Blog / Jan. 17

NRF 2020 Ushers in New Decade, New Investment Priorities

Dave Bruno

I think that the proverbial “needle” has in fact moved. After several years of retail investments that seemed more intent on chasing shiny technology objects than addressing customer priorities, retailers attending the 2020 edition of NRF’s Big Show were highly focused on investments that will make real differences for their target customers. Finally.

Over the course of three days in New York, we met with thousands of retail executives from around the globe. While the discussions were wide-ranging and diverse, at the end of the show, three big themes emerged from those conversations:

  1. Differentiation: For the first time in a long time, a large number of attendees expressed the desire to differentiate through experiences that resonate with the lifestyles of their target customers. Retailers in great numbers are looking beyond the basics of omnichannel execution toward targeted experiences that align with the values, behaviors and preferences of their most important customers.
  2. Speed: Retail executives told us that in an environment of relentless and rapid change, where trends and behaviors can shift literally overnight, they simply must have the ability to adapt quickly. Some of the new experiences will resonate with customers, while others may not (or not for long). Retail executives told us they simply must be able to adapt as quickly as trends and tastes shift.
  3. Purpose: Retailers’ interest in those aforementioned shiny objects that garner buzz and attention has officially been replaced with an intense interest in technology that addresses the specific needs of their customers. “Cool” has been replaced by “relevant.” If the technology isn’t relevant to experiences that interest their customers, retailers simply aren’t interested in it.

We were fortunate to have several retailers participate in our booth experience to help bring these three priorities to life for show attendees.

Cole Haan hosted a pop-up shop in our booth to showcase its latest gravity-defying shoes, GrandPrø Rally Sneakers that are designed for comfort (and, of course, style), because what better place to try to sell comfortable shoes than a place where 38,000 pairs of feet hurt? All day long, people stopped by Cole Haan’s shop to explore the styles and feel the comfort. As an added bonus: Cole Haan made getting really comfortable really easy. Every pair of shoes purchased in the booth was waiting for shoppers at their hotel.

Differentiation is the new black: My recap of the key themes heard during Day One on the NRF Expo Hall floor.

In addition to foot pain, many NRF attendees also suffer from exhaustion. Walking around the miles of aisles on the cold, hard concrete floor of the NRF Expo Hall can really drain one’s energy. The Vitamin Shoppe took over another corner of our booth with a pop-up shop featuring energy drinks, vitamin B12 shots and protein bars designed to give show attendees the boost they needed to fulfill their Expo Hall objectives.

Speed is the new killer app: My recap of the key themes heard during Day Two on the NRF Expo Hall floor.

Urban Outfitters, Inc. shared with all the style-conscious attendees who always attend this show how they are developing localized assortments that bring their many brands to life in ways that are highly relevant to the styles and tastes of the shoppers in each of their stores around the world.

Redefining innovation priorities via purpose: My recap of the key themes heard during Day Three on the NRF Expo Hall floor.

Attendees flocked to these experiences because they were the embodiment of the things attendees told us they care about: differentiation, speed and purpose. All the retailers showcased in our booth are putting technology to work to deliver experiences that are meaningful and important to the lifestyles and preferences of their target customers – adapting as market conditions change (including popping up shops whenever and wherever their customers may gather) and creating differentiated experiences that help them build deeper connections with their customers.

As I look back on this amazing event, I suspect that every one of the 38,000 people who walked the miles of NRF 2020’s Expo Hall left tired. But I also suspect that many left energized and excited to begin a new decade with a new purpose. I know I did.

If you’re looking for more insights on this year’s NRF show, join me, Aptos’ Nikki Baird and RIS News’ Joe Skorupa for a special post-NRF webinar on January 22. We’ll cover the hottest trends seen and heard at the Big Show and take a deep dive into the major trend driving technology, investment and innovation in retail today—the customer experience.

Click here to register.