Retail's 'Big Show', the National Retail Federation's Annual Convention & Expo in New York, is an annual opportunity for retailers to tap into the latest technologies for improving everything from customer analysis to inventory management. Here we highlight some of the latest launches and developments.

Smartrac takes eco-friendly approach to RFID
Smartrac used the event to share details of its new RFID (radio frequency identification) environmental sustainability initiative, which it has called Green Tag Program. In addition to committing to minimise the ecological impact of its manufacturing processes, the firm says its RFID products will also meet strict Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) scrutiny. The Green Tag label is reserved for products that meet the following criteria:

  • Plastic-free, hence recyclable or compostable paper must be used as the substrate.
  • Antenna materials must be free of heavy metals.
  • No chemical etching of aluminum antennas is applied. This will allow the complete recycling of aluminum residues and will result in significant carbon footprint reduction.
  • Printable antennas must be printed directly on recyclable or compostable cardboard with Graphene ink.

In addition, a life cycle assessment study according to ISO14040/44 must be made available for every Green Tag product. Smartrac is working with key technology partners to establish a comprehensive portfolio of Green Tag RAIN RFID and NFC products.

Mammut details Smartrac partnership
Smartrac also shed more light on its patnership with Swiss outdoor brand Mammut, which is making inroads into product digitisation relying on the firm's NFC (near field communication) tags, software and enabling technology. Mammut is said to be the first outdoor brand with NFC technology, and one of the first sports brands with an experience concept underpinning this specific technology. The Swiss brand is also planning to launch a dedicated smartphone app, Mammut Connect. When the smartphone is tapped on a product's NFC touchpoint, it will deliver digital content and services to customers throughout the product's lifetime, as well as supporting retail channels with in-depth product information to enhance the sales process. All digitised items come with embedded Smartrac Circus Flex NFC tags, which have been specifically designed to resist harsh environments and support long shelf life.

Infor announces STL partnership 
Spanish fashion group Sociedad Textil Lonia (STL) has selected the Infor Retail CloudSuite and Infor GT Nexus to support its innovation and transformation initiatives. STL manages the Purificación García and CH Carolina Herrera brands, and produces and retails leather goods and ready-to-wear through a vertically integrated model. Predictive planning with machine learning will help better align STL's business operations with its assortments and optimise its direct-to-consumer distribution worldwide. Infor GT Nexus offers STL supply chain visibility and collaboration from the factory floor to the store, helping STL to manage product complexity and the agility to respond to changing demand.

PTC platform helps drives better sourcing decisions
Software firm PTC provided interactive demos to show how brands and retailers can digitise product development, from planning to commercialisation, with its Retail Innovation Platform. The tool combines the firm's FlexPLM solution with a connectivity and artificial intelligence (AI) platform that enables brands and retailers to accelerate product development and gain insights from across the enterprise to drive better merchandising, design, and sourcing decisions. As well as integrating several of its technology innovations and solutions into a single, connected platform that can digitise product design and development processes, from planning to commercialisation, PTC also showed how brands and retailers are able to digitise sourcing processes and accelerate materials selection using a global Materials Exchange – an open platform that enables designers and developers to find, source, and co-develop fabrics, leathers, and components directly with suppliers.

IBM showcases new AI innovations
Technology firm IBM shared the latest findings of a study into the retail and consumer industry, and launched new AI-powered innovations to help the sector accelerate customer experience by providing tools designed to optimise worker and business performance. Produced with the National Retail Federation (NRF), 'The coming AI revolution in retail and consumer products,' found 85% of retail and 79% of consumer products companies surveyed plan to be using intelligent automation for supply chain planning by 2021. In addition, executives project that intelligent automation capabilities could help increase annual revenue growth by up to 10%. Meanwhile, IBM's AI-powered Watson Order Optimization tool can help increase purchase conversions by quickly adapting to seasonal fluctuations, while scaling fulfilment capacity. Order Optimizer's new predictive models factor in seasonality by learning daily sell-through patterns, using data from across the fulfilment network to help organisations identify where to best source an order. 

Centric speeds collaboration with digital touch-screen boards
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) specialist Centric Software unveiled its new digital touch-screen boards at the event. Developed in partnership with leading brands and retailers, Digital Concept Boards and Digital Buying Boards have been added to the firm's Centric Visual Innovation Platform (Centric VIP) to improve collaboration between designers, merchandisers and buyers – and help change the way decisions are made. They "re-define design ideation and buying," the company says, "by fully transforming the ways teams collaborate, share ideas and make decisions."

Checkpoint boosts supply chain efficiency
Checkpoint Systems unveiled its HALO Internet of Things (IoT) platform, an "intelligent retail solution" that boosts efficiency by expediting shipping and receiving processes at every step in the supply chain. It works by capturing data events from every connected sensor across a retailer's supply chain, the company says, with this data then stored, processed and analysed in near real-time to deliver targeted, actionable insights viewed via the HALO portal. Intelligent actions are delivered directly to associates' mobile devices, enabling them to view relevant key events, make well-informed decisions and drive tasks that will improve processes and increase performance. Organisational tasks and mobile task alerts can be generated automatically, using machine learning and artificial intelligence, or by manual input.

JDA Software partners with InContext Solutions
JDA Software and InContext Solutions are combining their technology platforms to offer virtual reality-based visualiation and category management capabilities for retailers to virtually walk through the store, changing planograms and assortments on the fly. Initially, the companies will link the JDA Category Knowledge Base, from the JDA Category Management portfolio, with InContext's ShopperMX VR SaaS platform to allow collaboration, visualisation and testing of category strategies. Longer term, the partnership is expected to enable more agile design, analytics and deployment of total store shopper experiences for brick-and-mortar retailers, further optimising the supply chain and store operations.

Johnson Controls updates single smart sensor strategy 
Johnson Controls said an unnamed "premier global fashion retailer with 250+ North American stores" has become one of the first customers to adopt its Sensormatic Solutions smart sensor platform. The retailer will use the TrueVue radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled solution to manage inventory while also leveraging the technology for merchandise protection –  traditionally accomplished by two different solutions with different sensors and data capture infrastructures. Sensormatic Solutions' single platform is part of its inventory intelligence portfolio to help retailers maintain inventory accuracy, on-floor availability, support omni-channel fulfilment and enhance merchandise protection.  

Mystore-E unveils AI-based personal assistant platform
AI-based platform Mystore-E announced the US launch of Tore-E, an AI-based personal assistant platform that helps retail store managers to merchandise in real time using data analytics and insights. The new communications tool continually monitors and aggregates data from multiple digital channels to provide real-time merchandising recommendations from headquarters to the stores. The platform's data analytics can pinpoint the items most likely to sell in-store based on the current top sellers on a company's website, customer engagement on social media sites, in-store planograms, and local and regional factors.

Manhattan Associates demonstrate new customer service solution
Supply chain and omnichannel solutions provider Manhattan Associates has extended the capabilities of its Customer Engagement offering with new in-store functionality. The updated tool is embedded within Manhattan's next generation Point-of-Sale solution to provide store associates with insights into customer trends and preferences, identify sales opportunities and support personalised engagement before and after the sale – along with transaction histories across channels, enabling them to provide more personalised and informed shopping experiences that lead to repeat customers and increased sales opportunities, the firm says.