New Year, New York: How NRF 2019 showed us that retail is ‘far from dead’
By Anna Murphy, Communications Executive, Retail Assist
With over 700 exhibitors and 37,000 people attending, the NRF Big Show certainly lives up to its name. With many stats and headlines regaling the ‘death of the High Street’, it seemed an important and salient time to come together as a global retail community to see the innovations that are happening within it.
Whilst some technologies showcased represented nothing new – AI, digital mirrors, and augmented reality to name a few – it was exciting to see the evolution of the customer experience and how industry experts predict it will continue to evolve.
One new trend seen at NRF this year was cryptocurrency and how obtainable it will become within the retail environment. Lolli works as a cashback site, giving its customers a return of up to 30% via Bitcoin. It may have only been running for five months, but it already operates with 500 retail agents and has its sights set on expansion within the British and Australian markets.
Bitstop is a Bitcoin ATM that allows customers to convert cash to Bitcoin. Allowing users to view exchange rates before transactions, a user simply takes cash deposits and concerts these to Bitcoin shares. The aim behind Bitstop was to make cryptocurrency easily available no matter what your technological know-how and its units are already based in airports, retail spaces, supermarkets and petrol stations – simply, wherever is convenient for the consumer.
We also enjoyed catching up with top British retail influencers, Miya Knights, journalist, author and Head of Industry Insight at Eagle Eye, and Andrew Busby, writer and founder of Retail Reflections.
One thing they were both in agreement over was the future of UK retail.
Andrew said: “Retail is in a fork in the road. People talk about a retail apocalypse, but I don’t believe in that. Whilst there will be casualties, which is sad and unfortunate, particularly for those whose jobs are affected, it’s an exciting time. What we’re hearing from NRF is the idea that it is all about the store experience, to create spaces for people to enjoy.”
To conclude, he added: “Far from being dead, retail is in great shape. Retail is heading into a much better place: that’s exciting for retailers and that’s also exciting for us as consumers.”
Miya agreed and said: “Retailers have been stung in the last couple of years – but 2019 will be a great year to be a consumer. Unlike in previous years, the focus of the 2019 NRF Big Show has shifted from e-commerce back to the impact on the store, with a real focus on store digitisation and how it directly impacts on customer experiences.’
“Online no longer needs to cannibalise a customer base,” she reflected. “The store is very far from dead! We are going to see fewer stores but more impactful experiences.”
To cement these impactful experiences, we saw a wealth of technology to improve the customer experience. Hero is an app with offices based both in New York and London that allows customers to interact with store staff from the comfort of their own sofas. Users simply initiate a chat through a brand’s website, which then connects the customer to a store assistant, with first preference going to stores near the customer’s location.
Depending on the query, the store assistant can send photos and product recommendations and is also able to show live video. For example, if the customer was questioning the sizing of an item, the live video stream could explain this further, or see an item of clothing after the store assistant had tried it on. This app showed the exciting possibilities of conjoining bricks and mortar and a store’s digital offering, presenting the best shopping experience.