Each year, right on the heels of CES, thousands of hungry retailers, vendors and influencers flood New York City’s Javits Center for the retail industry’s annual conference, NRF. In 2020, this PR professional was among them. NRF is at retail’s epicenter, unveiling exciting new vendors as well as key trends that define the industry for the year and beyond.
This year’s conference featured keynoters like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Johnson of Starbucks, and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, but the innovations unveiled were even more exciting. Here are some of the hot topics and my biggest takeaways from “The Big Show.”
From AI and machine learning to in-memory analytics and cloud computing, data was again center stage at NRF 2020. Given the proliferation of omnichannel retail, stores and others are creating huge amounts of data. The problem is, they’re having trouble keeping up with the data stream and the insights it may offer. Luckily, advanced data science is helping them cope. From preparation to analysis, retailers are adopting all sorts of data science tools in an overhaul of the data workflow. That portends an even greater investment in the retail data space in the year ahead.
Consumers expect brands to meet a high bar when it comes to social awareness and inclusivity. Moreover, many shoppers will actually choose brands that meet these standards even if it means spending a few extra dollars or having to wait an extra day for products to arrive. This means brands are beginning to think about where their companies stand on a variety of issues — from body image to climate change — and where they can improve to meet the changing expectations of shoppers.
The word “dynamic” in retail isn’t just for pricing anymore…it’s being applied to everything. Price optimization has done wonders for retailers as they look to compete with online-first insurgents like Amazon and others. Retailers are applying this same dynamic logic to other areas such as promotions, sales, coupons and more.
This has the potential to disrupt the way retailers approach the sales cycle and completely redefine the way they customize experiences for shoppers. Timing and personalization are a huge part of driving purchase. So, if retailers can successfully apply dynamic strategies beyond pricing, we could be on the verge of massive disruption in the retail industry for both brands and shoppers alike.
With the robust success of restaurant delivery services like DoorDash and UberEats, it was only a matter of time until other retail verticals looked to get in on the “innovative delivery” act. However, doing so is easier said than done. Delivery orchestration has become much more complex over the last several years, thanks to the rise of new providers, and due to the rise of competing delivery options like “Buy Online, Pick-Up In-Store” (BOPIS) and same-day delivery. Therefore, there’s a large opportunity for solutions that can help brands meet changing shopper expectations for delivery in sectors from fashion to automotive.
Among the many hot topics among retail pros at NRF was the boom in international representation at the conference. International players are certainly no stranger to NRF; however, 2020 saw a new focus on foreign players coming together at this year’s Big Show. In addition, many international players actually teamed up with compatriots — France, for example, had a shared booth for all its exhibitors — to promote the great work done within their respective countries. This bodes well for the health and innovation of the retail technology space for years to come.
But of course that isn’t everything that happened at NRF this year. What were some of your favorite trends and topics that came out of the event? Let us know here or on Twitter at @CrenshawComm.