Ketner Group Communications CEO and president Catherine Seeds shared her experience attending the National Retail Federation’s annual trade show Jan. 14-16 at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center during an O’Dwyer’s webinar Feb. 1 moderated by Researchscape’s Tony Cheevers.

Seeds, an NRF conference regular for the past 20 years, discussed the latest high-tech offerings designed to improve not only operational efficiencies for retailers and brands, but also the shopping experience for consumers.

Generative AI is everywhere, and retailers are jumping on the bandwagon using it to write better product descriptions for their e-commerce websites, develop more engaging and helpful customer service chatbots and provide a reservoir of easily accessible knowledge to help employees quickly and effectively get answers for customers.

Companies like Digital Wave Technology are leading the charge, helping retail clients bolster marketing and digital team productivity to the point of saving them 200,000 in labor hours in just the first year through gen AI, according to Seeds.

Loss Prevention

An NRF report in Dec. 2023 found that returns abuse and fraud contributed to $101 billion dollars in losses for retailers in 2023 alone.

“Wherever there’s retail, there’s always going to be loss prevention,” Seeds noted.

Retailers are using solutions such as sophisticated video surveillance systems with facial recognition capabilities or RFID (radio frequency identification) tags that emit signals to quickly track items on the loose, Seeds explained.

RFID tags are a godsend to retailers for accurately keeping up with inventory and quickly adjusting production based on demand, according to Seeds.

I've shoped at Uniqlo, a casual wear retailer using RFID tags, where all you do is drop your items in a bin at checkout. No need to do any manual bar code scanning like at a supermarket

Sustainability and the circular economy

A 2023 study by data firm NIQ found 70 percent of US consumers say that sustainability is more important to them when selecting products than it was two years ago, Seeds noted.

There’s a big interest in second-hand clothing and gently used items, according to Seeds. Patagonia’s “worn wear” program lets customers trade in clothing that is re-sold for credit toward new items.

Grocery stores are employing new tactics, such as electronic shelf labels, to help prevent food waste and minimize energy consumption, Seeds explained.

Seeds pointed out that when it comes to pitching retail tech to the media, it is important to remember that trends don’t necessarily equal stories. "PR pros must craft stories that show an impact on business strategies overall," Seeds said.

An example is a US News and World Report piece focused on the circular economy phenomenon that included commentary from a vintage boutique from Kansas City, call outs to major apparel brands that have launched resell programs, and a comment from Max Retail on why tag-on clothes have the best resale value in the resale marketplace, according to Seeds.

"This is a perfect example of taking a big trend, like sustainability, and creating a story around circular economy, specifically around clothes that have the highest resell value," Seeds concluded.

Ketner Group offers a PR handbook written specifically for retail technology vendors that shares key PR tactics to build brand, drive demand and increase shareholder value. Download it here.

View this full discussion and other webinars moderated by Researchscape on O’Dwyer’s YouTube page.

Contact John O'Dwyer at [email protected] if you'd like to suggest a topic, be a panelist or are interested in sponsoring a webinar.