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NRF 2024: How Retail Tech Innovates Around the Customer Experience

By: Kieran Powell, EVP at Channel V Media

Year in and year out, retailers are always working to give shoppers a richer, more rewarding experience. This never-ending journey requires retailers to carefully balance customer demands against their own budgets and margins. Increasingly, retail businesses look to the latest technology for solutions to their biggest problems. 

At the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2024, several tech leaders showed how their systems and platforms help merchants change the customer experience game with future-forward innovation.

If there’s one thing many retailers crave in a fast-changing environment, it’s flexibility. 

That’s according to Jay Shields, senior vice president of retail for Pomeroy, the Kentucky-based managed services firm and store transformation specialist focused on big-box, grocery and specialty retail. She’s witnessed a trend in retail companies abandoning their traditional budget-breaking investments in brand-new POS systems and similar critical platforms. 

The criteria on their shopping lists look a little different these days. They want to put their money toward streamlined point solutions designed to solve specific needs. That includes everything from returns management to self-checkout or even handling customer behavior data. 

Pomeroy is known for partnering with retailers tackling the all-too-common mismatch between what shoppers experience online versus what they get in physical stores. And they do this while digitizing core enterprise operations. 

Retailers who work with Pomeroy often want guidance deploying customer-friendly checkout, virtual fitting rooms, autonomous stores and one-to-one product recommendations. 

Shields urges retailers to invest in the foundational technologies like inventory optimization that improve day-to-day operations, unlock new efficiencies, and deliver a winning customer experience. 

Retailers will soon get a new hands-on way to see what Pomeroy has to offer. 

The company is readying a Retail Innovation Lab housed inside its Retail Center of Excellence in Greenville, South Carolina. Pomeroy CEO Tom Signorello says the high-tech “store of the future” showcase navigates the “challenges of today” with an eye to what lies ahead.

“We’re committed to addressing immediate issues that retailers are already acutely aware of—and opportunities they might not even know they have,” he said. “If there is technology that opens new avenues for retailer growth and improves the shopping experience for consumers, we want to make sure retailers know about and have access to it.” 

The Retail Innovation Lab will feature hardware and cloud-based solutions from more than 20 big-name providers and emerging startups in a simulated store environment, showing retailers what an end-to-end integration could look like. 

tutch also stands out as a company helping retailers bridge the online-offline gap. Their in-store digital software is displayed on interactive screens throughout stores so that shoppers can browse aisles, access inventory in and out of the store, and discover new relevant products.

For retailers, this results in the ability to sell more with limited space, spend and stock less, and optimize their store footprints. 

Shoppers’ direct interactions with the software additionally result in valuable and secure insights into customers and what they’re evaluating in-store. Retailers can use this knowledge to grow relationships with them outside of the store with the goal of increasing repeat purchases, loyalty and lifetime value.

Beacon Lighting, a specialty retailer of lighting products, rolled out tutch’s technology in over 80 stores, giving shoppers a digital platform to receive recommendations tailored to their needs. 

The platform also drives upselling by encouraging customers to discover additional products and boost their basket size. tutch claims their retail partners experience notable benefits after deploying their solution. Some see average order sizes rise as much as 30%, while select retailers are able to hold 28% less inventory.

Additionally, retail clients report that tutch enables them to strategically dispatch products through third-party drop shipping. They also gain crucial behavioral insights, unlock new revenue streams—including retail media, a growing trend—boost customer lifetime value and relieve busy store employees. 

Coveo excels in enhancing the online experience by delivering more accurate and personalized product recommendations through its advanced search capabilities.

Unlike traditional search engines, Coveo’s AI-driven search engine grounds its large language mode (LLM) into customer content, making it adept at understanding the subtleties of human language and enabling it to decipher intent, context, and even correct typos. Which, according to Coveo, ensures that customers can swiftly and effortlessly find precisely what they seek—a critical factor that deepens user engagement and drives conversions. 

Creating a better customer experience online is also the central focus for Bold Commerce, a company at the forefront of liberating the checkout process from traditional e-commerce platforms. Staples, Vera Bradley, Harry Rosen, and PayPal are just some of the industry giants who’ve embraced Bold Commerce’s headless solutions, illustrating a growing shift toward seamless, intuitive checkout. 

At the recent Big Show, Bold Commerce and Wink showed how shoppers can use their face or voice to complete a range of standard e-commerce tasks. Their novel biometrics payments approach for mobile, desktop, and in-store checkouts allows shoppers to auto-log into their accounts, and auto-fills delivery details, loyalty data, discount offers, and payment preferences.

This artificial intelligence-powered biometric innovation from Bold Commerce and Wink solves the frustration customers experience when they slog through multi-step authentication processes on e-commerce sites. Without this friction, shoppers can check out faster, lessening the chance that they’ll abandon their online cart. 

At Diebold Nixdorf, the company is also looking to AI as the answer to some of retail’s biggest challenges. Known for their in-store checkout products, Diebold Nixdorf is expanding their portfolio of AI-driven solutions that improve the customer experience while minimizing retail loss through shrink. 

Their newly introduced AI solution is designed to identify intentional or unintentional mis-scanning by shoppers, discrepancies between products and their labels, or instances where shoppers inadvertently leave unpaid items in their cart—among over a dozen other factors behind costly retail loss. 

Building upon last year’s successful launch of AI-driven age verification and fresh product recognition solutions, Diebold Nixdorf aims to dramatically reduce the need for staff intervention at self-checkout, alleviating common shopper pain points while freeing workers to pursue value-added tasks. 

Their checkout hardware is already live in over 150 grocery and convenience store chains globally, showing the company’s leadership in the application of AI and computer vision to combat shrinkage issues in retail. 

Existing retailers utilizing Diebold Nixdorf’s technology will get seamless access to the cloud-based upgrade on their hardware, marking the potential for the most extensive deployment of an AI-based loss prevention solution in the retail sector to date.

And finally, one last tech company working to revolutionize the payments space is Wiseasy. Specializing in cutting-edge ‘SMART’ terminals and comprehensive payment technology service, Wiseasy’s full-suite of enterprise solutions is designed to transform the landscape of financial transactions, including the new ‘Pi’ processor the company unveiled at the Big Show last month. 

According to Wiseasy, ‘Pi’ is utilized across various scenarios, including intelligent shopping guides, self-service ordering, and intelligent beauty assistants, among others. This technology provides tailored recommendations, leading to increased sales volumes and spending. Customers benefit from a streamlined and personalized checkout process, setting a benchmark for retail interactions.

In the rapidly-evolving world of retail technology, innovation is the key to staying ahead. The companies showcased at the NRF Big Show 2024 are not just providing solutions—they’re redefining the entire shopping experience as a whole.

From Pomeroy’s focus on tailored point solutions to tutch’s interactive in-store digital software, retailers now have access to tools that enhance customer engagement and optimize operations like never before. Bold Commerce and Wink’s biometric payments, Diebold Nixdorf’s AI-driven loss prevention, and Wiseasy’s ‘Pi’ processor are all examples of how technology is being leveraged to create seamless, personalized, and efficient checkout experiences. 

As these companies continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in retail tech, they’re setting a new standard for the industry—one that prioritizes customer satisfaction and operational excellence.