By Rick Kenney, Industry Principal, Intelligence and Innovation
NRF is a great bellwether for gauging today’s retail focus. If my walk-a-booth at this year’s Big Show is any indication, there is one hot topic that unifies the industry: Retail Intelligence is no longer a feature of retail technology, but rather, an expected capability within the technology.

What is a walk-a-booth? It is an observational stroll through the exhibit hall, watching for key booth messaging. My fit bit app tells me it was about 4700 steps over the course of two hours. What I found in this walk-a-booth was that one in every six booths prominently displayed intelligence messaging, using key words like personalize, insight, analytics, optimize and, of course, the most frequently used term – intelligence. Regardless of the specialty, from software to hardware, exhibitors are looking to reach retailers through their intelligence capabilities.

The truth is, data is the difference in retail, and the intelligence derived and actionable from that data determines whether you are in a position to win by attracting and retaining shoppers, or see those same shoppers walk.

The lesson from NRF and my advice to retailers is simple – use your data to bring intelligence into the entire shopper’s journey.  My favorite metaphor for doing so is the car stereo. Years ago, car stereos were after-market parts – good systems, but not made specifically for the car. Today, cars are equipped with best in class sound systems from audio luminaries like Harman Kardon that are tuned for the context of each individual vehicle.

By surrounding the shopper with intelligence, and tuning each touch point to the context of the shopper, retailers can showcase the true essence of their brand, and increase the quality of engagement.