Next-Generation Retail Insights from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2015

Every year in January for the past century, tens of thousands of retailers and industry representatives converge in chilly (okay, really freezing cold) New York City for the National Retail Federation Big Show. For 4 days, NRF brings together retailers and partners in the retail ecosystem to discuss standards, best practices and latest technologies and research.

It is also a showcase for several key NRF initiatives:

  • The Retail Across America program: A program that highlights the retail industry’s positive impact on the U.S. economy, in terms of employment and business.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show
  • Keynotes from dignitaries like ex-Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke on handling of the financial crisis, and a round table discussion from executives from NFL, NBA, NHL, WTA and the German National Team discussing how sports fan marketing can be applicable to retailers.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show
    National Retail Federation Big Show 2015

  • Expo halls and sessions featuring speakers and retailers discussing technology and best practices for retailers.
National Retail Federation Big Show 2015

I spent 3 days at the event and came away with the following observations:

  • Omnichannel customer engagement is a reality
    The shoppers have spoken: We want to browse, shop and get our questions answered anytime, anywhere, in-person or online, on any device, and at our convenience. Retailers need to invest in the process, the people and technology to sell across all channels. It isn’t about “showrooming” or “webrooming,” it’s about shopping.
  • Integrating Web-like experiences in stores
    Customers are interested in replicating the types of experiences they get online in-store. We saw a number of innovative examples, like the Rebecca Minkoff showcase on eBay, and Scala’s digital signage powered by physical sensors in a sneaker display. As shoppers are more comfortable with technology, retailers continue to experiment with technology-driven store experiences.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show 2015
  • Mobility and wireless are king
    The wireless experience now acts as the shopper’s “fifth sense.” While retailers are experienced with manipulating sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, the WiFi experience acts like the consumer’s fifth sense. WiFi is now a crucial piece of the shopping experience, whether it’s through engaging consumers on their mobile devices, giving tablets to employees, or powering mobile checkout and self-service kiosks.
  • Reporting and metrics capabilities continue to grow
    I think the term “big data” is overused. For the past 100 years, retailers have been using detailed reporting to run their businesses. The only difference is that now, the amount of actionable data is hundreds of times more detailed and powerful. From social media data to location data, Web browsing histories, to location heat maps, there is no shortage of new data available to retailers. The key going forward will be to turn these individual data points into actionable intelligence, to increase revenue or operational efficiencies.
  • National Retail Federation Big Show 2015
  • How to fill an auditorium for an 8:30 a.m. keynote
    Donuts. Lots and lots of donuts and coffee. There must have been 20+ staff passing out Krispy Crème in 3 lines as people entered the auditorium for the morning keynote. Great logistics lesson from NRF for any other events in the future. Congrats!

For more information on the National Retail Federation Big Show, please visit bigshow15.nrf.com.

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