3 takeaways from the Big Show finale

The Toshiba booth showcased a self-checkout experience with computer vision technology.

A record-setting 40,000 people attended the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show on Sunday to kickoff the annual conference, and for the next two days the buzz continued, but even the promise of technology can begin to sound wearisome after three days. Editors at sister brand Progressive Grocer attended all three days and shared final thoughts.

From a private brand perspective, there are some interesting takeaways from the tech-show extravaganza:

Stay human 
Despite the rage of robotics and automation, human interaction must be maintained, and can even be looked at as a true advantage to brick-and-mortar retailers. Tech should be used to support staff, make the consumer’s shopping experience easier and free up staff to share a fully committed personal reaction with a shopper.

Starbucks’ new Deep Brew AI initiative can do inventory ordering, predict staffing needs and more, but CEO Kevin Johnson said it’s all about freeing up that partner (employee) for human connection. “Eye contact and conversation are the most important,” he said, describing a direct link between human connection and frequency of customers. Erik Bergman, business development executive with IBM, emphasized their human-centric design process to solve a very specific problem for grocers. “If the problem is out of stocks, start with who are the humans involved in out of stocks and how to improve what they do,” he said.

The presence of Amazon
In maybe an ironic twist,  Amazon Web Services (AWS) had a major presence at NRF, with a large exhibit in the lobby of the Javits Center and on the show floor. AWS is peddling the technology it used to disrupt virtually every retailer in the U.S. to those same retailers who if they use AWS services are supporting a high-margin business that helps subsidize the company’s retailer operations leading to further disruption of the industry. The CEO of one major technology provider likened a retailer running AWS as sleeping with the devil. 

Home delivery
Many companies were on display at the show presenting locker solutions to prevent theft of packages from the porch or doorstep. At the same time, companies were touting their ability to handle and manage last-mile delivery logistics including drone delivery and roving robots.

Read Progressive Grocer’s roundup here.