As a child, I remember walking into a local grocer in Louisville, KY, with my grandfather to pick up a few things for dinner. Being a retired A&P store manager who loyally served the company for more than 50 years, he tended to dislike changes in the grocery industry. He would casually point out the flaws in the new-fangled refrigerators, or complain about the different arrangement of the aisles disrupting the regular shopping patterns. I know that if my grandfather were still alive today the introduction of self-checkout lanes would have made him grumpily complain about the lack of personal touch and the unfortunate side effect of the diminishing retail workforce, since the cashier and bagger may no longer be needed.
At this week’s NRF conference in New York, The Big Show 2012, I’m certain he was turning over in his grave. Walking through the EXPO hall of the Javits Convention Center seemed more like the Consumer Electronics Show than a retail exhibition. When the movie Minority Report came out over a decade ago, many of the futuristic technologies displayed in that film seemed like impossible and unrealizable special effects. That is no longer the case. The future is now. In South Korea you can shop Tesco products with your cell phone while standing on the platform of the subway, selecting your merchandise from digital images of products, and ultimately arriving home to find your items already delivered to your front door. In Japan, they’ve already started implementing facial recognition software that customizes offers to your gender and approximate age. Precise, repeat customer facial recognition software is not far off, I’m sure. Think of the scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise is scanned as he enters the mall and greeted by images and avatars with customized advertisements. For the busy shopper who doesn’t have time for checkout lanes, personal handheld scanners will allow her to scan, bag and buy all of her purchases on her own as she shops. And how would you like to be driving home and within blocks of your grocery store, be notified by your refrigerator via text, that you are low on milk?
It’s not just in the grocery sector that we find these new advancements. Using Kinect gesture-based technology, you will soon be able to virtually try on clothes in your home and purchase them directly through your TV. Google hopes that in the very near future, we will all abandon our physical wallets and digitize them by loading our credit cards, membership reward numbers, coupons and gift cards into our cell phones so that purchases can be made at the checkout lane with the simple tap of our phone on a scanner. As I perused the trade show floor and walked past hundreds of touch screen, interactive TVs beckoning me to stop and learn about their new technology, I found myself very excited about the innovations in the industry and anxious to see how the retailers in our shopping centers will integrate all of the mobile, digital and social opportunities with the plethora of technological advancements into their business to revolutionize the omni-channel, personal shopping experience. My grandfather may not have liked the changes, but this whole new world suits me just fine.
Part of our role as a retail property management firm involves keeping in touch with the latest innovations and outlooks in the retail community. The annual National Retail Federation (NRF) convention in New York is an excellent source for understanding how retailers operate and where they headed in the future. Jones Lang LaSalle was represented this year at the conference by a few members of our marketing department to discover what’s new this year in retail. This is just a little touch of what we learned. To read more about the National Retail Federation 101st Annual Convention and Exhibition, visit their blog by clicking here.