Monday is always madness at NRF.
It’s when it “starts” for most people, and you can tell. The floors are packed with 30,000+ people all looking for “what’s next.” Typically this needle has moved slowly in regards to “what’s next,” because what you’re seeing is some great maturation of technologies.
Big data has been a buzzword for several years now. It was going to be the cure-all for the industry, but like most things, many retailers realized staring at a bunch of data wasn’t super helpful. They suffered from being overwhelmed than empowered by the data. This gave rise to insights, and thus you can see the cycle completed. WE DID IT, WE FIGURED OUT OMNI CHANNEL!! Side note: a great drinking game to play is go around to all the different technology games and ask them to describe Omni Channel. It’s pretty hilarious how many different answers you’ll get, which is kind of why the retailers have struggled.
Most technologies, whether big or small, have just wanted to cram more stuff down the retailer’s throat. Forget if adding this features breaks another, you just need to have it!
This is what brings me to my point. What I’m noticing is that a lot of these various technologies are starting to play much nicer together. No longer the days where you can only be supported by the big ole legacy solutions of SAP, Oracle, or IBM. The startup scene/culture has helped move the needle to show retailers that there are bespoke options out there, and the bigger guys have caught on. You’ll notice how much nicer their stuff works along side other technologies now.
Bottom line: Retailer wins.
IBM at NRF
The one booth I really want to highlight is IBM. IBM is at NRF, and in full force (like most years). While their booth had more of their employees and less retailers actually being able to experience the tech (cough cough – For real though go do something else IBM people let the people buying your product actually walk around), there was some really great stuff they showcased.
My past career had me working with one of the leading beacon providers, so to see IBM really step up is a great thing for the technology and industry. It’s still pretty clear there are a lot of things they just don’t know how to do apart from ping you a million times, but I wouldn’t give them too long before they start making it much smarter. Every other startup player in the space should be on notice.
I’ve been following this future Skynet for a long time. Many of us have been obsessed with its (yea I said “it”, Johnny5 is alive) ability to make nerds cry on Jeopardy or crush a mans lifelong passion in chess. They’ve finally, and only recently, allowed Watson out into the wild (meaning as a product offering), leveraging it’s ability to learn about a brand’s retail space.
Again, early days, but I wouldn’t doubt it that we see Watson run for President in 2024. Jokes aside, the potential to help a retailer have a real set of digital eyes on their data is very powerful and can genuinely start to, I believe, solve the “big data” puzzle for retailers.
Yes, Apple. They’re calling it IBM MobileFirst for iOS. I think this is really clever. Obviously both sides have a huge amount to gain from one another and the retailers have a lot to be excited about. Products they want to use (iPhones) with software that’s actually really good (IBM). I really liked that they focused on sales associate empowerment tools in their demo. Let’s be honest, the amount of time wasted when I walk into a store because a guy or girl is making 50 trips to check and see if it’s in stock is rather annoying. Now they can put that inventory management in a clean-looking iPad with an uncluttered, easy-to-use app.
IBM has realized what I mentioned at the beginning of this blog: get more open. Quit making someone buy the kitchen sink before you can truly function. What I like about this, is that it allows a retailer to ultimately only choose IBM products if they want to, but at a pace that grows with their needs. Remember, our final post will be about how a retailer should approach a start up (wink wink you hold the power).
Check out our recap of Sunday at NRF!
Back to the floor….