Last month the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual exhibition took place in New York. It is one of the most relevant retail and technology exhibitions internationally.
The exhibition’s overall message was clear: if retailers and brands want to remain relevant to their customers, they need to adopt emerging technologies in their commercial spaces.
In one of the conferences held at the exhibition, Doug McMillon, president of Walmart and a leading retailer in the United States, summed this up by saying: “Change in retail is constant. If you’re bored right now, you’re not paying attention.”
Lorena Gómez, Retail Technology Manager at HMY, attended this fair in order to explore the latest technology solutions in the retail industry first-hand. We spoke with her so that she could share some of the key points to take away from NRF 2018 with us as well as her vision on how technology can help to improve commercial spaces.
Interview with Lorena Gómez, Retail Technology Manager at HMY
Based on what you saw at NRF’s Retail’s Big Show in New York, what would you say are the main concerns for brands and retailers?
Concerns change every year, and this year, for example, there has been a great deal of concern surrounding stock control, not just for retailers, but also for brands.
“Knowing what is happening
in stores right now
is the main need.”
In this regard, we have seen a wide range of solutions that function with different technologies, but they all aim to fulfill the same need: knowing what is happening in stores at every moment.
Applying these types of technological solutions means significant improvement both in logistics and customer experience. As an example, a user can find out where an item they want is located in real time, see if there are any available, and in which store or department. They can find this out before they even leave the house.
In addition to these, what other types of technological solutions are retailers looking for and for what purpose?
For instance, we now have the ability to assess how much time a shelf has been empty and know the impact that it has caused on both the retailer and the brand.
We can also cross-check this data with other sources such as the traffic that I am anticipating in my store, which can depend on different factors like time, the price of gas, the types of people who live in the area, the age group that is coming into my store, etc.
Machine learning tools allow for decisions to be made in real time by bringing together all of these factors that technology allows us to be aware of.
“It is possible to make decisions
based on predictions.”
If this is combined with other technological solutions, such as the use of digital signage, it is possible to make decisions based on predictions, for example, bringing out a product that we have a surplus of on sale, adjusting prices to certain conditions, etc. and in this way, we can make the best use of the retail spaces.
What role does technology currently play in retail?
Right now, in retail the key is to pay attention to the emerging technologies as they appear, because if these changes are not applied in a dynamic and progressive way, a retailer or brand’s competitive advantage over their competitors can be very large.
That being said, when it comes to adopting new technologies in our stores, the important thing is not the technology itself, but the benefits that a technological solution can provide to you, and on that basis, you should prioritize investment.
What kinds of benefits can technology offer in the world of retail?
For one, stock control as we mentioned earlier. Also control of your store’s planogram, which is crucial for most brands, and which is usually checked manually, making it more expensive. Now there are technologies that allow you to monitor your planogram remotely and automatically.
Another technology that has a lot of development ahead of it is digital signage, which can go far beyond installing a monitor. This is technology that is continuing to advance a lot. Think of the flexibility that would come with being able to change prices instantly across a chain of shopping centers, control communications, and adapt offers and product visibility to external factors or to your own products, as your stock evolves. Right now, these types of decisions are not being made. It costs so much to make manual changes that changes aren’t even made.
There are a few other things like, for example, reducing your consumption of electricity or managing temperature with the technology to control atmospheric factors.
Finally, there is another key point for what can be achieved with technology: engagement and the purchasing experience. Technology helps us turn the in-store experience, no longer a necessity or obligation, into more of a fun and pleasant time, providing a positive experience and allowing customers to enjoy the products.
What kinds of trends are being established as the future of retail?
In the short term, the trend that is being established the most is improving the customer’s in-store experience.
“Improvement of the in-store experience
is one of the major trends in retail.”
And another side that is very important has to do with analytics. Right now, data is being collected from sources as simple as the point of sale interface, but there will be more evolution in the acquisition of data, using new technologies that are coming out now and new ways of taking advantage of this data.
What industries are the pioneers when it comes to using technology in retail?
Fashion, Health and Beauty are still very early pioneers in digital communication. The food industry generally seems to be more concerned with issues of logistics and stock control. However, in the most powerful pioneering industries we are seeing an increasing dedication to the shopping experience.
What advice do you have for brands and retailers on how to take advantage of the opportunities offered by technology in retail spaces?
My advice is to work together with partners who are committed to staying up to date with groundbreaking technologies in every field, who are able to offer a solution to the constant changes that happen in retail and who can integrate them effectively, in both retail spaces and information systems.
This is not an easy task, but we are working hard on it because we want to integrate the best technological solutions that we can find, in both experiences and store processes such as metrics and analytics.
When we’re deciding where to invest, we need to consider integrated solutions that are based on the needs of each company and not on the use of the technology itself.