NRF is the retail world’s largest conference: it’s a three-day annual event that draws over 38,000 industry experts, technology pros, journalists, and influencers to New York for a chance to discover what will be the latest and greatest in retail in 2019 and beyond.
With 700+ exhibitors and 300+ speakers, it’s impossible to see it all - but no worries - I was onsite to scout ‘the talent.’
I finally did it… I went to NRF.
Me and Retail go way back. We’re bosom buds - two halves of heart-shaped friendship charm - once estranged, now picking up where we left off.
I’ve been deep in its trenches have survived to tell my tale…
I’ve sold everything from razor-sharp steak knives to pain-inducing stilettos to luxuriously soft Egyptian cotton sheets. I’ve also done my fair share of back of house (BOH) work, including stocking tiny lavender sachets and bulky bedding while standing on precariously teetering ladders. In short, I’ve done a lot of ‘retail stuff’ the ‘old-fashioned way.’
So I was amazed to see how much the shopping, service, and buying experiences have changed for both customers and employees.
Instantly, I thought… ‘that would have been nice back in the day’ and ‘so much for getting lost in the stockroom searching for an elusive toaster oven’ or ‘I could have really used a headset that actually worked in the bowels of the basement.’
Maybe because it was my first retail show, I was extra excited to be a part of the glorious ‘chaos’ and energy, but I’m sure both newbies and seasoned veterans would have been impressed by the exhibitors this year.
As I passed by the colorful signage, eager faces, S’mores (yes, there were S’mores), amazing demos, and stunning show booths, I thought, ‘why not share a couple of my favorite finds?'
After all, there was much to do and see!
So here it goes…
SALESFORCE CUSTOMER 360
Wow, wow, wow. I was blown away by the Salesforce exhibit. Seriously, who was the genius behind that design?
I felt like I was on a campsite in the middle of the Javits Center (takes glamping in Manhattan to a whole new level).
There was a digital waterfall…
‘Tree stumps’ that doubled as seats, realistically painted rock formations with little touches of green foliage, flat-screens, and super friendly and smart people who were ready to answer any and all of my questions.
Honestly, it was hard to leave the Salesforce space and turn down a second helping of pillow-soft marshmallows.
But beyond the on-point brand experience that perfectly aligned with the Trailhead concept, Salesforce stood out for Customer 360.
Salesforce Customer 360 x Brunello Cucinelli
What drew me to this demo?
Brunello Cucinelli. What can I say? I’m still a slave to fashion.
As I homed in on Brunello, the words ‘Salesforce Customer 360’ caught my eye. It was a good thing too because I had an awesome one-on-one demo that focused on how Salesforce approaches customers, employees, and customer service.
Nothing great exists in silos, right?
Well, maybe great grains, but the examples are few and far between.
Salesforce Customer 360 is a cross-cloud technology that brings their B2C Marketing, Commerce, and Service products together in an innovative way and provides a fuller (canonical) view of customers.
How do they do it? Customer 360 admins register their various instances of Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, and Service Cloud.
But what does this mean in the real world?
I met Parker.
Parker is handsome and has amazing taste. When I met him, Parker had just realized he’d bought another fabulous navy blue blazer online.
The problem: Parker already had three nearly identical blue blazers in his closet. (Parker isn’t real, but if he was, he’d be in the running for my best friend).
With Salesforce Customer 360, Parker can hop on a chat and share his shopping woes - first with AI, and then with a human depending on what he’s looking to do.
The human, in this case, Brunello’s customer service rep, can pull in all kinds of Salesforce data and help Parker return an item, buy another item, make product recommendations based on his purchase history, and much more to provide my bestie-in-the-training a ‘flawless’ customer experience.
What’s more, is that in-store employees can pull up the same information as online customer service agents to deliver the same top-notch customer experience.
Why, oh why, didn’t I have this?
Instantly, I thought back to all the times I could have upsold shoes based on what customers bought. Or, actually found what I was looking for in the back without having to pull out ladders and search for ‘misplaced’ and ‘misstocked’ items.
I can definitely see the value of Salesforce Customer 360 and how increasingly clouds are colliding to form something new and better: the ‘SuperCloud.’
