Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research's weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
At the NRF Big Show, I had some luck finding examples of retail execution. In general, here are the themes I saw:
Integration. Shifting from defining to executing omni-channel strategies, retailers are increasingly looking for ways to bring existing capabilities together, vs. adding new capabilities. I saw "create once, publish everywhere" high-leverage solutions — a solution that covers an entire process instead of random squares of product footprint that loosely have to do with each other.
Innovation at the fringes. That said, there was plenty of innovation too — but it seemed more like small steps, rather than breakthroughs. I've seen "swarming behavior" at NRF before — when price optimization launched, when Wi-Fi network security suddenly became critical, and even last year around in-store analytics. Except around payments, I didn't see any real swarming behavior and I think it is reflective of retailers needing to focus on assimilating changes and investments they've already made, rather than looking for the next coolest thing.
Making things happen at the edges. The most exciting solutions I saw focused on helping the edges of the enterprise, particularly in stores. No, this isn't about more mobile devices. This is about solving specific execution challenges, like helping to make all your store employees as good as your best store employees. Or making ship from store as efficient and profitable as possible. Or just helping retail brands bring legitimacy to their local marketing efforts in a scalable way.
I was really impressed with a lot of the vendors I talked to who had explicitly thought through retailers' pain points and how to address them. That's good, because we'll all need a little pick-me-up before facing down the next knotty issue in retail.
And the crowds flocked to ... payments. There is very little good to say about any of the payment innovations out there. I saw ISIS and Google Wallet both while at the show and, while they have some strengths, they also have significant drawbacks that limit their market potential.
But both the U.S. and Europe face an upgrade of their payment capture devices — the U.S. to take on EMV, and Europe to move away from the mag stripe. Since they both have to make some pretty substantial investments, retailers can't help but wish that those investments also take them forward into the future of payments. And thus, their booth visits at NRF represent hope for a more digital payments future, but the excitement was lacking. Let's hope that changes — for payments, the future is beginning to loom large.
Which of the following do you think retailers are looking for most from technology partners in 2014?