NRF Review – Digital Technology: The New Way Of Retail

January 26, 2016 by guest author, Joshua Gross



If you are a retailer looking to engage your customers with digital technology, NRF was the place to be!

Retail’s Big Show 2016 showcased a variety of ways retailers can learn more about their customers from their current emotional state to every possible type of analytics you can imagine. Here’s an idea of what we saw and liked as we walked around last week, but also some thoughts about how a lot of retail-focused tech vendors seem to be missing the mark – getting too hung up on tech and forgetting the consumer.

Scala had one of the cleanest and usefully interactive booths, using their Lift & Learn solution in showcasing compression socks and cell phones. Utilizing large screens to not only entice attendees, the set-up also helps them compare and learn more information about product that they interacted with. (Side note: They also had an amazing magician on hand – we are still blown away by his magic tricks).

Tulip Retail impressed us with their clean and eye catching booth design, as well as their ability to articulate their value proposition quickly and easily. Their platform approach creates a personalized interaction between the staff and customer. As each associate has a tablet in hand they are able to check sizes, inventory at other locations or matching pieces delighting customers on the spot. The platform also tracks purchase history, average purchase price and has the ability to customize notes per interaction. Tulip empowers retail staff to bring back human interaction and puts the consumers needs first.

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Enspire Commerce drew us in with candy and we enjoyed every bite! Their cloud-based single platform solution delivers a unified customer experience from order capture to fulfillment for multi channels including retailers, manufactures and 3PL. Although Enspire didn’t use digital tech to grab our attention, the bright colours, clean design and candy store layout provided a narrative that made us want to know more and made this booth stand out from the rest.


If JDA Software’s booth didn’t impress you, we don’t know what would! JDA’s supply chain management software solves various problems for  modern day retailers, from planning to delivery across every channel. With 17 of our Sphere units throughout their space, JDA were well prepared for the rush of attendees. Giving demos at each station, they even had a ’10 million steps challenge’ where people enter a few simple questions and the software estimates your total steps throughout the conference. Once JDA reached 10 million steps, they donated $10,000 to Samaritans’s Feet. Thank you for giving back and for showcasing our lovely Sphere!


The Swedish company ITAB was the most innovative when it came to digital technology, and their redesign on the automated checkout was inspirational and provided hope that elegant retail automation solutions are just around the corner. Their fully automated checkout uses nine  identification cameras, so all you need to do is place your items on the belt and pay when finished. They had four different models, each creating an efficient customer flow, less footprint and an enhanced customer experience with beautiful UX and product design.


There were a handful of booths that impressed us with their story, messaging and digital technology, but overall, the exhibits were geared towards what companies thought retailers needed or wanted, with little thought about the consumer. Every booth showcased the back-end of retail and almost nobody focused on connecting the technology and its implications with the buyer journey.

We have to step back and ask; once a retailer acquires a state of the art POS system, profiling cameras, in-store Bluetooth messaging, in-store heat mapping and a boatload of analytic information, what the retailers end up doing with all the data is what will set the stage for the next big thing.

Better yet, what are retailers doing to enhance brand loyalty and engagement with customers to differentiate themselves from the online world? Instead of being more like the online world, perhaps the next stage of the retail experience will be offering an experience unlike anything available online

The retail brick and mortar experience is the place to bring a human element that is so often lacking in today’s online and digital world back into play. It’s about experiences, physical interactions, tailored messaging, visual and tactile experiences. Sadly, many of the exhibits at NRF lacked not only the ability to connect their technology offering to the consumer experience but also lacked the ability to tell us their own story, either through the booth design or through one-on-one conversation.

Retail has some exciting opportunities in the coming years. We hope the technology we witnessed will provide amazing enhancements to an already powerful process of storytelling and interaction that humans have been perfecting over many thousands of years. Put to proper use the technologies being pushed into retail have some amazing potential to enhance the overall shopping experience and we can’t wait to see the connection between what we saw this year and what the consumers are going to see in-store.

  1. James says:

    Would you say NRF replaces DSE as the place to see digital signage?

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