NRF 2020 Retail’s Big Show Recap – Day 3
I arrived at the Javits Convention Center this morning aiming to attend a few last conferences in the morning and participate in a retail tour in the afternoon.
The first conference was entitled, Global retail landscape: The impact of technology in the physical world, and it provided some interesting insights. First, an idea that is already known but should not be forgotten: retailers are becoming tech companies. Speaker Dimas Gimeno , former CEO of the Spanish department store chain El Corte Inglés, emphasized that technology is just a tool, and to achieve success, there a clear strategy must exist first. Asked about the future of physical retail, he was very clear:
“It will be great, but also painful, because a lot of companies will suffer and even disappear. The good news, however, is that digital players now understand they need physical stores. And when it is well-executed, the physical store experience is unmatchable.”
In another interesting presentation about personalization, Brad Klingenberg, Chief Algorithms Officer at Stitch Fix, reminded us that the bar for compelling personalization is rising, but that there is a risk of excessive complexity due to the excessive options that can be presented to customers. Presenting customers with fewer options rather than many makes for better, more intuitive decisions. So, a clear call-to-action for retailers to make things simpler for their customers. Interestingly, this message of simplicity has also been present in several exhibition booths in response to a general call by retailers to do things more simply.
Getting Up Close and Personal with Retail Innovation
At 2:00 PM I had the opportunity to participate in a retail tour organized by the Global Retail Alliance (to which Openbravo is currently a member thanks to our association with AER, Asociación Española del Retail) and we were able to visit some of the newest retail concepts in the city. Aside from Amazon Go, which we visited a few days ago, i’d like to talk about B8ta, Camp and Showfields, three retailers I sincerely recommend visiting.
Despite selling toys, Camp does not define itself as a toy store, but as a family experience store. And I cannot agree more with that definition. The store includes three main areas. A coffee area, a general store area, and a third area where families can test (and shop) for the best toys of the season in an immersive retail experience (see here a short video) – these elements truly make Camp’s concept a reality. The retailer currently has five stores, two of them in New York.
The business idea behind B8ta and Showfields is similar. Both brands provide a space for other brands to sell their products.
With a current total of 24 stores, including one in Dubai and three in New York, B8ta describes its mission as “retail designed for discovery.” The company was founded in 2015 to create a space where shoppers could try the latest products out-of-the-box. To support these stores, B8ta launched a business model it calls Retail-as-a-Service, whereby brands can easily sign up online to place their products in the stores, and use software to manage and analyze their store experience/performance.
As described on its website, SHOWFIELDS is a revolutionary retail concept built to engage and inspire customers’ sense of discovery through a juxtaposition of experiences with the brands and the communities shaping our future. They partner with brands to create a stage for immersive storytelling to open new offline channels for growth.
Relating to Dimas Gimeno’s earlier statement, what both B8ta and SHOWFIELDS represent is a clear opportunity for digital retailers to make a move into the physical world without the need of operating their own physical stores – as well as for existing retailers looking to add a new sales point to their existing physical stores. Both benefit in a well-designed store environment that makes better use of technology to provide an improved customer experience.
And this concludes my experience at the NRF 2020 Retail’s Big Show. Now we will have time to review all the recaps from different analysts and companies, and gain further insight into areas we were not able to explore during the event. In my case, I must say I’ve not seen or heard anything that is really THAT different or disruptive, but rather a continuation or confirmation of the familiar challenges retailers are currently facing – and have faced over the last few years – such as inventory optimization, personalization, and seamless on-off integration, to name a few.
Probably the most important conclusion is that despite everything talked about and discussed during the last 2-3 years, in 2020 we can still say that physical retail is clearly NOT dead and that the physical stores will continue playing a key role in modern retail, with retailers investing more in order to deliver better in-store shopping experiences.
Hope you have enjoyed this year’s expo and see you again at the NRF 2021 Retail’s Big Show. Any thoughts or other conclusions from your side? Please share!