Honeywell x Theatro
I used to write about Honeywell thermostats back in the day, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the innovation juggernaut shift its focus to retail and the in-store employee experience.
What drew me to Honeywell? A really cute Lauren Conrad blazer.
Lisa, who I didn’t realize was from Honeywell, concurred on its cuteness, and so a conversation was sparked that covered everything from women in tech to hardware plus Mobile Software as a Service (SaaS).
You can’t read any publication these days without some expert or another weighing in on the fate of retail.
It’s dead, it’s dying, it’s dead and buried... to move on, and wait patiently for the rise of retail robot overlords.
But would AI tell me to avoid yellow at all costs because it doesn’t work with my complexion? To buy a size up? Or, know how to match a sparkly crop top with a maxi skirt? We shall see…
A Hardware+ Solution for Retail
Honeywell and Theatro are taking an interesting direction by focusing on the employee experience. Why? Because happier employees = happier customers.
The partners created a solution for brick and mortar operations that is focused on delivering seamless experiences for both customers and employees.
How it works…
Subscribers to the Theatro SaaS platform access the service from Honeywell Mobility Edge devices that range from rugged scanners for warehouse environments to Bluetooth headsets (that come in different styles, grades, and sizes to fit the needs of virtually any retail operation).
Honeywell's headsets provide high-quality voice communications over Wi-Fi and offer employee locations, speech recognition, and much more - plus a plethora of analytics insights from connected platforms to create a more engaged and informed workforce.
For example, a manager at a home decor store can record an employee meeting early in the morning for afternoon shift employees. The employees that come in later in the day can listen to the pre-recorded meeting right on their headsets. Managers and employees can even leave each other ‘messages’ about customers, schedules, store events, deliveries, and other pertinent information.
These technologies truly would have revolutionized the level of customer service I could have provided. Instead, I had to deal with antiquated PA systems that sounded like they were sending transmissions to Earth from the Moon - "Houston, we most definitely have a problem."
The result: “A failure to communicate.”
So kudos to Honeywell and Theatro for having the foresight to build better experiences that focus on in-store employees and encourage collaboration and cooperation.
WIPRO AR and VR Retail Experiences
Few things are cooler than Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in retail. As our smartphones increasingly become our lifelines and semi-permanent fixtures in the palms of our hands, a new type of shopping experience is being made possible by Wipro.
'Magic Mirror' on the Wall...
This innovative solution combines the power of the Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware), Einstein Vision, and ‘Magic Mirror,’ a cutting-edge prototype display that enables customers shopping in-store to hold up an article of clothing - and voila! - that item automatically gets added to their digital shopping cart, creating a seamless offline and online customer experience.
Say goodbye to long lines. Buy without having to dig for your wallet or smartphone, and leave the store happier, faster.
Win-win for everyone. Customers can get what they want, and in-store employees can focus on higher-value services like helping shoppers find the perfect outfit or gift, returns, inventory, and keeping up their stores’ visual appeal.
'Magic Mirror' on the wall who's got the fairest price of all... (someday...)
NRF was a blast. I’m definitely looking forward to going next year. I’ll be sure to wear flats (heels were a bad choice - my calves hate me).
I saw a lot of amazing solutions focused on improving the customer experience, but I noticed more and more innovators expanding their focus to the employee experience - after all, the two are one and the same.
Honeywell and Theatro definitely stood out when it came to empowering in-store employees through an interesting partnership that focuses on solutions beyond hardware.
Salesforce 360 is changing the way people see clouds. Clouds are fluid, they move, so why keep them separate and sioled? Salesforce answers this question by combining the powers of its Marketing, Commerce, and Service Clouds to form a new kind of ‘Supercloud’ that gives retailers a more complete view of their customers.
Wipro is bringing AR in-store to connect offline and online customer experiences and to provide a faster, more efficient buying journey for shoppers to keep them coming back.
Anyone can do retail, but not everyone should.
I definitely saw a trend in retailers realizing the value of skilled employees and how they’re a key piece of the puzzle to creating seamless customer experiences and building an army of loyal brand advocates.
And lastly, a quick shout out to my colleague, Phil Nemeth, who led an awesome demo on the Marketplace Onboarding Bolt built on Salesforce.
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