NRF 2014 – Thoughts from an Analyst
This year marks my 10th consecutive NRF show. The show continues to get both bigger with plans next year to expand the floor hours with the show opening for five hours on Sunday. This comes as a mixed blessing. With over 500+ potential vendors to see it is impossible to see everything but these are the things that struck me.
1. As we saw in the results from our new Stores Reinvented – Store System study, 63% of retailers are looking for their next POS solution to allow for a single transaction logic to be used across any and all channels. As the discussion was increasingly Omnichannel, each vendor used their own term to describe a process that finally allows for retailers to move to a single view for customers. Retailers want any change to the CRM program to be available everywhere the customer interacts without having to write custom code for mobile, ecommerce, or other platform. This doesnt come cheap. Because retailers chose parallel paths for systems early on, the integration and nirvana of a single business logic requires not just the POS to be upgraded, but many supporting systems as well. This will mean a radical change.
2. Intels booth rocked again. If there was an award for best booth, I think Intel would have won the award at least the last four years running. They do a great job of presenting practical applications of really cool technology that have both practical business and consumer benefits. If you didnt have a chance to swing by the booth, this link provides a nice summary of all the key technologies they were showcasing in their booth.
Personally my favorite was Activ8.me solution. Imagine if you will commercials as an active commerce channel along with making them something that you would like to watch. Imagine watching your favorite show and being able to purchase a trendy piece of furniture or an outfit that you just have to have. Avtiv8.me makes that all possible through a second screen approach. With audible tones beyond the human ear, the TV interacts with your mobile device to display for sale the items on the screen. It provides a viable way to make the television a real time commerce channel without having to a lot of work. Tosee it in action click here and a product description can be found at this link. TV as an active commerce channel is virtually untapped, and technologies such as this will change it.
3. The as-a-service era is fully upon us. During my rounds on the floor I was met with a steady dose of software as a service, POS as a service, and even payment as a service. I think the only thing that was lacking was total security as a service which leads me to my next point.
4. Given the recently revealed credit card breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and at least 4 other retailers, a word or two about security is in order. During my travels on the floor there were vendors aplenty talking about the discrete aspects that make up the overall security picture, but sure did leave me thinking that as a CIO, it might really be nice to have a single vendor with a holistic approach to security that addresses all of the security needs, not just the individual pieces that make up security. Seems like there might be a very good business in this and really needed! This might not be the
solution, but this new announcement after the show opens the thought process for a new approach.
5. SaaS is fundamentally changing retail budgets. Even though costs are reducing dramatically for individual solutions by several dollars overall retail IT spend is expanding rapidly. Right now we are at one of those fundamental shifts in technology to a new way of retailing for the first time since retailers were Internet enabled. 0mnichannel, Mobile, and SaaS are the underlying technology trends that benefit from retailers desires to create a new and improved shopping experience at the stores.
6. Although late to the party, the trends for a single business logic focus coincided well for Microsoft and the availability of Windows 8.1 tablets, POS, and other products from numerous vendors at the show. This is where iOS and cool factor of the iPad runs smack into the wall of a desire for single platform across channels. Something has to give.
As Bob Dylan said Times they are a-changin so stay tuned for Part II of my discussion next week!