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Exploring the future of retail at the NRF Big Show

In January, Dr2 Consultants joined over 38,000 stakeholders in retail and e-commerce who attended the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, an impressive conference that takes place every year in New York. The NRF has represented the retail sector for over a century in the United States. For three days, participants had the opportunity to hear from retailers from all over the world how the retail sector is changing.

One of the main themes of the conference was the “store of the future” and how new technologies can foster the growth of the retail sector. Artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, facial recognition were mainstream topics of the conference and they all play a crucial role in fulfilling consumers’ expectations. Digitalization helps provide in-shop experiences to consumers, which are crucial to succeed as a physical store today. In other words, retailers need to become more and more creative and digitalization can definitely help them in this sense.

Both big and small retailers that spoke at the Big Show strongly reaffirmed that the modern consumer is becoming increasingly channel-agnostic. Consumers are setting the standard and changing the way retailers sell, also thanks to the fact that mobile empowers them. In fact, an increasing number of consumers is using mobile devices to compare prices in shops, check reviews and product information and, eventually, buy another product online.

Consumers want to shop anywhere and at any time, and it does not matter if it happens online or offline. Today, retail is far more than just brick-and-mortar, while e-commerce pure players are opening more and more physical stores. What consumers want is a seamless omnichannel shopping experience. That is why it is so crucial for retailers to invest in new technologies, such as voice-commerce. We are a screen-based society, but we still much depend on tapping on devices we use every day. However, voice will become the primary way to interface with devices. According to Gartner Predicts, 30% of consumers already own some sort of smart device and, by 2022, a typical home could contain more than 500 smart devices. Many experts are convinced that the next big digital disruption in retail will be voice-commerce.

If retailers want to remain competitive in such a dynamic industry, they must integrate and embrace new technologies.