From Supply Chain to POS: Lessons Learned at NRF 2023
Each year, NRF: Retail's Big Show acts as the curtain-raiser for some of the retail industry’s most advanced and innovative technology solutions. While 2022’s event saw NRF’s return to New York’s Javits Center, attendee turnout remained unusually low due to the world being in the early stages of the post-pandemic recovery. However, 2023 saw attendee numbers ramp back up to pre-pandemic levels, and exhibiting organizations certainly made the most of it.
Following this year’s packed event, the long-term results are potentially endless. The last few years have been driven by the customer — whether retailers have been looking to maximize their omnichannel strategies, create a seamless customer journey from initial interaction through to transaction, or cater to the conscious consumer and develop more sustainable strategies. The customer is at the heart of everything, and 2023’s Big Show reflected that shift perfectly.
Attendees were treated to a range of technological innovations that focused heavily on improving the overall customer experience. Three key trends emerged to dominate the event in New York: streamlined supply chain operations, high-quality customer interaction, and seamless point of sale (POS).
Streamlining the Supply Chain
Retailers recognize the need for operational efficiency, not only to make their processes faster and more cost effective, but perhaps more importantly to improve the overall customer experience. The rising demand for improved supply chain solutions was clear to see at NRF 2023, with a number of organizations demonstrating their ability to improve inventory control and order management — all to the benefit of their customers. In order to successfully deploy supply chain solutions that improve the customer experience, retailers must find ways to seamlessly integrate supply chain solutions with their wider retail technology — from e-commerce platforms to in-store POS — to deliver a truly omnichannel experience.
Creating a flexible, efficient and cost-effective supply chain improves operations, but one important advantage that also comes with this capability is the agility it provides retailers. With the last few years in mind, this is certainly an area worth investing in long term.
High-Quality Customer Interaction
In a competitive retail environment, the right level of customer interaction can set retailers apart from their competitors. At NRF, attendees witnessed some of the most fascinating innovations available. Display technology, previewing adventurous holographic and virtual try-on solutions were seen in all corners across all three exhibition floors.
Aesthetics clearly play a prominent role in customer interaction, but NRF also showed that leveraging the right data is still a clear priority in this field for retailers. Another prominent trend from the show was the abundance of data and analytics technology available in the current market. For retailers to perform above the competition, they must have access to the right data, securely. With a secure customer relationship management (CRM) system, and enhanced data analytics and reporting, retailers can better know individual customers and personalize their experiences both online and in-store. Moreover, retailers that are capable of integrating CRM systems with POS systems can help sales associates provide a top-tier customer experience with all the required knowledge at their fingertips.
Delivering Seamless Point of Sale
Perhaps the most popular attraction for attendees at the Big Show this year was the continued evolution of in-store POS systems. In the last few years, the retail world has witnessed significant improvements in POS, from contactless payments streamlining checkout efficiency to mobile POS terminals that bust queues throughout stores. However, NRF 2023 pushed the boundaries even further.
RFID-powered checkout became the star attraction for a select few exhibitors, and if the technology can be mass-deployed throughout the industry, queueing can truly become a thing of the past. Customers simply place their shopping basket — regardless of how many items are in it — on a designated area in the checkout terminal and all products are scanned in seconds, thanks to RFID tags and software.
Furthermore, and potentially even more mindblowing, attendees were able to witness early demonstrations of tap to pay on iPhone which can allow retailers to accept payments on their iPhone without any extra terminals or hardware. At some stage in the future, in-store associates will only need a mobile device in their pockets to be able to check out customers wherever they are in-store. The opportunities around POS are fascinating, and should be on the radar of all forward-thinking retailers in 2023.
A Forecast for the Year Ahead
NRF typically dictates how the retail industry will continue to develop for the rest of the year, and 2023’s event didn't disappoint. As retailers continue to recognize the importance of remaining agile to consumer trends, their actions will follow suit. Whether it's through efficient supply chains, leveraging data correctly, or making the checkout process as simple as possible for customers, 2023 has plenty to offer for retailers looking to make their in-store experience more appealing to consumers while strengthening their omnichannel capabilities.
Amber Hovious is the vice president of marketing and partnerships at Teamwork Commerce, an omnichannel solution providing retailers with Point of Sale (POS), Order Management (OMS), Inventory Control, CRM and Analytics.