A key question for retailers today is how to capture and convert as much store footfall as possible. There is a common consensus that retail stores still feature in many customer journeys, even if the customer then proceeds to buy online. The challenge is to understand how to make stores more relevant for today’s consumer, so they continue to buy in-store. The NRF2020 Big Show provided some insights into how retailers may be looking to achieve this in the coming year.

Automated Checkout. A lot of focus at NRF2020 was on the ability to simply pick up your goods and leave the store without queuing at a checkout to play – emulating Amazon Go.

Technology seems to broadly be emerging in two groups; the Smart Shopping Trolley and Smart Tags.

Smart Shopping Trolleys

The smart shopping trolley is set to revolutionise grocery shopping for the masses. Simply register your trolley to your phone, pass around the store doing your normal shop and the trolley senses everything that you place into the trolley though visual recognition and charges you automatically when you exit the store; brilliant.

Smart Tags

What if you could walk into an electronics store or a fashion store, select the product or garment you want, pay for it on your mobile phone and then have your phone automatically release the security tag so you can simply walk out of the store without queuing. That is the experience that can be unlocked through smart security tags.

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence also featured strongly at this year’s NRF show with a particular focus on in-store compliance, whether that be robots that function by gliding along aisles, scanning shelves and then reporting  their findings back to staff so they can take action to remedy any issues presented, or iPads that present the user with an augmented reality overlay on a screenshot of the fixture that highlights stockouts and planogram compliance.

Data gathering, whether by robot or iPad/AR, enables real time analysis of planogram compliance and out of stocks, generating significant labour cost reductions in store whilst also reducing inventory and increasing revenue as a result of addressing inefficiencies.

The Smart Shelf is also becoming more prevalent, with digital signage allowing retailers and FMCG brands to track products and user behaviour as well as offering a checkout-free proposition. In some instances, smart shelves are simply used to control pricing and promotional compliance, but the latest developments also provide automated inventory intelligence which enables real-time tracking of a product once it is on the shelf and so helps reduce waste, boost staff productivity and cut down on operational inefficiencies.

Smart shelf technology can also capture consumer demographic and behavioural data visually so it can be presented to retailers and FMCG brands through a content management system. The technology can gauge how far away a customer is and will show pricing if they are close, and promotional materials if they are further away.

And, of course, RFID Technology continues to develop as the ‘must have’ technology for the retailers of tomorrow.

RFID technology enables true Omni-channel Retailing, not only by providing enhanced levels of inventory accuracy, but also my enabling Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) transactions using store stock.

RFID is also increasingly being used to enhance the customer journey through the use of proximity sensing, mobile assisted product location and augmented reality mirrors and changing rooms.  


Retail is still an exciting place to work. However, changes in consumer buying behaviour and the continued growth in online sales mean that retailers need to re-examine the role of the store to ensure its continued relevance for today’s consumer.

The very thing that makes retail stores ‘work’ from a consumer perspective is that they can make a customer feel something. Retail stores can engender emotion in customers, which is something that online, by design, can never achieve.

Embracing new technology as part of an enhanced in-store experience can start to equalise the store and online shopping experience in areas such as Automated Checkouts. Where the store can win is in the deployment of technology to enhance the customer journey and build that emotional connection with the consumer.

When this is combined with investment in store teams to enable them to show customers what they want and what they need in a way that they want to be sold to, it will lead to a virtuous circle of customer satisfaction, footfall conversion and growth.

Of course, in this article I have just touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of retail innovation and technology on display at the NRF2020 Big Show. If you are interested in how the latest thinking in retail could transform your operations and your customer experience then please contact BearingPoint UK for a free information pack on the key trends in retail in 2020 via uk@bearingpoint.com, quoting NRF2020 in the title.

Author: Stuart Higgins


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