NRF 2018

Where big things happen


I just returned from The National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York. This was my thirty sixth year of attending and without a doubt this was it was as interesting and exciting as ever. This show has evolved to a show case of technology for the tier one retailers and this year was no exception. My goal when attending the NRF is to obviously see what’s new but also access what’s new from the perspective of the independent retailer who are my clients. Here are my initial takeaways from NRF.

  1. Physidal: The merging of your on line and store experience. The goal is to create seamless transition for the customer moving from your website to your store. Two prime examples are Warby Parker who opened over 60 stores after having only and online presence and Amazon with their acquisition of Whole Foods. Both are prime examples of highly successful e-commerce companies recognizing the importance of proving a physical store experience for their customers.
  2. Frictionless: The elimination of the elements of the shopping experience that frustrate customers. A great example is allowing customers to scan products on their mobile device and pay on their mobile device and leave the store. Starbucks and Panera’s have been at the forefront of enabling mobile device ordering but this trend will continue rapidly across the retail spectrum.
  3. Omni-Channel: This is not new but many retailers do not have the necessary software to support the buy anywhere- pick up anywhere requirements of Omni-channel. Without a fully integrated solution that supports the process of moving inventory and keeping the customer informed the retailer will frustrate themselves and their customers.
  4. In store experience: Ulta Beauty was the example cited as a great example of this concept. In addition to selling cosmetics Ulta Beauty offers hair solon, nail salon and makeup services. This not only drives traffic to their stores but also prompts the customer to buy the products used in their makeover.

I also pay attention to the new technologies being promoted to the tier one retailers as precursor of technologies that will be available to my clients in the near future.

A highlight of many of the presentations and vendors was the concept of AI (Artificial Intelligence) or the ability to use data as predictive tool. AI is the next step is using data not only as an analytic tool but as a forecasting tool for probable future outcomes. Another hot topic was IOT (The Internet of Things) the connectivity of smart consumer devices. The example used was the ability to voice order groceries from your drive less car while viewing the contents of your refrigerator. These are not futuristic and in fact are happening now.

My five rules for the independent retailer to follow when considering an investment in any new software or technology are:

  1. Do you have the internal resources to implement it?
  2. Have you defined a detailed plan with timelines?
  3. Have you assigned people to specific tasks?
  4. Have you calculated the total cost of your investment including any integration costs or outside resources needed?
  5. Do you have a utilization plan to insure you get a return on your investment

Don’t invest in any new software