The NRF’s 2020 Vision: A Recap on Retail’s Big Show

Explore the highlights and insights from the NRF's 2020 Vision event, where the retail industry's biggest players converged to showcase the latest trends and innovations.

January 5, 2020

The NRF’s 2020 Vision: A Recap on Retail’s Big Show - featured image
The NRF's annual conference, aptly dubbed "Retail's Big Show", is a paramount event in the retail industry. This year, NRF 2020 took place in New York and brought together industry leaders, innovative technologies, and key insights that shaped the future of retail.

What Is NRF?

NRF stands for the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association. It represents the interests of retailers from all sectors, including general merchandise, online, and small businesses. NRF serves as a platform for networking, education, and advocacy for retail professionals across the globe.

Founded in 1911, the National Retail Federation has a rich history of supporting and promoting the retail industry. With over a century of experience, NRF has become a trusted source of information and resources for retailers looking to navigate the ever-changing landscape of the retail sector. The organization's mission is to advance the interests of the retail industry through advocacy, education, and research.

One of the key initiatives of NRF is its annual conference, known as NRF Retail's Big Show. This event brings together thousands of retail professionals, industry experts, and thought leaders to discuss the latest trends, innovations, and challenges facing the retail sector. The conference features keynote speakers, panel discussions, and networking opportunities, making it a must-attend event for anyone involved in the retail industry.

Keynote Speakers and Industry Insights

NRF 2020 featured an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, including renowned thought leaders, industry experts, and successful retailers. Some of the names include: Mastercard President and CEO Ajay Banga, Crate and Barrel CEO Neela Montgomery, Walmart eCommerce U.S. President and CEO Marc Lore, The Body Shop Global CEO David Boynton, Sephora Chief People Officer Karalyn Smith, and Adidas' Peter Brook, Director, Omnichannel Solutions. Their speeches and presentations shed light on the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities in the retail landscape. Industry insights were shared, providing valuable knowledge for retailers to navigate the evolving consumer demands and market dynamics.

Here are the lessons that stayed with us, translated directly from the stage.

  • “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.” – Erik Nordstrom, Co-President at Nordstrom
  • “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.” – Steve Dennis, President & Founder, SageBerry Consulting
  • “Retail is a transforming, vibrant industry. According to consumer data, a majority of shoppers believe retail has improved and also has improved their lives. How many industries can say that?” – Chris Baldwin, CEO of BJs Wholesale
  • “What we are seeing in retail is a collapse of the middle. A lot of retailers are standing close to the edge, and without making a lot of changes, they are going to be in trouble. They are drowning in a sea of sameness. Boring retail is dead. My advice is to choose remarkable retail and inspire customers to spread your story.” – Steve Dennis, President & Founder, SageBerry Consulting
  • “The best place to learn about technology and data and what it all means is in retail.” – Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft

Key Takeaways for Retailers and Consumers

The NRF 2020 Vision event presented essential takeaways that would shape the strategies of both retailers and consumers in the coming years.

Takeaway 1: Data and Machine Learning Will Deliver Personalized Shopping Experiences

With an increasingly data-driven world, retailers must harness the power of data and machine learning to gain invaluable insights into consumer behavior. Personalization will become a core aspect of the shopping experience, allowing retailers to deliver tailored recommendations, offers, and assistance to their customers. By leveraging customer data, retailers can create seamless and personalized experiences that foster loyalty and drive sales.

One of the key benefits of using data and machine learning in retail is the ability to predict consumer preferences and behavior. By analyzing past purchase history, browsing patterns, and demographic information, retailers can anticipate what products a customer might be interested in, leading to more targeted marketing campaigns and product recommendations. This level of personalization not only enhances the shopping experience for customers but also increases the likelihood of conversion and repeat business.

