NRF 2017 kicked off with a keynote titled “Building Tomorrow’s Workforce: How Retailers Are Attracting and Retaining Talent.” The CEOs of Macy’s, HSNi, Walmart, and Ashley Stewart talked about the value of great people in retail. No one would argue that retail is a people business. I have always found one the best parts of the NRF shows are the people I have met. However, I think we need to start framing this discussion differently, and if the trade-show floor was any indication, I think the industry might be on the verge of seeing where there is real opportunity.

Data Is Driving Demand for Talent and More…

Retail has undergone more drastic transformation in the last decade than in the last 100 years. As chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren of Macy’s Inc. shared, even two years ago, they had no team focused solely on the field of data analytics. He added, “But now we do.”

Technology has done amazing things to change retail, and there is still so much more that needs to be done. All the data that this technology generates needs to be processed, analyzed, and acted upon. This is what the trade show’s focus on artificial assistants, intelligent assistants, robotics, and new data capture methods and opportunities highlight.

robot demo at NRF

OPOS Technical Council (OPOS – J) demo on the NRF 2017 trade-show floor.

The question of finding people to fill roles is an important one. Yet, we need to begin to address what roles will be filled by artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive and conversational computing, and robotics. When we look at the industry and reflect on the sad news of once grand retailers like Walmart and Macy’s closing stores, the challenges are obvious. You don’t need all the data in the world to know customers hate waiting in lines to check out or to return items in store. But social media is full of frustrated customers in those stores dealing with irritating wait times.

Will People, Companies, or Technology Solve the Checkout Experience?

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