Recapping Day 3 of NRF 2015 with a look at the day’s biggest themes:
It’s About Product: So much of the conversation has been about omni channel experiences, personalization, and speed…and rightfully so. However, it’s important to remember that at the end of the tunnel, there’s still something tangible that the customer is purchasing. It’s still about product. On Tuesday, Peter Longo of Macy’s mentioned retailers finding themselves in competition with Amazon. There’s no denying they’ve changed the game for good, but Longo reminded us that “we all know that you won’t buy a product you don’t like [just] because you can get it faster.” If we get to a point where all retailers are up to par in terms of the modes of payment and delivery, then success will still come back to two things: the quality of the experience, and the quality of the product.
Future of Fulfillment: Is the future of retail “buy online, pickup in store”? Kohl’s is offering a test run of this service, along with “ship from store”, and their Executive Vice President and Digital Head, Ratnakar Lavu, says the early returns are encouraging, with the company seeing increased attachment sales. They’re also experimenting with Google Express to offer third-party fulfillment, while Toys R Us has been using same-day delivery through Google for three years, already. Either way, this is another part of the customer journey that is experiencing major disruption. Of course, the advances in fulfillment options have a ripple effect, and will put even more pressure on brands to offer consistent cross-channel experiences.
RFID to the Rescue: Omnichannel strategy and new fulfillment tactics are going to put a lot of pressure on retailers from an inventory standpoint. Buy online, pickup in store presents a tremendous hurdle for retailers, because nobody wants to order a product online, show up at the store later in the day only to learn that the stock has run out. A different color won’t suffice. So the future of streamlined, accurate inventory very well may be via RFID technology. Ken Duane of PVH Corp. believes that RFID helps keep the integrity of their inventory, and said bluntly that without it these days, “You lose time and you lose money.” Years ago, some folks in retail were hesitant to put barcodes on every product. That sounds crazy now, so it’s very possible that a few years from now, retailers will be wondering how they ever did inventory without RFID.
The 3-D Printing Paradox: During his keynote on Tuesday, Excel Venture Management Managing Director Juan Enriquez brought up the fascinating prospect of 3-D printing and it’s potential to upend the retail world. If 3-D printing will allow people to design, prototype, and manufacture their own products quicker and cheaper, how will retailers respond? In addition, robotics will continue to handle bigger manufacturing projects, working side by side with factory workers. So while technological advancements will indeed help retailers in many ways, there are sure to be some that will cause massive challenges and cause companies to adjust on the fly.
Omnichannel: Peter Longo of Macy’s said on Tuesday, “It’s funny…three years ago, omnichannel wasn’t a word.” Well, now it’s more than just a word in the world of retail. But is it a strategy? A tactic? Either way, brands are now in the game of reaching customers at every touch point possible. The discovery, the point of sale, the post-purchase and everything in between; nothing can be ignored. And the most successful companies are making sure the experience along the way is consistent and seamless; being able to reach customers basically anywhere is a great development for retailers, but omnichannel also presents more opportunities to lose them, too, if one channel isn’t aligned with the rest.