Last week, grocery and retail professionals alike traveled to New York City from all over the globe to experience NRF’s BIG Show 2018. The show’s undisputed king of conversation topics? A tech-fueled industry transformation, filled with danger and opportunity. This is an exciting moment for retailers, and that excitement was palpable at the show. Grocers searched for inspiration and ideas to capitalize on the changes that lie ahead.
Providing shoppers with a seamless customer journey will be the key to success in the retail operations of tomorrow, and this was a central takeaway from the show’s discussions. ECRS was on the show floor to offer insight about this radical shift and share solutions, like Unified Transaction Logic™. After three days of product demonstrations, firm handshakes, and friendly conversations at booth #1453, a few key points became clear.
The retail apocalypse is a myth but technology is changing the game.
“I think this is the best NRF we have attended in the 7 years I have been with ECRS. The quality of retailers who engaged in our booth was excellent. Even on Sunday, which is typically a slower day focused more on international retail, we had a good day of booth traffic.” – Mark Farrell, Sales Executive, ECRS
News reports of impending doom, a so-called “retailpocalypse,” have been plentiful lately. While melodramatic headlines garner web traffic, they’re not painting an accurate picture of what lies ahead for retailers, grocery and non-grocery alike. What’s actually happening is far more complex – a convergence. Technology conglomerates are coming down from the cloud, merging click and brick operations. Traditional retailers are powering up to meet their digital opponents head on, transforming into technology companies.
Retailers moving into technology are motivated by optimism about what comes next, not fear. While there are obstacles to overcome, the promise of channel-agnostic, unified commerce means higher customer satisfaction, stronger sales, more accurate data, and lower overhead.
Technology may have taken the backseat during previous NRF shows, but NRF 2018’s exhibit halls were swarmed by titans like IBM, Toshiba, Microsoft, Samsung, and Cisco. Technology is firmly in the driver’s seat. Industry giants from Amazon to Wal-Mart intend to get in on the action. This begs the question: what will happen to everyone that isn’t a Fortune 500 company?
Global conglomerates pose a real threat to local and regional grocery operations.
“Wal-Mart has reawakened and retailers need to be prepared to formulate their next moves.” — Caroline Catoe, Vice President of Marketing & Customer Care, ECRS
Wal-Mart’s entrance into the retail grocery space isn’t a new development, but with an Amazon-powered Whole Foods on their heels, they’re stepping their grocery game up. Both companies had a strong presence at NRF 2018. Even as they announce Sam’s Club store closures, Wal-Mart continues to open new grocery-centric Neighborhood Markets. Rumors continue to swirl about Amazon’s next acquisition, and Target just may be their next target. Their increased activity in the physical retail space poses challenges… but they aren’t invulnerable.
Big box behemoths can be bested.
“This really is a David versus Goliath sort of scenario; the big box players aren’t necessarily going to win every fight. With the right technology stack, anyone will be able to compete against the big guys. Right now, a lot of grocers are looking for an escape plan; they’re lost in a mish-mash of custom integrations and siloed systems. They want a seamless, single solution. ECRS offers that.” — Cole Holbrook, Director of Marketing, ECRS
One consistent message that retailers communicated to the ECRS team many times over the course of NRF 2018 was that they’re frustrated with their current point of sale systems. Retailers have built their technology operations out over time, often in piecemeal resulting in increased infrastructure costs. Many feel trapped in a technology setup that is inefficient, disjointed, and riddled with unnecessary friction points. Elimination of these friction points is the first step retailers must take to ensure competitiveness against the Amazons and Walmarts of retail.
Technology is just one piece of the puzzle.
“I’ve been attending NRF for close to 30 years. Over the years, I often felt that ECRS was invisible, since we’ve always competed against the noise generated by some of the largest tech companies in the world. This year was different. Frankly, retailers are fed up. They know change and vision is needed and they’re quickly learning that the tech giants are not really interested in helping them compete and win in this changing retail world.” — Pete Catoe, President & CEO, ECRS
NRF 2018 illustrated just how profound of an impact technology will have on retail, but what sets a local or regional retail operation apart from Amazon, Walmart, or Target? ECRS, like many of its partners, isn’t a faceless, global-scale giant – though we aren’t afraid to compete against them. We’re a retail solutions provider who happens to harness technology. We understand that community membership, local identity, and human-powered, high-touch customer service all strengthen brand authenticity. By helping our partners leverage their local strengths and offering seamless technology solutions, ECRS can maximize retail success.