Last week I attended the National Retail Federation event in New York and was amazed by the insightful talks, the gamut of new retail offerings and the unique retail challenges and opportunities shared by the international participants. Though almost every imaginable topic related to retail was discussed at some point, three areas stood out for me as the key themes for this year’s event:
1. Personalized Customer Experience – For almost every session that I attended and the vendors I met, the focus was on personalizing the customer experience. Several vendors demoed their offerings to personalize the customer experience by analyzing customer location, preferences and history in real-time to provide contextually aware promotions, customer service, pricing and product offerings. Experts talked about the next phase of personalization that will use technology to personalize the customer experience – even in the physical stores. This is leading to an integrated personalized experience that is relevant whether the customer is shopping online or in the stores. Jack Dorsey mentioned during his keynote that personalization leads to increased loyalty and, as we all know, increased loyalty means greater revenue.
2. One channel – Retailers have been implementing omnichannel solutions for the last several years but now the shift is to make the channel transparent and even irrelevant by offering the same set of services across all channels. Customers expect seamless collaboration and consistency across channels. They do not think in terms of channels so retailers also have to think of their business as serving a single integrated channel with multiple touch points. This messaging was loud and clear throughout the event.
3. Innovation – Innovation continues to be a top priority for retailers and vendors. I witnessed amazing innovations in the mobile space for example BYOD self-checkout, intelligent mirrors that can help visualize a customer in different clothes or offer recommendations and the move towards analyzing big data in real-time to make the retail experience better for the customers and more efficient for the retailer’s operations. The approach towards innovation has shifted to become a more data-driven approach where most retailers and vendors prefer to build something, gather feedback and iterate to improve upon it.
After an exciting event I am eagerly looking forward to NRF15. If you want to share your takeaways from NRF14, please email me.