Jan 12 2024

NRF 2024: From AI to IoT, Retailers Zero in on the Tech That Removes Friction

At this year’s event and expo, retailers will target solutions that improve experiences of consumers and employees.

The retail industry has transformed in recent years. These days, a frictionless shopping experience is essential.

 “Whether online or in-store, retail customers have come to expect shopping experiences to be personalized to their unique needs and preferences, order fulfillment and returns that are hassle-free, and responsive customer service available via multiple channels,” according to Snowflake.

At NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show, running January 14-16 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, close to 16,000 retail professionals and over 6,000 brands will come together to discuss how to meet customer expectations in a moment when the retail industry is navigating inflation, supply chain pitfalls, labor shortages and updates to legacy software. Stars including Martha Stewart, Drew Barrymore, Shae Hong,  Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Shay Mitchell will also make appearances in keynotes and share their insights.  

“Everyone’s going to be talking about artificial intelligence,” says Andy Szanger, director of strategic industries at CDW. But not only in the sense of automation and data analytics; it’s an opportunity to show how the right tech and partners can help improve the customer experience. “It’s about removing friction from not only the customer experience but also the store associate experience,” he says.

Four major tech areas will drive this year’s event and are poised to help retailers reduce friction all around: the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart retail spaces, AI chatbots in customer service, augmented reality (AR) devices to drive immersive experiences, and commerce platforms with subscribe and save features.

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Connect IoT Devices to Build Smart Retail Spaces

Retailers who integrate IoT devices throughout stores gain access to a treasure trove of real-time data analytics, personalized shopping preferences and more efficient inventory management. This interconnected retail environment is essentially a “smart space” that improves the customer experience. But how can retailers build one? And what tech should retailers deploy first?

CDW Head of Emerging Technology and IoT Jill Klein will host a session called “Technology innovations transforming the customer experience: What to know & how to get there.” It will cover how retailers can invest in tech to drive an immediate ROI while still maintaining their longer-term IT strategies.

AI Chatbots Accelerate Customer Service

An appetite for AI is rising among shoppers and for retailers and it has also emerged as an effective way to turn data into value. According to a recent IBM report, 82 percent of consumers say that they want to use AI for customer service-related matters, and 86 percent say they would consider using it for product research.

At NRF 2024, experts will discuss how AI chatbots are helping retailers improve their customer service by answering requests instantly, 24/7. This boosts customer satisfaction and frees employees up to do other tasks. What’s more, “The more retailers use chatbots, the more they’ll learn about their customers, their employees and even about themselves,” writes Nathan Cartwright, chief architect of artificial intelligence at CDW, in an article.

LEARN MORE: How can artificial intelligence chatbots help retailers meet customer expectations?

The AR Tech That Makes Immersive Shopping Possible

As retailers embrace the second year of “the experience economy,” according to a Deloitte report, consumers expect unique and meaningful interactions in stores. To create these, retailers are embracing AR, which connects the real world to a simulated one. Experts at NRF 2024 will also share how AR accessories make it easier to incorporate digital content into store environments.

WATCH: See a time lapse reel of NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show, live from the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City.

 

 

Subscribe and Save Features on Commerce Platforms

The more that brands can predict consumer behavior, the better off they will be. That’s why retailers are setting up “subscribe and save” features on commerce platforms so that “whatever product you use on a regular basis is automatically delivered to you,” Szanger says. This could include vitamins, toiletries and seasonal items.

It’s a small detail but it’s a way of monetizing consumer data and anticipating the user’s needs. These subscribe and save features also offer chances for personalization.

RELATED: See how leveraging data analytics can give retailers a competitive advantage.

Attention to these four areas promises to improve the retail shopping experience, but getting it all to work together is complex. That’s why NRF offers the chance for IT decision-makers to share resources and work with tech partners. “We can help with everything,” Szanger says of CDW’s services and solutions, “from that starting phase of planning through procurement, the execution of getting the product, staging it and doing store deployments.”

Keep this page bookmarked for articles from the event, and follow us on X (formerly Twitter) at @BizTechMagazine and the official conference Twitter feed, @NRFnews.

Natee Meepian / Getty Images
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