February 10, 2024
NRF 2024: The Innovative Tech That’s Transforming the Retail Experience
At NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show, experts from CDW and Intel shared secrets for retailers looking to implement artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and augmented reality tools.
The potential of innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) can help retailers transform the shopping experience. But how do you build a plan that will make an immediate impact and also align with your long-term IT strategy?
At NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show, hosted at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, experts shared the trends, technology and strategies that are in the market today. Here are a few ways that tech leaders should be thinking about these technologies to set themselves up for success:
Invest in Projects More Closely Tied to Business Objectives
Retailers want to stay on the cutting edge, and adopting AI, IoT and AR can help them get there. But before you try to do too much too fast, CDW experts recommend keeping tech investments tied to business objectives.
“When you start with the technology and try to force a business case for it or a way to use that technology, you’re far less likely to achieve a true ROI than if you start with a business problem you’re trying to solve for and then find the right technology to solve for that,” said Andy Szanger, director of strategic industries at CDW.
Instead, start by selecting a project your team is really focused on. “It has to be a business problem that is significantly valuable for you as a brand or as a retailer but also has the right data in support of your business,” said David Dobson, global industry director and retail center of excellence lead at Intel.
From there, retailers can reverse-engineer to find right-sized tech solutions. This systematic method also helps IT leaders prioritize efforts and produce concrete results.
Start Small to See Gradual Progress
As retailers work to keep pace with the market, outperform competitors and stay relevant to customers, they should fold emergent technologies into their IT infrastructure gradually. In fact, said Gina Cox, senior retail IT adviser at CDW, retailers can “experience two times the sales growth” if AI and IoT, for example, are introduced slowly and with a clear strategy in place.
“Start small, identify your business problem, identify the data that is needed for that,” Cox said. Once you have that sorted, select the technology that will fit. This gives retailers a clearer focus to direct their efforts. “And then, finally, if you’re struggling, get help,” she said. Working with a tech partner such as CDW or Intel can help IT leaders map out these steps and allocate the necessary resources required at each phase.
Consider Ready-to-Implement Solutions
There are some projects that will take retailers months or longer to achieve. But others can get accomplished in just one day. For retailers looking to achieve immediate results, consider ready-to-implement solutions. This will also give retailers positive momentum for the longer-term projects.
“The cool thing about retail is there’s a lot of things that are ready for real time,” said Jill Klein, head of emerging technology and IoT at CDW.
Think of solutions including “assortment management applications, AI and retail IoT-based store monitoring, workforce analytics — all of those things are prime and ready to implement today,” Klein said.
Improve Your Business Use Cases with Demos and Workshops
As retailers implement new technologies from pilot to production phases, they should also leave room for experimentation, attend workshops and seek out expert advice as they “skill up,” Dobson said. These resources are particularly helpful if a retailer hits a roadblock while building a demo or researching business use cases.
In fact, only about 16 percent pf projects make it from this early proof-of-concept pilot phase to production, Klein estimated. “We looked at those factors, why people stumble, and we built it back into a workshop,” he said. CDW offers this workshop as a microservice. Retailers gain hands-on guidance on orchestrating their tech solutions so that they can achieve the most successful business transformations.
Story by Lily Lopate, a Senior Editor at BizTech magazine. She follows tech trends and the IT leaders who shape them, reporting on enterprise-level business, security and thought leadership. She frequently interviews CDW experts, partners and customers about the evolving threat landscape and brings their insights, stories and IT solutions to the page to share with readers.