Last January, NRF's Big Show hosted 35,000 attendees, 510+ exhibitors and 300+ speakers. And though there was talk of innovation and continued discussion about personalization, many of the conversations centered around data: how to gather it, how to use it, and how to protect it.
Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, talked about retail transformation, during a morning keynote. Strategic gathering of data and implementation based on that information lets retailers gain insight and predictive abilities that are new and exciting. The result is a store that can provide customers more control over product selection, special promotions, etc., while the retailer receives more data. The better the data, the more responsive a retailer can be to customers' desires. And the most responsive retailers will be rewarded not only with more sales, but with a loyal customer base.
Virtual reality — once limited to video games — is becoming a force in retailing, Krzanich said, explaining that VR solutions can play a big role in understanding customer movements within a store, as well as predicting where they'll go next. Intel demonstrated the use of virtual reality for store configuration and planograms in addition to shopping in a virtual version of the customer's own home.
You can see how in your store, your customer can have a very different experience, and you’re going to get data about what they are looking at,” Krzanich said. “What styles they like. What colors they’re looking for. What’s interesting to them. What they put into their shopping cart but then take out at the end of the day and don’t purchase. All of that data is available.”
And it's valuable. A study by MyBuys found that 40 percent of survey participants said they buy more from retailers that personalize their shopping experience across channels. Of course, collecting "big data," and then using business analytics to distill it is not new. But the ways in which information is being gathered — e.g. the aforementioned virtual reality — is.
With as many tech options as are out there to help retailers address various customer-facing elements of retail strategy, enterprise retail on the backend now has to deal with security concerns, with the increased complexity of managing all those technologies, with integrating all the data, getting maximum use out of them, etc," noted Alexandra Firth, director of marketing, of Retail Pro.
Retail Pro provides software solutions for retailers globally, and is acutely aware of the need to provide security around all that data. Information security products and hiring consultants can be expensive, and the retailers most prone to getting hacked — small to midsize businesses — are also the ones least able to afford the investment. A few tips for SMBs:
1. Conduct a security audit. Learn where the gaps in coverage are and then hire a consultant to focus on those specific areas.
2. Train employees about the risks of phishing and viruses.
3. Determine which data is most important and then protect it. Not all information is vitally important to protect
It's a perfect time to focus on strengthening security, Firth added, because 2017 is shaping up to be a back-to-basics year. "Retailers are focusing on internal, structural evolution, evolving their process and procedures," she said. "They are simplifying, streamlining — and making themselves more efficient. Simply put, they are optimizing their operations."