What We Learned at NRF 2017

NRF 2017, Cradlepoint

Retailers Turn to Cloud Services, LTE, Automation & SDN

The National Retail Federation’s annual show and expo is one of the biggest events in the retail industry. This year’s “NRF 2017” show, held in New York City, featured dynamic speakers, engaging sessions, and some of the hottest technological trends in the field.

Cradlepoint was proud to be one of the nearly 35,000 event attendees. And while key highlights are available online, we wanted to share some of our biggest takeaways:

Omnichannel Will Become the Standard

Perhaps the biggest difference retailers — and consumers — will notice over the next five years will be the development and presence of more fully matured omnichannel services. Omnichannel capabilities essentially allow customers to procure and purchase any type of merchandise from a retailer and have it in a very immediate way, whether they’re buying from a brick-and-mortar store or online.

We at Cradlepoint can easily see the purchasing process going through a significant shift in the next five years. Omnichannel services will help improve nearly every business process and customer interaction. As soon as a retailer begins interacting with a customer, the company will have the ability to know what each customer prefers and needs, and to identify the physical location of its products at any point in time.

Retailers will be able to know where a particular customer is located, what and how he likes to consume, how he wants items delivered, how he likes to shop, and how he prefers to receive items purchased . As omnichannel capabilities evolve, the purchasing process will become even more personalized.

Retailers will now be able to reach the full omnichannel experience without constant WAN availability. Finding the right solution for primary and failover connectivity — likely a mixture of wired and LTE-based WAN — will prove essential to keeping your omnichannel systems connected at all times.

Technologies Retailers Should Invest in for Business Performance

First and foremost, retailers should be investing in and moving to the cloud. Nearly all of the current and forthcoming innovation is happening there. Leveraging the cloud allows retailers to improve on what they already do best: merchandise products and provide a seamless customer experience.

Retailers are running applications in the cloud; centralizing data; and leveraging systems and algorithms to improve how a customer interacts with them and, ultimately, makes a purchase. The No. 1 thing retailers should be investing in right now is cloud adoption.

Retail enterprises also will need to invest in digitizing their business and the customer experience, with a particular focus on improving the gathering and leveraging of data. New and emerging technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), rely on digital data sources such as customer experience metrics, digital supply chain metrics, and sales systems. It’s no longer as simple as having your store up and running; it’s having your data up and running. Companies need that data to provide the high-quality experiences customers have come to expect.

WAN reliability is essential for digitizing business functions and customer interactions, as sensors, devices, systems, and applications must be accessible at all times. Another vital component is cloud computing, as the rising prevalence of IoT in retail forces retailers to streamline processes and improve efficiencies.

Finally, retailers need to invest in technologies that allow them to react faster to market trends and regional opportunities. For some retailers, this may mean having mobile stores, pop-up stores, or mobile workers who can go where customers are instead of waiting for customers to come to them. Retailers today are expected to engage with customers and conduct transactions beyond their traditional four walls.

Automation Will Be a Major Factor in 2017

At NRF 2017, there was a lot of excitement about droid robots from Tyco. They are designed for deployment in warehouses and use automation to confirm that inventory counts are accurate and inventory items are exactly where they’re supposed to be. Coupled with omnichannel services and IoT technology, tools like these can be extremely powerful for a retailer.

Automation is vital not only for administrative functions such as inventory, but also for connecting and securing IoT instances without hiring additional full-time or contracted IT personnel. Automation through software-defined networking (SDN) is a key part of making the transition to digitized transactions and omnichannel services more cost-effective.

NRF 2017 further validated the fact that retailers need to begin or continue evaluating the use of cloud services, LTE, automation, and SDN within their network architecture.

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