With the announcement that Walmart will be closing 269 stores and laying off thousands of employees, while at the same time, Amazon reports a record-breaking holiday sales season, it seems that a drastic change is occurring in the retail landscape. The way people shop has evolved, and traditional retailers are scrambling to keep up.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently held their annual convention and EXPO in New York City. The event, known as “Retail’s Big Show,” drew over 30 thousand attendees. In the exhibition hall, technology seemed to reign supreme this year, and technology companies like Intel, Cisco, IBM, and Salesforce showed off some technologies that can help bring the retail industry into the future.
A futuristic shopping experience with virtual fitting rooms and 3D foot scanners
New technologies aim to make the in-store shopping experience more convenient and efficient. By standing in front of a 3D virtual mirror, shoppers can see what outfits will look like on them without stepping foot in a fitting room. Al Bundy may also find himself out of a job, as new 3D foot scanners will allow shoppers to find out their exact shoe size — no shoehorn required.
The folks at Intel demonstrated their RealSense 3D cameras, used to measure shoppers’ shoe sizes. The cameras are currently being piloted in some Nordstrom stores. Shoppers stand on a platform that is embedded with the camera, and it scans their feet for exact measurements. This technology can potentially save shoppers from mistakenly buying the wrong sized shoes, and suffering the consequences.
IBM and Cisco want to personalize the shopping experience
Outdoor apparel company The North Face showed off how they’re using state-of-the-art software to give customers access to their own kind of personal shopper. The technology uses IBM Watson to help determine what items would most fit shoppers’ needs. Customers can ask very specific (or very general) questions about what they’re looking for, and Watson’s natural-language processing ability will process the shopper’s request and make a recommendation.
Cisco was also on-hand to exhibit their new social media technology called TrueIdentity. The patent-pending technology can verify the identity of shoppers and pull in relevant data from their social media accounts, so salespeople have specific information about their customers as soon as they enter the store.
Intel and Salesforce exhibit solutions to empower retail employees
Intel wants to help retailers improve their internal processes, by allowing them to better manage inventory. At the show, they announced their partnership with Levi’s; Levi’s is piloting Intel’s technology in 3 of their stores. The retailer attaches RFID tags to clothing to monitor where specific items are in the store, which allows salespeople to track the items and restock when a certain size runs out. By tracking each item, employees can also locate items that are misplaced, and return them to their correct spots — making it easier for shoppers to find the specific items they need.
Salesforce used a mock pop-up Toms shoe store to demonstrate how the retailer is using the Salesforce CRM to bring together in-store and digital experiences for customers. Salesforce wants to put more information in the hands of sales associates, so they know who their customer is and how to create a customized shopping experience for them.
“What’s new for us is the amount we’re investing in retail,” said Shelley Bransten, Salesforce’s senior vice president of retail. “Retailers now are starting to invest in the consumer, not just with traditional systems like point-of-sale and e-commerce, but also in engaging consumers and store associates.”
Want to learn more about technologies that are helping to change the retail game and create better Customer Experiences? Check out our ebook Creating Exceptional Retail Experiences: Solutions for Retail and Franchise Management Success.