NRF 2020 recap: key takeaways

By | 3 minute read | January 21, 2020

NRF 2020, heralded as “Retail’s Big Show,” truly lived up to its name this year. The event gathered over 40,000 attendees in New York City last week to explore innovative ideas, current trends and the future of the retail industry.

Continued transformation in the retail community hinges not only on the availability of cutting-edge technologies, but also companies’ willingness to embrace them. Changes in consumer behavior and expectations, increased competition, and the demand to unify digital and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences are a few factors that are prompting retailers to innovate today. Otherwise, you risk being left behind.

If your company is looking to modernize its approach to retail this year, and into the future, I put together an NRF 2020 recap to help as you build your strategy:

The customer must be at the heart of your technology strategy

A comprehensive retail technology strategy should be built on a deep understanding of the customer journey and experience. Prior to implementing new technology, take the time to understand this journey and identify the customer needs you’ll need to address at each point. Then, engage a trusted technology partner to assess which solutions can optimize your environment to create a seamlessly integrated omnichannel experience.

Tweeting from a keynote session with Erik Nordstrom, co-president of Nordstrom, Essential Retail Editor, Caroline Baldwin, captured a quote from the speaker that clearly underscored this point: “Every retailer has to be a technology company.” She also noted in an article on the session that Nordstrom said it’s easy for companies to be enamored with launching new digital features, but retailers need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes to see how they might resonate.

Data is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal

As the number of touchpoints increases across the shopping journey, the amount of data generated does as well. This customer data could be a goldmine of actionable insights. However, this can happen only if and when you have the tools in place to make sense of it. Doug Stephens, a retail expert, says, “Instead of asking how to get more consumer data, ask what uniquely different and better experience you’d provide with it.”

One area in retail that can benefit the most from understanding the sea of data is inventory management. The challenge presented is figuring out how to profitably fulfill orders from across your inventory no matter where that inventory may be. Employing an AI-enabled solution will help you achieve more clarity and understand the bigger picture so you can make informed decisions that lead to more profitable fulfillment decisions.

Sustainability has reached a tipping point

Convenience and quickness are no longer king as consumers become increasingly invested in the environmental and social impact of their purchase habits. Many experts at the event joined in on the social conversation surrounding this topic. Supply Chain expert Sheri Hinish tweeted, “If the conversation is only CO2 footprint, dig deeper. Lift up the rug, ask them about transition to renewables, network SBTs reduction plans, water usage, ethical trade and labor, managing risk and circularity.”

According to a new study by the IBM Institute for Business Value and developed in partnership with the National Retail Federation, 57% of consumers are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative environmental impact. Additionally, 71% of those surveyed noted that traceability is very important and they’re willing to pay a premium for brands that provide it. To earn consumers’ confidence – and loyalty – companies should look to incorporate sustainability into their 2020 strategy.

It’s evident that technology will continue to be a critical driver of the retail evolution. The key for retailers will be to approach it in a thoughtful, strategic and customer-centric way. I’m looking forward to seeing how these above takeaways impact retail in 2020 and beyond.