Apple Hits the NRF Show Floor, Sort of

Discussion
Jan 14, 2010
Ron Margulis

By Ron Margulis, Managing Director,
RAM Communications

Apple, the maker of the iPhone and the Macintosh,
wasn’t an exhibitor at the National Retail Federation’s
99th Annual Convention in New York this week, but you wouldn’t have thought
that after walking the expo floor. There seemed to be new iPhone apps at every
other booth. There was a vendor selling a Mac-specific POS system and a few
of the booths even looked a bit like iPods.

A very informal poll revealed that
the number of iPhones used by retail and other NRF conference attendees is
way up over last year. This is backed by the fact the nearly every vendor I
talked with has one or more iPhone applications available or in development.
There are now apps for everything the busy retail executive could want, including
competitive price checks, reviews, dashboard essentials and many more.

Oracle
came out with the Retail Shopping Assistant, a consumer-facing application
that helps with in-store shopping. Sterling Commerce now offers a series of
new applications to enable anytime, anywhere access to capabilities of its
key offerings as part of the company’s strategy to extend its collaborative
applications and integration solutions to mobile devices. There were new apps
from Intel and many others, and the companies that didn’t have them on display
were talking about them in development.

One other point: The number of apps
designed to drive business to their stores and websites offered by the retailers
directly or through networks is also growing dramatically. During the recent
Christmas season, Nordstrom, Macy’s and other retail chains offered their products
through Nearby Now’s Holiday Gift Guide, an app that lets shoppers select featured
products and either put them on hold for pickup at a store or order through
the retailer’s website. Shoebuy.com
has an app that lets shoppers buy products from Shoebuy’s online catalog.

Discussion
Question: Apple Stores have certainly had an impact the retail landscape. Will
iPhone apps change retail as well?

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13 Comments on "Apple Hits the NRF Show Floor, Sort of"


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Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

The iPhone and other smart phones will constantly change retail for years to come. Smart phones empower consumers, putting everything from reviews to competitive pricing at their fingertips. Retailers should embrace the technology and make it easier for consumers to use smart phones in their stores.

This could mean putting weekly specials and shopping lists online, remembering past purchases for ease in creating new shopping lists, and integrating loyalty programs, rewards and payment systems into apps that can be activated with a swipe at checkout.

David Dorf
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

In addition to creating apps for the iPhone, I saw a few vendors that have added hardware to enable the iPhone/iTouch to be a mobile POS, just as Apple uses in its stores. This makes sense for high-touch retailers that want to do clienteling. The best I saw was from InfoGain.

I participated on panel at NRF discussing the impact of mobile phones on retail, and there was much interest in the topic. The fight to be on consumers’ “page 2” of their iPhone will indeed heat up, and there are only 16 spots!

Herb Sorensen
Guest
11 years 3 months ago
This is the tsunami that is about to engulf retail (in a positive way.) I refer to this as “The Amazonification of Walmart,” not because it is all about Amazon or Walmart, but as representative of top online and offline retailers, Amazon has the intellectual shopping-selling high ground. Walmart’s massive capital deployment–buildings, inventory, people–can become the albatross that has brought down successive waves of “top” retailers, beginning with A&P. The iPhone and other phones and PDAs are essentially moving online shopping tools into the bricks-and-mortar world. Any retailer or brand who doesn’t play their own tune will face shoppers dancing to someone else’s tune, anyway. This is not yet impacting the brand supplier/retailer relationship in a major way–but it will. Brand suppliers can conduct their own orchestra in the retail world and some are becoming adept with their players/audience. When this happens, the balance of power between retailers and suppliers will undergo a tectonic shift. Take note: retailers are in the process of losing control of the shoppers inside their own stores!!! How about banning… Read more »
John Bajorek
Guest
John Bajorek
11 years 3 months ago

With over 50 million iPhone and iPod touch users, as well as hundreds of millions of other mobile devices being utilized all over the world, I believe that the use of mobile devices will provide greatest impact to retail in 2010–second only to the economy. No other technology permeates consumers to the same extent as mobile phones and no other provides retailers with the flexibility to provide a more customized sales and marketing experience in the pre-shop, shop, and post shop experiences. Retailers should not be thinking about “if” they should have a mobile strategy, but instead focus on “what” their mobile strategy will accomplish.

Rick Moss
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

What I found significant was that some vendors at NRF were showing a fuller integration of smartphone apps with consumer marketing programs. For example, Motorola was demonstrating its mobile loyalty solution which includes an app that will be available for all major smart phone formats, according to the company. On the surface, the app appears similar to others that have been available, such as CardStar. But it goes beyond just replacing plastic cards–the program allows retailers to send offers directly to members’ phones and provides a complete “enterprise solution.”

