Generative AI Is the Star of NRF’s ‘Big Show’

The National Retail Federation “Big Show,” which runs through Jan. 16, gathers tens of thousands of retailers and brands across various channels and categories. They’re at the Jacob Javits Center in New York to network, learn and hear from industry leaders. This year, Marc Benioff from Salesforce is taking the main stage in a conversation with Walmart’s John Furner. Drew Barrymore, Arianna Huffington and Martha Stewart are also on stage as well as Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

But the real magic is on the exhibit floor.

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Several thousand tech companies, solution providers and other vendors tout their wares in the Expo Hall. And this year, the show’s star is generative AI (also known as “GenAI”). Below are some highlights of what was unveiled at the Big Show.

Salesforce rolled out one of its biggest suites of solutions ever. Powered by the company’s Einstein 1 Platform, the innovations “aim to transform every shopping experience.” Salesforce said with generative AI built into its Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud, “retail merchandisers and marketers can tap into generative tools with a real-time understanding of customer behavior and preferences to optimize every customer interaction — increasing loyalty, driving revenue, and boosting employee productivity.”

While that sounds like a monumental task, the Einstein 1 Platform is up for the job as it seamlessly integrates shopper and retail data — and does it while ensuring security.

To address the “why does all this matter?” question, Salesforce, using its own surveys, said 83 percent of global retailers have seen operational efficiency improvements with AI. “And 63 percent of marketers say that trusted customer data is important to implementing generative AI in their businesses,” Salesforce said. “Retailers need a solution that can bring all of their customer data together into one, trusted platform and use it to power the most efficient, AI-driven retail experiences.”

Complete integration!

The generative AI-powered retail innovations showcased at NRF include:

  • In Salesforce Page Designer, retailers and brands can customize and design pages more quickly.

  • Return Insights in Order Management analyzes data and “looks at patterns in returns activity and uses AI to prompt retailers to make product display changes that minimize future returns.”

  • Inventory Insights gives digital retailers “a clear view of available inventory to ensure products remain in stock whenever possible.”

  • Customer and Product Insights uses data from Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Data Cloud “to help merchandisers better visualize trends, such as the top product bundles sold and the most engaged shopper demographics, to build new targeted commerce experiences.”

Salesforce also showcased several AI-powered marketing innovations to drive conversions and bolster customer engagement. And there was praise from Salesforce customers who trialed the new platform.

Kent Zimmerman, vice president of e-commerce and CRM at Shoe Carnival, said the company prides itself on “delivering fun, personalized shopping experiences for our customers and loyalty members, both in our stores and online. “Salesforce’s unified platform empowers us to leverage data and AI to deliver a tailored omnichannel retail experience across marketing, commerce, service, and loyalty management.”

Revionics, an Aptos Company and provider of retail pricing, promotion, markdown and analytics solutions, also put a spotlight on its upcoming innovations. And, yes, it is generative AI. The first is a generative AI-powered chatbot demonstrated at the Revionics booth.

“With Revionics’ GenAI chatbot, retailers leveraging Revionics’ intelligent pricing platform can ask the chatbot questions and get responses back in seconds,” the company said in a statement. “The chatbot is a retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) system, leveraging Revionics’ vast user guide library to serve as the model’s foundational source of knowledge, resulting in responses that are trustworthy and up to date.”

The full rollout for Revionics customers will be sometime this quarter.

Revionics said more investments in the GenAI chatbot “is planned throughout 2024, with later phases to incorporate advanced data mining and analytics capabilities.”

Josh Oettle, vice president of product management and engineering at Revionics, said retailers and brands “are being asked to do more with less — including in the pricing realm. We believe that GenAI is a powerful tool to enhance software adoption and drive efficiencies. By augmenting our industry-leading pricing solutions with GenAI, we are helping our customers solve their pricing and promotional challenges even faster, with better results and more visibility into how those results are achieved.”

Aptos also shared data from the International Data Corporation (IDC), which noted that enterprises worldwide “are expected to invest $143 billion in GenAI solutions in 2027, up from nearly $16 billion in 2023.”

Ananda Chakravarty, research vice president of retail merchandising, marketing and analytics at IDC, said generative AI “has taken the market by storm — and this includes the retail industry.”

“Data is the key to successful GenAI tools, and tech vendors that understand this will be well positioned to help retailers tap into the opportunities of GenAI,” Chakravarty said. “Using GenAI to enhance adoption of modern and AI-powered price optimization tools presents a compelling use case to be explored.”

Generative AI was not the only tech drawing attention at NRF. Cloud-based, integrated and unified solutions were also stirring interest. Jumpmind Inc. unveiled “Jumpmind Promote” at the show, which the company described as a “unified promotions solution.” The platform aims to empower retailers and brands with the ability to offer differentiated promotions to engage “inflation-weary shoppers” via incentivizing purchases.

“It’s not uncommon for most retailers to have four to seven disparate promotions toolsets, making it difficult to orchestrate highly relevant and personalized promotions for today’s omnichannel shoppers,” the company said in a statement. “Legacy solutions are often the biggest impediment to creating new and original promotions, relegating retailers to the same-old ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ clichéd offers.”

Instead, Jumpmind Promote is designed to drive conversions through what it describes as “a simple and intuitive interface with powerful tools to streamline unified promotion execution.” The company said by providing “one engine and one authoring tool, and key workflows for all promotions across channels, Promote provides a centralized hub for promotional teams to build, launch and execute campaigns.”

Also at the Jumpmind booth was Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc., which recently deployed the company’s mobile-first Point of Sale (POS) and CX Connect interactive customer engagement solution “to enrich end-to-end in-store experiences.”

Jumpmind said the retailer teamed “to enhance its in-store retail engagement, providing Build-A-Bear store associates with tools to deliver ‘memorable moments’ via an engaging and inspired process all the way through to checkout that is beyond ordinary.”

Running Jumpmind CX Connect interactive customer displays on iPad devices, Jumpmind said Build-A-Bear store associates “have all the tools at their fingertips to provide one-to-one personalized customer engagement.”

“The solution complements Build-A-Bear’s implementation of Jumpmind Commerce, Jumpmind’s cloud-native, mobile-first POS solution, allowing Bear Builder associates to collaborate with guests as they make their own unique furry friends from building, dressing and accessorizing the plush during the full guest experience,” the company said.

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