2015 NRF Conference Highlights

Created on January 20, 2015
by Asia Gelker

Highlights from the industry leaders at the 104th annual NRF conference and the Retail Industry as a whole:]Matthew Shay, president and CEO of NRF, compared the upward trajectory of Retail’s BIG Show to that of the organization itself, Shay cited a series of “all-time highs” for NRF in 2014: the strongest balance sheet in the organization’s history; the most member companies of all time (18,000); and the most attendees to Retail’s BIG Show in its history (34,000). Shay also expressed optimism about economic conditions in 2015, noting that gas prices had fallen for 107 straight days and that consumer sentiment sits at an eight-year high. This has made consumers feel more confident than they have in years and should translate into continued industry growth.The CGT Editors have compiled a list of the top five trends that will have a major impact on the Retail Industry. This year’s Big Show brought together a myriad of technology and services that are changing not only the retailer landscape, but also presenting major opportunities for the supplier side.

  1. Omnichannel was the overriding theme of the event. While last year we walked away feeling like the industry was a long way from actual implementation, this year there seemed to be a lot more tangible examples of retailers who had successfully merged digital and physical experiences for the consumer. There is also a lot more technology to help retailers accomplish their goal of standardizing the customer experience. For example, SAP’s Customer Activity Repository, designed to be the unifying platform for retailers in their omnichannel quest, could be seen as a game-changer for its clients.
  2. Mobilitywas again hot, as retailers leverage new technology like beacons and geo-fencing to target shoppers with personalized experiences. We saw lots of new form factors to interact with consumers from inside the home to the store shelf; some providing entertainment or additional product suggestions, but all leveraging a growing relationship built on trust and understanding of that particular consumer’s needs. All this additional data of course leads to a bigger realization that data and analytics will be the key to success in this new digital world.
  3. Once RFID’s biggest naysayer, we can now comfortably say it’s time to take a closer look at the technology. While we’re not implying we tag toothpaste and cookies quite yet, the technology is more than ready for prime time in certain categories, particularly footwear, apparel, and luxury goods.
  4. The Internet of Everything(IoE) age is quickly emerging. Although it may be too early to realize the potential of this space, we think this trend is still worth mentioning. While many of the examples shown were just vendor demos and not live examples just yet, IoE is taking the idea of personalization a step further, which will affect the ever-changing shopper experience.
  5. Image recognition, RFID in shopping bags, beacons and even magnetic fields, are just some of the ways retailers are geo-mappingtheir stores. All of these technologies are geared toward tracking the shopper in the store, and more importantly, how they move around the store, where they dwell, and more.

SAP’s highlights and commentary on the conference:

SAP had a huge, multi-level booth at NRF that marketed its current Retail strategy: to focus on customer-centric solutions, build out and up from its HANA in-memory database technology, expand cloud-based computing and extend its mobility solutions.Our differentiator when we’re working with this sector is how we drive customer insight to build a real-time, personalized experience. SAP traditionally has a name in ERP, in financial order management, and so on, and so it’s been a major shift for us, focusing on deep insights and analytics and how you can influence purchasing behavior. Planners in retail used to be very siloed in their thinking. What I think is really exciting now is that we’re able to take that data and syphon it into the planning process with in-depth information, so that they can learn so much about the consumer. Everything’s tracked: what they say about you on social media, what’s in their market basket. That’s our concept of localized global services: knowing how people of a particular demographic in a particular zip code usually shop and why. That’s real-time information that you can get in a daily or weekly report. There are two or three big things that retailers are trying to do. First is becoming much more agile in this new world of omni-channel that they already exist in. Several years ago, we started talking about omni-channel where retailers were looking at using a mix of physical stores, online presences and mobile technologies to better serve their customers.But the second stage is what I like to call ‘omni-commerce’, where you see the channels interact with each other: I buy online, I return in store or pick up in store. I’m in the store, but they don’t have the product so I order online from my phone, and so on. Those channels have really started interacting, and I think that’s where most retailers are, or should be.But I think that consumers are now at a different place, which I like to call the ‘omni-customer’. Consumers certainly want multiple channels from which to buy their favorite brands, and they want to have those various channels to interact, but they also want brands to be very consistent across those channels so that they have a common culture, a common brand experience.Next, they want that brand to understand them – to know what they like and what they buy, to suggest things, to give them relevant promotions and upsell opportunities that are unique to them.You know, I love it when I go on one of the world’s largest ecommerce sites and I’m told ‘Other people who looked at this bought these things’. And I always think, ‘I don’t care what other people looked at. Help me to understand what I might like to look at, based on what I’ve looked at in the past.This is where CAR comes in, SAP’s Customer Activity Repository, a foundation system that collects transactional data from multiple sources into a single container – and which, importantly, doesn’t force retailers to change their underlying systems. As long as they have online and inventory systems that can push data into CAR, they can use SAP’s technology – even if they’re not SAP customers.

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