in 2017.

That’s our take on the trends coming out of NRF. What trends or developments at the show stood out to you this year? Let me know.