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Last week, more than 37,000 retail professionals from around the world attended NRF’s Big Show in New York. With more than 80 of the top 100 retail companies present, NRF’s Retail Big Show attracts the biggest players in the world. For decision makers specialized in innovative technology, NRF was the opportunity to discover the latest trends and network with their peers. France once again represented the third largest international delegation, trailing only Canada and Brazil. The French Tech Pavilion showcased 12 game-changers in the fields of AI, supply chain optimization, virtualization, and customer experience, all with robust global references.

The Impact team was present of course, as were a number of our alumni. We were on a hunt to identify the main challenges faced by retailers, as well as technology and marketing trends that might dominate the year ahead. We also identified a selection of companies that are particularly well positioned to address these challenges. To connect with them and know more about innovation in retail, contact us here or join us for a debrief on March 2nd.

What are retailers’ main challenges today and how can technology help overcome them?

  • How to understand my customers and predict their behaviour to drive sales?

The solutions provided by artificial intelligence are limitless and can prove to be a great ally in optimizing the customer’s journey. According to Kris Miller, Chief Strategy Officer at eBay and Silvia Campello, President and COO at Cosabella, AI is powering retail’s growth by helping retailers improve the customer journey and transform the entire customer experience. For example, when applied to the areas of A/B testing and product recommendations, AI helped drive an increase in Cosabella’s online conversion rate by almost 30%. Testing and collecting data is the best way to personalize your offer and target the right customer. Two of Impact’s alumni, Tinyclues and ABTasty, are leaders in the space and were at NRF to showcase their solutions.

  • How to bridge the gap between in-store and online commerce?

It’s all about data. According to Joe Jensen, VP and general manager of the retail solutions division at Intel, retailers should be collecting a lot more data on their customers in physical stores.
Collecting data is critical for retailers as it enables them to target customers through localized marketing and personalized advertisement. This is what Fidzup, 2017 alumni of the Impact program seeks to do, by enabling brick & mortar retailers to analyze and connect both in-store and online behavioural data to generate in-store foot traffic through programmatic advertising.

  • How to scale my support to better help my customers?

Being able to communicate with and support customers at all times is an important challenge for retailers today. E-commerce giants such as Alibaba are investing many resources to address this concern. iAdvize, a rising star of the French tech scene, raised $37 million in October to a build a customer engagement platform that tackles this problem. Alcmeon‘s technology, developped in parallel by customer care and AI experts, combines automation and human intervention. Leading brands and retailers can transform their Twitter, Facebook or Messenger accounts into a 24/7 premium customer service channel. An increasing number of brands are turning to smart voice assistants to communicate with their users and enhance their experience. Snips (French Tech Tour 2017 alumni), offers a robust alternative to the likes of Amazon and Google, with its entirely customizable on-device voice technology, compliant with the most recent GDPR regulations.

  • How to improve the customer’s in-store experience ?

Increasingly, stores are becoming showrooms where customers come to get acquainted with  products, says Katrina Gosek, Customer Experience and Commerce Tech Expert at Oracle. Creating memorable in-store experiences is crucial for brick-and-mortar retailers. The opening of numerous flagship and concept stores across NYC demonstrates the willingness of brands to engage their customers on a deeper level. Samsung 837, the Todd Snyder flagship store or the Sonos Store are a few examples of those initiatives. As examples, ModiFace and SenseMi’s both produce interactive smart mirrors that allow for even more personalized in-store experiences. French startups are also working on improving the in-store experience for customers, Smart Pixels, operating in the 3D augmented reality space offers interactive designs and in-store 3D augmented reality experiences worth the detour.   

  • How to deal with supply chain visibility and optimization ?

Same day deliveries are becoming the norm. Giant fashion companies have had to restructure their entire supply chains to keep up with market demands. To combat this, IBM, Tommy Hilfiger and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) have built a project called “Reimagine Retail”. According to Steve Laughlin, general manager of IBM Global Consumer Industries, their aim is to speed up the supply chain process and aid the next generation of retailers with AI powered skills. IBM researchers helped translate the data into information that the Fashion Institute of Technology students used as inspiration to create original designs. Vekia, alumni of the 2017 French Tech Tour offers a SaaS solutions that optimizes the supply chain process thanks to artificial intelligence, resulting in unprecedented forecast accuracy.

  • Where is retail going? Insights from Lee McCabe, GM North America, Alibaba

The NRF is also an opportunity to listen to great leaders and inspiring speakers like Lee McCabe, General Manager of Alibaba North America. Lee shared insights on the Chinese market and the enormous potential that Asia represents for retailers. Alibaba’s singles day (11/11) sales  hit new records of $25.3 Billion (39% increase) which is 5x more than the entire online sales in the US on Black Friday (16% increase). Lee McCabe communicated impressive numbers and metrics on Single’s day, “100 Maserati cars were sold that day in 18 seconds, 350 Alfa Romeo in 33 seconds”. Alibaba’s vision for the future is to use its ecosystem (core commerce, cloud, logistics, entertainment, and brick and mortar) to support the “Five New” strategy“. In this strategy, “new retail” means the combination of online and offline sales with smart logistics. “New finance” suggests real inclusive finance based on a credit system built on big data. “New manufacturing” refers to smart, personalized and customized consumer-to-business (C2B) manufacturing instead of the traditional business-to-consumer (B2C) manufacturing. “New technology” to be invented based on the Internet and big data; and data itself will replace oil, coal, and electricity to become “new energy”. Alibaba’s vision for the future is global and goes beyond China. There is no doubt, with the incredible metrics and growth they have shown so far that they are and will remain one of the greatest leaders of the retail industry in Asia and beyond.

In summary…

It is an exciting time for retailers. There will be winners and losers in 2018, with even more store closures expected. To win, retailers will need to partner with tech companies.
The Business France team behind NRF’s French Tech pavilion, Impact USA and the French Tech Tour, is proud to have helped launch and scale  some of the most innovative French retail tech companies in North America, with a proven track record in the industry.
Our alumni include:
AB Tasty (Impact 2017), Akeneo (Impact 2016), Alcméon (NRF 2018) Alkemics (NRF 2017), Allure Systems (NRF 2018), Botify (Impact 2016), ContentSquare (NRF 2017) C-Radar (Impact 2016), Fidzup (Impact 2017), Heuritech (French Tech Tour 2017), Mirakl (Impact 2016), Revers.io (NRF 2018), Simplifield (NRF 2018), Socloz (NRF 2017), Splio (NRF 2018), Storetail (NRF 2017), Tinyclues (Impact 2017), Think&Go (NRF 2017), Vekia (French Tech Tour 2017), Ysance (Impact 2016) … And many more to come !
Are you interested in innovation and retail? Are you a startup or an industry leader in the retail tech space? Do you have the ambition to innovate and the potential to become global? Join us on March 2 for a recap of NRF 2018 and to learn about the retail club:
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Amélie Minne

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