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NRF impresses retailers with latest technologies

Mobile, online and data trend at National Retail Federation show in New York

More than 33,000 attendees walked the exhibit floor at the National Retail Federation’s "Big Show" in New York last week. Similar themes were picked up by several exhibitors and echoed in the educational programs.

Everything mobile is still appealing to retailers, although mobile conversion rate is only about 1% industry wide. The retailers having better results with mobile are moving beyond messaging ads, using beacons throughout their store to connect with shoppers, offering discounts or incentives based on analytics.

Capital is also being thrown at the opportunities available in online grocery.

Solutions for the “last-mile” challenge of getting product to the home or office despite the high cost of delivery were widely discussed. Companies like Instacart and Uber are working with bricks and mortar retailers to combat Amazon's entry into the grocery business.

Retailers are becoming more focused on omnichannel inventory visibility and are developing back-end platforms to support a seamless experience for the customer. Being able to easily view products across all channels in real time is essential to achieving a true omnichannel presnce and provide that endless aisle access to customers are demanding.

Given recent data breaches, retailers are taking a more serious and proactive approach to enterprise security. As one speaker put it, “A retailer either knows they have been breached, or they don’t know they have been breached.” Following rules to protect consumer data is leading retailers to look at potential cyber attack points including network links and mobile devices.

There were also several nifty innovations on the show floor, including Intel’s smart MemoryMirror, which allows the shopper to try on clothes without getting changed.

One panelist told attendees she was optimistic about the digital wallet in 2015, especially given the advances with Apple Pay. She said that making the transaction easier means you are winning with your customers.

The experts were less hopeful that this is the year for 3-D printers, saying most retailers don’t want to lay out the capital required to implement these kinds of offers.

More importantly, there's a lack of shopper demand for the customized products available using a 3-D printer. 3-D printers are saving companies money in development of both products and packaging, but the sweet spot for the technology is still a few years away.

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