AI Steals the Spotlight at Two Major Retail Shows

The trade show calendar of the food retail industry is front-loaded in the year, with national events hosted by the National Retail Federation and FMI – The Food Industry Association held in January. I’ve attended these conferences for decades, and they are always a great source of knowledge, networking, and new solution launches. Let’s start with the NRF, a trade group promoting retailers of all sizes and in all channels. Nearly every booth at the NRF conference in New York had some messaging on artificial intelligence, with many incorporating AI into their names or taglines.

There were more than 35 educational sessions on the topic, and most of the editors I met with were looking for stories on AI.

A few common themes made it through all of the marketing noise, most notably that AI will automate much of what is mundane at retail, helping to ease some of the labor issues many companies face.

AI will also help retailers generate even more personalized customer recommendations that drive larger and more profitable market baskets.

Beyond AI, the NRF event featured the latest in store-level merchandising, and that means all things digital in an attempt to recreate much of the online experience at the physical location.

Related Article: AI Adoption Will Deliver $113 Billion in Value for Supermarkets by 2025

Companies like VusionGroup (disclosure: VusionGroup is a RAM Communications client) showed the latest electronic shelf labels that eliminate the need for paper tags and boost store productivity while engaging the shopper with vibrant and impactful messaging.

AI was undoubtedly a buzzword at the FMI Midwinter conference in Marco Island, FL, but the agenda also included sessions on food traceability, e-commerce, and workforce issues. It started, however, with the positioning of food as a central activity that unites people across diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Kicking off the conference, Compare Foods CEO Omar Jorge Peña said the sanctity of food verifies the powerful role food plays in shoppers’ lives, adding that the industry has a responsibility to serve customers and lift communities.

Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO of FMI, agreed with Jorge’s insights on the importance of food in our society and offered some advice for Hispanic retailers in the coming year to help take advantage of this fact.

“Recognizing the value Hispanic customers place on family and community, Hispanic markets can be a resource for these shoppers by emphasizing private brand options for affordable family meals and leveraging loyalty programs to offer promotions and sales and educate shoppers about the social and nutritional benefits of family meals,” she told me. “Hispanic shoppers are also highly interested in digital solutions, including personalization, online product and store reviews, and using mobile technology.”

I’ll be at the National Grocers Association conference in Las Vegas this month. I will be looking for more insights that help retailers improve performance, enlighten team members, and delight customers to share with you.