3,000 Innovations in Search of an Outlet

Attention all customers. We have a retail problem, and it’s not just in aisle five. Today’s shoppers want to feel understood, entertained, and engaged. They want the shopping process to feel frictionless and fun. And they want that experience whether they’re online or inside the store. That’s the challenge we sought to tackle at the first High-Tech Retailing Summit and Marketplace at CES 2018.

Today’s retailers are hustling to keep up with the demands of the digital age. The best way to ensure a better customer experience at an affordable cost is to put technology to work. Just look at Deborah Weinswig’s presentation for invaluable data points showing what happens when you bet on tech to help ease the digital transformation. At the moment, Weinswig points to Chinese retailers leading the transformation. Referencing Alibaba’s Jack Ma, she described the “O to O” experience—the harmonious integration of online and offline. Shopping is a sport in China, says Weinswig.

High Tech Retailing also featured appearances from the retailers who hold most of the country’s cash registers: Amazon, Target, and Walmart. Though their implementation varies, they all share a vision in which technologies like AI and predictive analytics lead to a frictionless, personalized shopping experience. They’re working towards a future where any purchase anywhere feels like walking into your corner store and being greeted by “Hey Joe, nice to see you back. Sure, we’ll send that right home for ya.”

This inaugural High Tech Retailing Summit and Marketplace looked at three broad ways that tech could improve the retail experience.

Makeup mirrors, display signage that gamifies shopping, shopping in VR, augmented reality for gleaning deeper product information or self serve retail kiosks. Companies like YouCam, Outernets and USA Technologies are just a few examples of products that help turn shopping into an interesting, enjoyable experience every time.

Understanding how shoppers move through your store (online or off) and anticipating their needs is the new secret sauce. Piers Fawkes gives a knock-your-socks-off presentation of how data can transform brick-and-mortar stores into new creations. b8ta, the new retail experience for trying out new gadgets, is a data collection lab gathering stats on everything from price to point to display. Facebook is helping retailers maximize their social media strategies, while iQmetrix‘s POS and retail management systems are designed to offer a hand in the difficult job of wireless retailing. Contextualized data, often relying on sensors for information gathering, offer insights that help businesses understand why something is selling or not.

The final part of program broke new ground looking at how an ecosystem of smart retail technology can smooth processes like inventory control, fraud, and the quality of an item.
NXP offered a view of a retail world using RFID and NFC technologies to improve the in-store experience. These solutions provide personalized, interactive, and targeted content like individualized marketing offers or display monitors that suggest complementary accessories. An innovative company, Evrythng, showed an ambitious application layer capable of adding consumer engagement from product offers to personalization and automatic re-ordering. With these kinds of transformations, consumer interactions with the brand skyrocket.

Pindar Wong, Chairman of VeriFi and blockchain master, closed our program with a look at a future where machines are buying and selling to and from each other—think about your car paying for its own gas by conversing with the pump—and where items are tracked in an open, decentralized, transparent, ledger-like fashion from the moment they start as a seed in the ground until they wind up in your favorite vegetable dish.

On the CES Showfloor visitors got to experience the tech side of retail up close and personal. The centerpiece of the marketplace, The Retail Innovation Lounge let you try on fashion to fit your body-type and, experiment with new augmented makeup looks and techniques. You could build holographic product displays with VNTANA and witness interactive display signage engaging the crowds with Outernet. Amongst the products, Kwolia, a retail branding firm, kept the stage area alive with intimate conversations, networking events and special appearances from guest stars like Hanson Robotics’ Sophia, the beautiful humanoid.

Experiential, frictionless, personalized, and contextually aware. You’ve heard the buzzword, but this year’s High Tech Retailing Summit brought them to life.

The Big Ideas!

“New retail is becoming a new reality. It’s the harmonious integration of online and offline. It’s about enhancing payment options—frictionless, easy, seamless. It’s out of the box logistics, how do we get everything to the customer whenever wherever?”

Deborah Weinswig, Managing Director, Fung Global Retail & Technology
“Digital branding has become much more about lifestyle imagery, stories, and contexts. We need to recreate the experience of connection customers used to get touching products in a store, even when they’re in a digital environment.”
Kyle Walker, Head of New Business Strategy, Amazon Exclusives Amazon
“The future of retail is really around omni-channel. For a lot of people that used to just mean you could buy the product wherever. We were sort of agnostic about whether it was online or offline. But now the really successful retail companies are creating experiences that translate across all devices and locations, and eventually to AR and VR.”
Eva Press, Group Lead, Retail, CPG, Healthcare, and Government, Facebook
“Retail today in the wholesale model is broken. You sell to the retailer, they mark it up, and you have no idea what happened to the products when they’re on the shelf. You, as the maker, should have physical control of everything. You should own the price, you should have the ability to change the marketing message, all in real time.”
Philip Raub, Founder/CBO, b8ta