Significant: always standing room only at the Innovation Lab stage
"The narrative has shifted - Artificial Intelligence will provide the platform upon which retail can grow & thrive"
Andrew Busby, Retail Reflections
Trend 1: Blend of Technologies
That evidence of the blending of technologies to create a new solution which now adds real value to the customer.
AI and facial recognition for example. Before it was one or the other, each in isolation a blunt, incongruous tool. Marry them together and suddenly a proper usable, valuable offering which the consumer can relate to.
Trend 2: Virtual Reality Finds A Home
With the convergence of physical with virtual as brilliantly demonstrated by Roots in an inspirational Innovation Lab session, Virtual Reality has finally found a natural home.
It felt as if we were searching in the dark for a suitable use case for VR but now Roots have demonstrated that it is possible to create wonderful immersive, interactive experiences by blending the two.
Expect more of this in 2018
Trend 3: Services & Experiences
It's clear that spending on services & experiences - rather than goods - will continue to grow. And with that, so too experiential retail. Which is all great news for stores.
Talking to numerous people at the Show, one thing is agreed upon; there will be less stores in future and closures will continue during 2018 despite the optimistic economic outlook in the US (not so the UK which has it's own rather special challenge!).
But the good news is that those stores which remain will be better than ever before and it was interesting to hear the positive take on automation which it is envisaged will free up store associates in particular to do more interesting tasks.
Trend 4: Frictionless Becomes A Reality
We've been hearing about 'frictionless' commerce and 'seamless' shopping experiences for years and in truth they've largely been marketing taglines.
Now, finally, the concept is becoming a reality.
And interestingly, much of the focus was again around the store as opposed to online.
Whether it be easier, speedier checkout or clearer inventory availability our store experience is set to become a much slicker operation than today, predominantly through the empowerment of the store associate
Trend 5: The Pivotal Role Of The Store
Stores sit at the crossroads of all which is vital to any retailer; less in future for sure but better, brighter, more exciting and enticing stores are now upon us. The point being, stores are vital.
Stores are rapidly becoming pivotal, being at the junction between customer experience, supply chain, digital and physical.
They embody the brand and thus it follows that everything about the store must ooze brand appeal.
Trend 6: Artificial Intelligence Equals Retail
They say that you should leave the best till last and that's exactly what we've done.
NRF 2018 will come to be looked upon as a watershed moment in the history of retail; the moment when Artificial Intelligence came of age, the moment in history when people realised the awe inspiring potential of this technology.
Compared to 2017, we didn't hear anyone discussing AI in itself; the fundamental change was that NRF 2018 saw the narrative shift - now AI was being discussed as an inclusive element of a retailers brand armoury.
We'll be providing some more Retail Reflections on NRF 2018, but for now, Watson - take a bow.
Retail Reflections is a retail analyst consultancy. Founder & CEO Andrew Busby is ranked as one of the top retail influencers globally by Vend and is an IBM Futurist.