Motorola will also outfit retailers with scanners that are able to pick up the bar codes from mobile phone screens (a problem with many supermarkets, for example). You can see Motorola’s video demo here.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

It has only just begun. Right now the consumer has more computing power in her hands than store managers or employees. The consumer will pull retailers to improve their in-store mobile technologies.

And it’s going to happen VERY quickly.

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

So far, much of the buzz around apps for retailing has been focused on shopper marketing and promotion. I think the use of smart phones as inexpensive but powerful productivity tools for store clerks and merchandisers has even greater potential.

Apple hasn’t fully grasped this opportunity yet–or it’s busy harvesting lower-hanging fruit. Also, there remain some issues about the reliability of current cell networks to support mission critical business tasks. These are likely to be resolved very soon. I expect we will routinely see even part-time reset workers using smart phones to receive work instructions and to self-report on their performance.

The iPhone has great potential here, due to its flexibility and relatively low cost compared with dedicated hand-helds or tablets now in use. But so do Android devices, new tablets coming to market, and even e-book readers (which may prove very useful for viewing planograms in the aisle).

Bill Buck
Guest
Bill Buck
11 years 3 months ago
This is a story about customer experience, which is why we would be focused on the mobile carriers and their networks and not a specific smartphone. We mentioned Motorola’s offering in our blog a couple of times this week. It is clear retailers need to be seriously considering these possibilities. Smartphones are becoming full-fledged computers. This creates the possibility of a customer experience that extends from the home to everywhere else and back. In other words, it is not just about one device, but multiple devices that serve up what people care about from wherever they are. Brands need to be leveraged. Smartphones will be always on, are more personal with a specific number, and have integrated security and billing features computers just don’t have–by design. Our digital locker might be more easily accessed from home (or in the cloud), but content needs to move seamlessly across devices. Developing a platform that incorporates social networking and sharing, location awareness, and subscriber intelligence (preferences, profiles, past behavior) from the network is the key. Barcodes and user… Read more »
Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
11 years 3 months ago
Smartphones can be seen, by retailers, as a method of connecting the online world with the offline. Why is this important? Because the online world contains a plethora of content, some of it proprietary to the retailer, much of it not. Make no mistake: consumers ARE going to make this online-offline connection themselves. The key for the retailer is take control (as much as possible) of that interaction from within the store. Why? Because much of the existing consumer behavior isn’t necessarily in the best interest of the retailer. So many portals and so much content exists which is retail brand agnostic…and which is designed, really, to render the buying decision into a commodity based on price and availability. Moving past defensive reasons, there are strong positive reasons as well. Most retailers already have content that is useful to the consumer in making a decision on a purchase stored in their ecommerce system. Rich media, consumer reviews, detailed specifications, buying guides, product demos and even video programming all exist. Smartphones are the bridge to make… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

An iPhone demo was front and center in the IBM Booth, too. Several of our demos were iPhone-driven. However, I can also say that those demos also run on other mobile technologies, like Windows Mobile, Blackberry/RIM, etc. That device just happens to be the coolest at the moment, but it doesn’t rule the world…yet. I went to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue with some clients and it, as always, was jammed with customers (many tourists). The number of iPhone/iTouch apps is huge, and that is a compelling reason to migrate to that device. Majority always rules.

ravi bagal
Guest
ravi bagal
11 years 3 months ago

I think we’re at an inflection point where mobility becomes assumed rather than a novelty. Consumers will increasingly expect that their mobile, web and in-store experiences will be consistent and integrated. That implies a move to open standards for interoperability as between devices, applications and enterprises.

Scott Knaul
Guest
Scott Knaul
11 years 3 months ago

Very interesting topic. I too saw the massive amounts of marketing around iPhone apps around every corner. It’s just ironic that the network failed for most of the day on Monday and I couldn’t call anyone!

Gary Edwards, PhD
Guest
Gary Edwards, PhD
11 years 3 months ago
Mobile apps are already changing the retail landscape, and there is sure to be a bigger impact still yet to come. While Apple and its iPhone apps may be best known in the app world, Blackberry is now targeting itself to be “cool” in its campaigns and Google threatens to shake up this space even further. With Google in the mix, watch the app builds grow exponentially! For our business, mobile text surveys are coming of age. Any app that extends the convenience and accessibility of the shopping experience is bound to have legs. With everything from apps that allow you to scan a barcode in-store and receive comparable prices for that same product online, to ones that direct you to stores that have sale merchandise, apps are literally everywhere today. The challenge for retailers is of course to first identify how mobile applications can actually be of benefit to their particular brand, and not just jump on the bandwagon for its own sake. Having an app can be trendy, but how will it impact… Read more »
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