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NRF 2020 Retail’s Big Show Recap – Day 1

3 min read

I am currently attending and reporting from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2020, where over 40,000 people from over 400 countries will flock to New York City’s Javits Convention Center over three days to see 400+ speakers in 200+ sessions. Incredible numbers.

The first day was as busy as to be expected – long queues for registration, massive attendance at the Opening Session and difficulties in finding space at crowded day conferences.

Retail’s Vision 2020: NRF chairman’s welcome and opening remarks

The day started with the traditional Opening Session at 8:30, presented by Chris Baldwin, Chairman and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club. After a brief recap of this year’s expo numbers, he summarized some of the main trends and drivers of the industry today as well as some achievements of the NRF Foundation. While it’s not exactly new, Mr. Baldwin reiterated a few messages that reaffirm the growing pressure retailers face today to fulfill customers expectations, namely that consumers have more power and expect more.

He made another statement which, while often heard, is worth repeating: retail innovations are improving the shopping experience.  Some 60% of customers recognize it, but 80% also recognize that retail innovations are also improving the online shopping experience, a statistic that strongly reaffirms the need for retailers to continue investing in renovations to their current technology landscape.

Opening Session NRF Big Show 2020_1


Opening keynote with Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

After Mr. Baldwin’s presentation, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella came to the stage and shared his thoughts on the future of retail and how technology can help retailers deliver on the promise of intelligent retail by better understanding their customers, empowering their employees, enabling an intelligent supply chain, and re-imagining their businesses. Something that must be achieved with a better and more efficient use of data, considering that 400 petabytes of data is generated every hour by retail. Retailers will need to build their own technology intensity to leverage all this data.

Mr. Nadella considers the use of technology to support employees as one of the key factors for retailers’ success in the new decade. Tech-driven initiatives can help retailers achieve 15% increase in conversion rate and 10% increase in customer satisfaction.

Nadella ended his presentation describing what he considers the next big thing to reshape retail:

“Today, when you look at online advertising, it’s a monopoly, an oligopoly — pick your word. There’s death, there’s taxes and there’s ever-increasing online advertising spend. There’s not much we can do about the first two, but — depending on the decisions we make now — there is something we can do about the third.

“We have to change the dynamics here. You have to change the dynamics. You have, as retailers, the most valuable asset: commercial-intended consumer behavior data. The question is, how can you, through your marketing efforts, effectively convert that into new online advertising channels that could benefit every brand, every supplier. This, to me, is perhaps what’s needed to reshape retail.”

EXPO Opens

The EXPO floor officially opened at 10 am. During my first day, I visited the exhibitor areas more than attending conferences. A visit to the NRF Innovation Lab demonstrated a growing usage of image recognition, drones, and robot technologies to support different retail operations. We will see in the future how and when these technologies enter the mainstream.

in terms of retail innovations, there was nothing spectacularly new on display, so the retail tech suppliers continue to push the message that retailers need to adopt their technologies if they want to deliver seamless customer experiences, achieve greater operational efficiency or gain payments flexibility, among other benefits.

But this was just the first day, so I will continue exploring tomorrow and on Wednesday in search of What’s Next in retail!

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