Weekly Insights: Themes from Retail’s BIG Show 2016

Themes from Retail’s BIG Show 2016:

I gave a presentation on the top 16 retail tech trends for 2016, titled “Li & Fung: Delivering Value Through Technology,” along with colleagues from Li & Fung and Catalyst, a Li & Fung Company. Catalyst offers an RFID platform for identifying garments that integrates with a point-of-sale system and was present in two booths on the show floor. I also gave a presentation on the top 16 retail trends for 2016 at a luncheon sponsored by JDA Software for partners and customers.

Omni-channel: One of the key themes at the show was the need for retailers to provide an omni-channel offering. This is not a new theme, and many speakers objected to the term altogether; perhaps “flexible shopping and shipping” is a better description. Although many retailers have not yet fully implemented omnichannel service, and have separate online and physical businesses, the speakers’ consensus was that it is essential.

Generate emotions: Another key theme was the need to generate emotions in retail. Two recent studies found that a majority of shoppers surveyed said they actually want to visit physical stores, so the onus is on retailers to offer an experience that keeps shoppers informed and delighted.

At the show, we attended presentations on big data, RFID and beacons, digital retailing, IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence platform, and cross-border commerce, and we received updates on what is happening in Silicon Valley and at several startups.

Explorium: We were pleased to attend a presentation titled “Explorium: Experimenting with the Future of Retail,” which was given by our related company, Li & Fung. The Explorium is a shopping space on our campus in Shanghai, China, that is subdivided into small shops. Our colleagues have invited companies to occupy the spaces in order to test sales and marketing ideas and conduct experiments with real consumers. Data are collected on consumer behavior and purchases, and then analyzed by partner IBM. It is a great way for retailers to test products and sales methods before going global. The mall is open only to members, and membership has been expanded beyond just Li & Fung employees to include other successful applicants. Companies such as Toys “R” Us, Build-a-Bear Workshop and Stride Rite have occupied space at the Explorium.

We also toured IBM’s booth, where we saw many demonstrations of the benefits of data analytics and the use of Watson technology to determine a shopper’s personality type based on his or her shopper and social media posts.

This year’s NRF Retail’s BIG Show was exhilarating and exhausting, and we made many new friends and learned a great deal about what is hot in the world of retailing. We will be publishing on these topics throughout the rest of the year.