Retail Trends for the Next Decade

Retail 2020

Along with 40,000 other retailers, vendors and industry experts, CAE’s Business-2-Consumer (B2C) Practice attended NRF 2020 in New York to talk visionary technology and the trends shaping the future of the retail industry.

In case you didn’t make it, here are 3 emerging trends from 2020’s largest retail conference and expo.

Hyper Personalisation

In this new retail era, providing a generic service will no longer be enough to satisfy consumers –retailers will need to deliver a customised, personalised experience to positively engage with their customers. IBM and Microsoft were among the big names offering impressive insights into unlocking customer data, replicating the innovative work that CAE’s smaller, more agile eco-partners are undertaking to deliver improved profiling, journey personalisation and technology-driven marketing.

The key message was that a complete view of the data offers deeper insights. Integrated solutions seamlessly connect digital and physical channels to support cross channel data collection. But gathering vast amounts of data isn’t enough – analysing and utilising it intelligently to engage with customers is crucial.

We’ve worked closely with Diebold Nixdorf recently on refreshing a major UK supermarket chain’s technology infrastructure, and their ‘Storevolution’ stand explored this ‘Consumer Centric’ trend and how to deliver a consistent, personalised customer experience through connected (rather than omnichannel) commerce. Diebold Nixdorf is creating positive customer experiences at the POS and post-sale by incorporating CAE’s eco-partner software to harness the right data at the right time and delivering relevant personalised messages carefully timed to ensure maximum impact. Buying a pasta dish? Here’s a discount coupon for Italian wine. Real-time marketing is happening, and it’s getting results.

Targeted personalised offers and product recommendations are positively received in overflowing inboxes and have been proven to increase customer loyalty and revenue growth – it’s a win/win for customer and vendor. With the use of intelligent analytics and AI, retailers could soon be anticipating customers’ requirements and automatically dispatching products before the customer even realises they need them.

Gap Scanning

Inventory tracking and stock replenishment are evolving, with increased efficiency remaining the goal. In the next step towards solving this perennial problem, multiple gap scanning technologies are available, each aiming to reduce the wasted hours currently associated with labour intensive inventory management undertaken by staff.

Walmart shared its Intelligent Retail Lab, an AI factory which is used to build and test tools in a realistic retail environment. Walmart’s gap scanning solution comes in the form of 6ft robots, each with 15 internal cameras which feed inventory information to store assistants’ handheld devices as they patrol the stores.

More futuristic options include autonomous gap scanning drones buzzing through the aisles, or for those looking to introduce more versatile infrastructure, discreet shelf or ceiling mounted camera solutions can be used to calculate optimised pick lists for stock room staff.

Saving time and money for retailers, this inventory digitisation improves both the employee journey and the customer experience, as store associates become more available to support customers.

Behavioural Insights into Physical Space

Tracking consumers around the store can now deliver insights into purchasing behaviour previously only available to online retailers, and it’s a game-changer for bricks and mortar retail spaces.

The exhibition included numerous examples of frictionless stores, offering a comprehensive vision of future cashierless solutions to rival Amazon Go. In almost all cases, the stores utilised camera-based item identification, and computer vision provided data that becomes actionable insights.

Cisco’s Meraki cameras were an attractive starting point, providing an encrypted recording and advanced analytics solution in a box with the option of straightforward scaling and software layering as needed.

The benefits of register-free stores are obvious – infrastructure installation costs should be offset by lower staff costs and extended retail selling space, and with the right software smart cameras can be utilised for item ID, behavioural analytics, security and more, making them a hard-working, cost-effective piece of kit.

Real-World Application

The highlight of NRF 2020 for the CAE B2C Practice team was a trip to the Amazon Go store in NY. While it wasn’t strictly part of the show, we wanted to see the technology working in real-time in the real world.

With no cash or cards, just a smartphone with an Amazon Go app installed, we scanned ourselves in and experienced the frictionless ‘just walk out’ customer experience first-hand. As retail technology experts, we were more interested in observing the IT infrastructure in action than purchasing snacks. Our conclusion? The possibilities for data collection are almost endless.

Amazon leads the field in the way it collects, analyses and uses online customer data to personalise individual journeys, so we must assume they are doing the same in their physical stores.

With cameras observing each consumer’s every move from multiple angles, Amazon can establish so much more than just customer flow, conversion rates and dwell times (which they helpfully show on your receipt). Image recognition can identify whether the customer is male or female, their age group and in the not too distant future, facial recognition software will be able to establish their emotional state.

By tracking a customer’s movements around the store and observing which products are selected, considered and returned, Amazon could analyse not just personal preferences but understand individual decision-making processes. With smart technology, smart data and rapid smart analysis, we were almost expecting to receive real-time coupons for the products we were discussing – by NRF 2021 it could be happening.

The NRF 2020 vision of the retail industry’s future offered present-day technology solutions to solve age-old problems and inspire innovative new opportunities. CAE is experienced in delivering excellence in retail IT infrastructure, IoT, customer analytics and personalisation. If you’re interested in discussing the future of your business, contact