Takeaway 2: The Customer Experience Will Remain a Top Priority

In the midst of technological advancements, the importance of the customer experience cannot be overlooked. Consumers are seeking more than just a transaction – they demand memorable and meaningful interactions with brands. Retailers should focus on creating exceptional customer journeys that go beyond traditional sales tactics. By prioritizing customer satisfaction and engagement, retailers can differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market.
One key aspect of enhancing the customer experience is personalization. Tailoring interactions based on individual preferences and behaviors can make customers feel valued and understood. This can be achieved through data analytics and AI-driven insights that enable retailers to anticipate customer needs and provide customized recommendations. By leveraging technology to deliver personalized experiences, retailers can foster long-lasting relationships with their customers.

Takeaway 3: Focus on the Human Side of Retail

While technology plays a significant role in the future of retail, the human touch remains crucial. Retailers must strike a delicate balance between automation and human interaction to provide a seamless omnichannel experience. Empathy, emotional connection, and personalized service are hallmarks of successful retailers who understand the power of the human side of retail.

When it comes to the human side of retail, one key aspect that cannot be overlooked is the role of well-trained and motivated employees. These frontline staff members are the face of the brand and play a vital role in shaping customers' perceptions and experiences. Retailers invest in ongoing training programs to ensure that their employees are equipped with the necessary skills to engage with customers effectively and provide personalized assistance.

Furthermore, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment in physical retail spaces is essential for fostering human connections. Retailers pay attention to store layouts, lighting, music, and even scent to create a sensory experience that resonates with customers on a subconscious level. By appealing to all the senses, retailers can create a memorable and emotionally engaging shopping environment that goes beyond just making a transaction.

Takeaway 4: Human and Digital Collaboration Continues to Grow Through Omnichannel

In today's connected world, consumers expect a cohesive experience across all channels – online and offline. Omnichannel retailing allows retailers to deliver a consistent brand experience, seamless shopping, and greater convenience. By utilizing technology and integrating digital and physical touchpoints, retailers can provide customers with a unified journey that extends beyond individual channels.

Moreover, the rise of omnichannel strategies has led to the evolution of customer engagement practices. Retailers are now focusing on creating personalized interactions that cater to the unique preferences of each customer. Through data analytics and AI-driven insights, companies can anticipate consumer needs and tailor their offerings accordingly. This level of customization not only enhances the shopping experience but also fosters long-term customer loyalty.

Additionally, the integration of social media platforms into the omnichannel landscape has further transformed the way retailers interact with their audience. Social commerce has become a powerful tool for brands to engage with customers in real-time, gather feedback, and showcase products in an authentic manner. By leveraging the reach and influence of social media, retailers can create a community-driven shopping experience that resonates with modern consumers.

Takeaway 5: Micro Experiences for Major In-Store Impact

In-store experiences will become increasingly tailored to individual preferences and interests. Micro experiences, such as personalized product demonstrations, interactive technology installations, and exclusive events, will foster deeper connections between customers and brands. By creating immersive and unforgettable moments in-store, retailers can transform the shopping experience into a memorable event, driving customer loyalty and advocacy.

Imagine walking into a retail store where the products seem to come to life before your eyes. Picture a scenario where a personalized product demonstration not only showcases the features of an item but also highlights how it can specifically enhance your lifestyle. These micro experiences are designed to cater to your unique needs and preferences, creating a sense of exclusivity and personalization that goes beyond traditional retail interactions.

Interactive technology installations within stores are revolutionizing the way customers engage with products. From virtual reality fitting rooms to augmented reality product visualization, these cutting-edge technologies offer a glimpse into the future of retail. Customers can now try on clothes virtually, see how furniture pieces would look in their homes, or even test out makeup virtually before making a purchase. These interactive experiences not only provide entertainment and convenience but also empower customers to make more informed buying decisions.

In conclusion, NRF's 2020 Vision brought together retail visionaries, industry insights, and technological innovations that will shape the future of retail. The event provided retailers with an opportunity to glean valuable knowledge, learn from success stories, and stay ahead in an ever-evolving industry. By embracing data, prioritizing the customer experience, focusing on the human side of retail, adopting omnichannel strategies, and creating memorable micro experiences, retailers can thrive in the era of Retail's Big Show.

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