My first NRF Show: Retailer insights for the global storefront

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The retail industry is changing at an amazing speed, which I saw firsthand last week at Retail’s BIG Show, the annual NRF convention in NYC. The trade show attracted more than 35,000 retail professionals, and I was among them as an NRF newbie. It was dazzling!

I talked to retailers from Germany, Norway, the UK and of course from the US. All of them with their different geographical perspectives came to the IBM booth already with the understanding that cognitive and cloud computing is or will be part of their strategy. Many of these retailers were looking for inspiration from client stories. They were also looking for a deeper understanding of how IBM clients are implementing cognitive technologies to their advantage. Consequently, the IBM booth’s Staples and showcases were very popular and almost functioned as brainstorming facilitators. Many booth visitors told me that the IBM Watson-designed Marchesa dress we had on display, as well as Pepper — Softbank Robotics’ cognitively enabled robot — were considered not-to-miss highlights of the show.

The conversations at our booth focused on three key insights, illustrated with client examples and demo points:

Provide consistent engaging experiences

Consumers are engaging across multiple platforms. In today’s world, consumers are the channel and digital is the default. As a result, every digital interaction becomes an extension of what was once a fixed storefront in a set location. It’s now more important than ever to engage consumers personally and seamlessly across all touch points. The whole world is now a storefront.

What did we showcase at NRF? is building closer connections to their customers with GWYN, their personal gift concierge powered by IBM Watson. GWYN is designed to help customers pick the perfect gift across eight brands. We had the great honor of having Arnie Leap, CIO of as a speaker at the IBM NRF Huddle and at our booth sharing his perspective on conversational e-commerce.

Deliver differentiated offerings and superior supply chain

Consumers expect differentiated, hyper-local experiences — they make no distinction between online and offline. Retailers need to differentiate through superior offerings, a dynamic supply chain and strategic partner collaborations.

What did we showcase at NRF? The new Watson-powered Staples Easy Button showcases differentiated interaction and engagement with customers, in addition to enhanced supply chain mechanisms. Steve Laughlin, General Manager of the IBM Consumer Industry, discussed this with Ryan Bartley, Head of Applied Innovation at Staples, in a featured Fireside Chat. Another example, the IBM Metro Pulse solution powered by Watson, enables IBM customers to use internal and external local data to their advantage.

Be agile across operations

Companies will need to adopt new operating and business models to deliver the engagement and differentiated experiences consumers are demanding. To do this, it will become necessary to reinvent business processes and accelerate organizational agility to enable new growth.

What did we showcase at NRF? evolve24 is using IBM Cloud as a way to transform its operating model to serve clients more efficiently. The company plans to improve its competitive advantage by enhancing client experiences, expediting new feature delivery and providing new channels to its markets. evolve24 CEO Tony Sardella joined us at our IBM NRF Huddle on Sunday morning and at our booth to share his view of the industry.

#nrf17 is over, but I’m already looking forward to next year and #nrf18!

Learn more about the IBM presence at NRF, including insights from client stories, videos and case studies, at the IBM Retail page and on the IBM Retail blog.


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IBM Retail Advocacy & Influencer Marketing

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