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Monday, January 15, 2018

NRF 2018 highlights retail transformation

The National Retail Federation's 107th annual Convention and Expo opened Jan. 14, 2018, at Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. The NRF expects record attendance, with 35,000 registered attendees and 600 exhibitors from more than 3,500 companies and 90 countries. NRF executives held a pre-show press briefing in the Innovation Lab, a show within a show designed to highlight emerging technologies. In opening remarks, NRF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew R. Shay said retail transformation is good for companies, employees and customers.

"Retail is not dead," Shay said. "It is being reshaped in response to shifting customer expectations and buying behaviors." The Innovation Lab, begun last fall with Shop.org, has been expanded into a more dynamic experience, Shay noted. The Retail 2020 section features 25 technologies shaping the new retail landscape, and an emerging technology showcase with hands-on demos of futuristic applications.

"So much is changing in retail, in the way we shop, explore and transact," added Jack Forestell, Global Head of Merchant and Acquirer Sales and Solutions at Visa Inc. "What's making it come to life is innovation." Forestell encouraged members of the media to tour both areas of the Innovation Lab and attend technology presentations at the Innovation Lab's Feature Stage.

Transforming the shopping journey

The Innovation Lab's two unique exhibit areas and sound stage will provide insights into retail-shaping technologies throughout the conference, NRF representatives stated. The Retail 2020 area is an interactive showcase featuring 25 exhibitors that are transforming each stage of the shopping journey, using augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, facial recognition, big data and robotics. NRF identified 5 unique stages of the shopping journey as: awareness, consideration, engagement, service and post-purchase.

The emerging technology section of the Innovation Lab is a more futuristic experience, NRF representatives stated. These exhibitors are early-stage innovators and some may not be here in five years, but this is where innovation happens, they said. Emerging Tech exhibitor Sam Vasisht, Chief Marketing Officer at Magia.ai, expects to grow and scale his tech company, after two his previous start-ups were acquired by Cisco and TiVo.

"Magia's Cognitive Selling platform powers Virtual Sales Assistants to engage, persuade and build trust with shoppers, by providing a human-like experience," he noted. "The AI uses psychology-based selling skills to help customers easily and confidently reach buying decisions."

'Retail is retail'

Shay described ecommerce and brick-and-mortar as complementary parts of the same industry, adding, "retail is retail." Consumers are increasingly shopping across all channels and expecting the same experience online and in stores, he said. Retail has always been about connecting with customers across all devices and channels. Referencing NRF data, Shay said consumers who shop online and in stores tend to spend more, and retailers are leveraging this trend by using all available tools, technology and resources at the intersection of the online and in-store experience.

Retailers are resilient and creative and constantly looking for new ways to connect with their customers, Shay noted. Retail is a high-growth sector with a strong future ahead. Retailers employ more than 13 million Americans and support 42 million jobs. Many of these new jobs are in corporate headquarters and distribution centers, and may not be reported by the current Bureau of Labor Statistics, but NRF is actively working to correct the record, he said. end of article

Editor's Note: Note: The Green Sheet Inc. is closed for the Martin Luther King Day holiday, Mon. Jan. 15, 2018.

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