Blog: A Tale of Two Conferences: From NRF to EuroShop, One Key Theme Emerged

March 25, 2020  |  MATT REDWOOD

The first quarter of 2020 gave us NRF in New York and Euroshop in Düsseldorf—showcases for the very best and brightest retail technology. Some technology was existing and familiar while others are more cutting edge and aspirational. Attending these two shows presented an excellent opportunity to take a look at retailer viewpoints on opposite sides of the Atlantic.  

The Americas: Is the standardized approach to shopping headed for a major pivot? 
In the Americas, no matter where you go, every retail interaction is remarkably similar. When it comes to the checkout zone, grocery stores in particular are nearly identical despite the name on the door, with mostly staffed checkout lanes and a few self-checkout lanes. Here and there, in larger metropolitan areas, you might find an experiential store, but for the most part America has a set way to shop. 

However, at NRF I saw a heavy dose of software solutions in pursuit of ‘frictionless’ checkout, including lots of image recognition tools and predictive analysis solutions. Hardware solutions were still present in the form of self-service ordering kiosks, RFID and various robotic solutions. And, of course there is always Amazon Go, now launching a larger format with a few other retailers following along in a similar pursuit of cashierless retail. 

It was fascinating to see what is on the forefront of retail solution providers’ minds, contrasted with what you see when you travel across the country. The most notable changes in checkout that I have found in the U.S. and Canada are Starbucks with mobile ordering, and the soon-to-be-ubiquitous self-ordering kiosks at McDonald’s. I’ll be interested to see whether any of the advanced technology on display at NRF makes real inroads with mainstream retailers this year—or changes consumers’ approaches to shopping and checkout. 

Europe: Hardware remains the focus. 
At Euroshop and throughout the region you will find a variety of shopping experiences, as if each retailer feels they have found the right one. Self-service is a mainstay in the UK, Netherlands and Sweden, but it manifests in many different ways: through mobile journeys, store-provided hand-scanner devices or large banks of self-checkout lanes with only a few staffed lanes. On the other hand, Germany and Italy are definitely more traditional with heavy cash use and predominantly staffed lanes for checkout—although Italy does seem to be embracing personal self-scanning more and more. 

Perhaps as a reflection of the region’s diversity, Euroshop showed a tendency toward hardware solutions, albeit with lots of new and interesting bells and whistles: scanners built in to shopping carts, baskets that scan items as you place them in, even enormous scales that you roll your shopping cart on to for weighing and checkout. 

Mastering the mix will be critical moving forward. 
As with anything in this world, I saw more similarities than differences during my time at the shows—there were certainly examples of frictionless shopping at EuroShop, and intriguing hardware solutions at NRF. 

The key takeaway was the recognition that however retailers choose to get there, self-service is the path forward, and not just as a labor play but as a consumer expectation that needs to be met. While ‘cashless’ is all the rage in media circles, heavy cash usage is a reality everywhere and needs to be managed better. And everyone is trying to tie their ecommerce and in-store experience tighter together. 

Talking to US retailers and European retailers, it seems everyone’s decisions-making processes are growing in complexity. The need for tighter business cases with more predictable results are critical to get commitments from their executives and buying committees. While all retailers have an abundance of data at their fingertips, too many spoke of the need for good analysis to determine their next technological steps.   

Retailers, the world over, need to find the right mix of technologies that will serve their consumers best. No one wants to risk additional IT debt without a stronger business case and a better recipe for success. And the fact of the matter is that 74% of sales happening in-store today is riding on this decision. The need for a clear focus on the consumer, properly analyzed data and a proper mix of flexible and modular retail technologies will make a huge impact on revenue.

When it comes to self-checkout and retail self-service, we’ve got answers to all your questions. Let’s start a conversation! 

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