Tech takes center stage at National Retail Federation's Big Show

At the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, the big question is what will the retail experience look like in the future.

Judging by the companies headlining the event – tech is where things are headed.

"When you ask a retailer what they do, they would say well, I'm a retailer but I'm also a technologist. You have to be these days because that’s what the consumer expects," said Bill Thorne, Senior VP Communications at the National Retail Federation.

Thorne says retailers today need to use technology to get people into the stores and interacting with brands.

One of the show's most popular attractions at the Big Show is the Innovation Lab, which showcases some of the best new developments in tech that aim to transform the retail experience.

There are flying drones that can sort inventory, 3D food printers and moving robots.

One company called Glass Media wants to revolutionize storefront displays.

"We figured out a way to create very unique highly-curated digital activations that kind of create that wow factor and cause people to stop and hopefully walk into a store," said Daniel Black, its CEO.

It creates digital displays using a liquid crystal substrate that can illustrate things like the lifecycle of a pair of jeans. It is all controlled through the cloud.

"So anywhere in the world within 30 seconds you can update the content in any store," said Black.

Valtech is working with retailers to bring virtual reality experiences into the store.

"As the technology evolves, the quality is getting a lot better, the form factor of the VR goggles is much smaller and easier to use. So there's a lot of new applications for retailers," Greg Schwartz, VP of Innovation at Valtech.

One of their clients, Decathlon, is using VR to let its customers experience their tents in highly customizable environments. This saves the company money by cutting down on the physical space they would need to display the real tents.

It could also be a draw to get consumers into the physical store – a goal of everyone in attendance at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show.