Editor's Note: Big Show, Bigger Ideas

To view the digital version of CGT's January/February issue, click here

I’ve attended the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” for most of the last 20 years. But my mission, first as a representative of PROMO Magazine, then for the last 14 years on behalf of the Path to Purchase Institute, has always been a lot easier: I’d listen to a few mass retailers speak, find a few shopper-facing technologies that were already in the field (not quite a needle in a haystack, but close), and I’d be done. The rest of the show was for, you know, retailers.

CGT Jan/Feb Cover

The job got a little tougher at this year’s show in January, my first as a representative of CGT. No, NRF’s focus hasn’t changed. All 600-plus exhibitors are still selling their wares to retailers. It’s just that so much of what they offer now has the potential to benefit consumer goods manufacturers as well. And, at the risk of simplifying things too much, it’s all technology-based. That made for a much busier show.

Regardless of their primary function, many of the store technologies showcased at the event — at-shelf pricing networks, digital signage, personnel improvement tools, promotion applications, security systems — also have been designed to track and collect shopper data. Heck, now you can even buy yourself a lighting system that sends targeted offers to shoppers and builds traffic heat maps.

Yes, it is more than a little ironic that so many shopper-data technologies are hitting the market at a time when e-commerce growth has put the en re retail landscape at risk. But as even Amazon has implied by continuing to experiment with brick-and-mortar stores, a physical retail presence is still necessary (for various, evolving reasons, to be sure); and as the e-tailer’s recent launch of the Amazon Go store suggests, technology will be driving the evolution, or revolution, of the retail industry.

So if all this new technology can finally provide the shopper data that has been the missing ingredient in effective manufacturer-retailer collaboration all these years, then the future sounds pretty exciting. And a much tougher three days at the Big Show was well worth the effort.

For more coverage of this year’s show, click here. Ask for Pepper.

To read the rest of CGT's January/February 2017 issue, click on the links below:

2017 Reader's Choice Survey

Straight Talk: Separating IoT Fact from Fiction

Straight Talk: Wading Through the Trade Promotion Hype

Between the Lines: Embracing Digital Transformation

Best Practices: Spotlight on DTC Sales: