NRF’s Big Show Spotlights the Value of Technology in Serving Customers

The annual trade show was reportedly the largest ever, with hundreds of exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees.

If there was a common theme running through the National Retail Federation’s annual trade show, it was that brick-and-mortar retailers will be leveraging technology to remain competitive.

NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show was held Jan. 13-15 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. Early reports were that it was the biggest NRF show ever, with some pegging attendance at nearly 40,000 retail and restaurant industry insiders. More than 800 exhibitors demonstrated their solutions over the course of the three-day event.

“It’s great to see such a noticeable positive vibe in the industry. Retail is entering it’s second phase of transformation.  Experimentation is over and now it’s time to make changes to what’s been proven to work.” said David Harouche, Founder and CEO of technology firm Multimedia Plus.

“I believe it’s the most traffic we have ever had at our booth,” Guadalupe said. “Now the real work begins!”

Multimedia Plus debuted INCITE 5.0, the latest version of its INCITE mobile Associate Communications Platform, at the show. INCITE already serves as the tool of choice for several major retail brands to train and improve communications with front-line sales associates via interactive, in-store mobile devices.

INCITE helps retailers train associates via state-of-the-art features including video without streaming, drag and drop publishing and branded experiences. In addition to helping create an improved shopping experience for consumers, the INCITE platform provides managers and executives with access to data-rich metrics from bite-sized video-based communications and training programs. They can then measure that data against key performance indicators at levels ranging from individual associates to the entire organization, using those measurements to make informed decisions that will drive growth.

A recent article by makes the case that mobile training is disrupting the way that employees learn, taking staff engagement to new heights.

The analytics tools built into INCITE 5.0 reinforced another dominant theme of the show. The retailers and restaurant operators who achieve success going forward are likely to be those who leverage data to enhance the customer experience.

“That's because in session after session — which featured both behemoth retailers like Walgreens, Walmart, Kohl's, Kroger and Target as well as smaller but bustling brands including Lush, Chico's FAS, and Rocksbox —the message was short and simple,” wrote the editors of the trade publication “If retailers, restaurants and brands are not collecting the data for understanding and knowing their customer they are very likely to stumble in what is clearly a thriving industry time period.”

Others demonstrating the power of mobile technology at the show included technology firm Samsung, which showcased a variety of assisted selling solutions that allow a “Connected Associate” to use a tablet or smartphone to quickly access information about products, speeding up the learning curve. The company also debuted real-time behavioral sensing technology that enables retailers to capture customer traffic data and view it via a cloud-based analytics dashboard.

And clothing retailer American Eagle demonstrated its interactive fitting rooms, which leverage wall-mounted tablets that let shoppers see and request other available sizes and styles of their clothing choices, receive product recommendations, view running cart totals, summon associates and email information to themselves or others.

Although brick-and-mortar retailers continue to face competition from online merchants, smart operators continue to achieve success. The retail industry has grown faster than U.S. gross domestic product over the past few years, according to NRF statistics, with sales in 2018 projected to have grown by 4.5 percent compared with the previous year. Last year saw about 2,000 net new store openings, the organization said.

“Sometimes we forget that almost 90 percent of shopping is done in stores,” NRF Chairman Christopher Baldwin told attendees at the show.

“I would love to say that retail is back — but that would be wrong. Retail never went away,” Baldwin said. “As I stand here today, I can say that our industry is more healthy, vibrant, innovative and exciting than ever.”