Today’s consumers are quickly frustrated with brands that collect data but don’t use it to create a better experience. They’re increasingly gravitating to retailers who recognize and reward them as individuals with personalized interactions, special treatment and tailored promotions.

As such, retail trends for 2019 all root back to this central theme: How to leverage data in creative and powerful new ways to understand and engage the customer one on one. In stores, that means shining light on formerly data-dark store floors, so associates can have immediate access to the insights they need to elevate and personalize customer experience.

Retailers are seeking partners and solutions to make this vision a reality, and they can expect the exhibits, workshops, tours, keynotes and conversations at the NRF’s January 2019 Big Show in New York City to be buzzing with ideas to make better use of data in every conceivable part of the enterprise.

Here are nine key themes to listen for.

Associate Mobile Technology

Delivering personalized promotions is just one key capability for associate mobile devices. Others include locating inventory, processing POS transactions and assistive selling. Associate mobile devices are seen as the centerpiece of many retailers’ strategies to step up the in-store experience, thanks to reports like this: IHL Group found retailers that provide mobile sales tools for staff enjoy 77 percent higher sales growth than those who don’t.

Digitized Storytelling

Storytelling is what translates a dry collection of data outputs into a meaningful narrative that expresses what that data is telling you. Retailers are seeking technologies to get relevant, personalized data to the customer encounter in a way that resonates. Macy’s Style Crew, for example, leverages creativity and media platforms to enable brand ambassadors and store associates to connect with customers in the store and through social networks, expressing ideas and inviting consumers to do the same. Expect this theme in sessions such as Jamie Nordstrom’s Sunday talk on the company’s relentless focus on the customer.

Customer Experience Strategy

Analysts widely agree that CX is the key to standing out in a crowded, competitive retail landscape. Crafting the right approach starts with defining a distinctive retail experience, then delivering it through a deft combination of people, data and technology. The Big Show devotes an entire session track to this critical topic, exploring the “experience economy” from every angle. Then, head to the expo to see innovative new ideas on leveraging data and devices to make it a reality.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to penetrate nearly every facet of the retail enterprise. On the store floor, retailers are excited about using AI to quickly synthesize data to personalize the customer experience (CX). This tech will catch on quickly: Adoption of AI for CX will spike from 7 to 55 percent in three years, according to BRP. AI will be everywhere at NRF, in booths and across the operations sessions track, where retailers can learn how AI is transforming retail along with advice on how to navigate the many technology, process, data and people challenges of deploying it.

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Digital Signage

Digital signage is playing an important role in enhancing and personalizing the in-store experience by delivering next-gen capabilities, including dynamic digital content tailored to the audience currently viewing the screen. Some retailers are taking it a step further, weaving audio, video, displays, lighting and interactivity together to create a complete immersive experience in stores, and NRF attendees are sure to see similar presentations on the show floor. RIS News found that more than half of retailers have either started a digital signage upgrade, or plan to start by 2020.

Real-Time Data Analysis Using Edge and Fog Computing

The volume of data needed for personalizing the customer experience, and the need to analyze that data to produce instant, actionable results, are both rising fast. That’s driving the retailer desire to put that data and computation as close to the point of action as possible. Edge and fog computing are emerging as solutions that enable analytics to occur right on the store floor where the results are needed, such as processing IoT sensor data. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 75 percent of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud.

Personalized Discount Offers

“Real-time, personalized offers especially for me” is an important part of shopping for 59 percent of consumers, according to PwC research. To deliver, retailers need to consider an individual customer’s behavior — she put the item in the cart on her phone and now appears to be in store to take a look, or he’s a loyal, high-value shopper with an active wish list — and generate a personalized price or incentive to convert the sale. As with many of the other technologies considered a 2019 retail trend, this too will “require a large degree of sophistication and access to a lot of real-time data,” according to RSR. Tech such as AI, edge computing and associate mobility help generate and deliver these personalized offers.

Blockchain-Based Dynamic Rewards Point Exchange

Loyalty programs are largely underutilized, depriving both retailers and consumers of the intended benefits. Blockchain promises to revitalize loyalty by decentralizing administration and providing more visibility and flexibility to all parties. That opens up options for consumers to exchange points across consortia of brands. According to Deloitte, “Blockchain is able to streamline execution and administration of loyalty rewards programs, giving all participants near-real-time transparency, integrating with, and enhancing, legacy systems that currently operate loyalty rewards programs.” Be sure to check out these NRF blockchain-related tours and sessions.

New Advancements in Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) helps retailers drive a more personalized, informed shopping experience by enabling customers to see a product in context — how a couch will fit in their living room, for example, or how a custom suit in a different fabric would look on the shopper, without even having to try it on. But AR futurists say this is just the beginning: Eventually AR and VR will make the store itself virtual, or enable the shopper to move virtually around a real store. Today’s latest AR advancements will be on display in NRF’s Innovation Lab.

The NRF Big Show is where retailers discover the ideas and technologies that will help them achieve their visions for a better, more personalized brand experience. Be on the lookout for these 2019 retail trends as you navigate the workshops and show floor.

Stop by Booth 2337 at the NRF Big Show to see Samsung’s complete line of retail-ready mobile devices in action. In the meantime, read this free white paper on how to engage customers with associate mobility and data.

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Lisa Terry

Lisa Terry is a seasoned B2B writer of articles, blogs, research reports, case studies, white papers and e-books, with a long list of media and corporate clients in hospitality as well as retail, IT and supply chain. She has written for Hospitality Technology, HTNG publications, Nation’s Restaurant News, RIS News, Advertising Age, Consumer Goods Technology, Inbound Logistics, Washington Technology and many others.

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