Key takeaways from NRF’s Retail’s Big Show 2020

Dylan Brown
by Dylan Brown

NRF Retail’s Big Show is the world’s largest retail convention designed to showcase all the latest technology and innovations retailers can employ in their stores and head office operations.

Qudini’s CEO and Co-founder, Imogen Wethered, and Commercial Director, Raj Sangha, both made their way over to the conference in New York – dressed rather fashionably, we might add, in tailored Qudini Retail Choreography blazers.

This year’s show was huge, with more than 400 speakers, 200 sessions and 40,000 attendees. Of course, Imogen and Raj didn’t have time to catch everything (who could have?), but they did have some interesting insights to share. Here are some of the main themes that emerged:

1) Putting data in practice

At this year’s conference in New York’s Javits Center, there was a heavy emphasis on data, with robotics and AI taking the spotlight. Tech suppliers with exciting AI-driven solutions garnered a lot of attention from attendees, says Raj.

“Most retailers have a lot of data at their disposal, but they do struggle to interpret it. That’s why there was such an interest in tech solutions that put data to good use,” he says.

“Actioning that data in real-time or better gaining predictive insights is where retailers need to focus in order to stay agile, operationally efficient and maintain an unparalleled level of consumer experience.”

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, shared an interesting insight on data:

“As retailers, you have the most valuable asset – commercial scale consumer behavioral data. You have the power to shape your business models, to transform your business, and build your own future.”

2) In-store experiences are still crucial

To attract footfall, drive sales and establish long-lasting relationships, creating powerful in-store experiences is a high priority in the retail market right now, and as such, many of the talks focussed on experience.

For instance, the Co-President at Nordstrom, Erik Nordstrom, said:

“Our new store in Manhattan is our most experiential store. Food and beverage plays a much bigger role in that store than any of our other stores. We have a bar in our shoe department, which helps make it a fun experience. Customers are sitting on a couch with a drink in their hand and trying on shoes. I don’t know why it took us so long to put drinking and shoes together. People are smiling and having fun.”

Many retailers still have a long way to go when it comes to creating impactful experiences, with 80% of companies believing they deliver “super experiences,” while only 8% of customers agreeing, according to Bain & Company.

However, when it came to the displays, there was less of a focus on in-store experiences as there was back office and operations, says Imogen.

“Back office and operations technology featured prominently in the displays, yet most of the thought leadership topics centred on experience,” she says.

Perhaps that explains the strong demand for appointment booking software and task management software that enables retailers to better manage the shop-floor for their customers alongside creating a more productive workforce.

“Experience is still a huge deal for retailers – it would have been nice to have seen more of a focus on that.”

3) Omnichannel is back!

With the growth of digital channels taking on greater importance, the now rather old-hat term “omnichannel” has made a comeback.

Retailers are waking up to the fact that online and in-store aren’t separate in the eyes of the consumer, so they shouldn’t be treated that way.

Nordstrom summed this point up nicely: “More than half of store sales involve online and a third of online sales involve a store. Analysts always want to know about our sales per channel and they have models built out for it, but I have yet to hear a customer ask me about our channels. Our business no longer operates this way.”

And while E-commerce has become huge, in-store is by no means down and out.

SageBerry Consulting’s President & Founder, Steve Dennis, says: “More dollar growth comes from physical retail than E-commerce and, oh, by the way, Amazon reportedly does about $20 billion as a physical retailer.”

This year’s Retail’s Big Show was a blast! We hope you all learned lots about building your 2020 vision and a big thank you to NRF for organizing such a spectacular event.


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