Jan 25, 2019 | By poq

NRF 2019: Technology Continues to Drive Innovation in Retail

Reported by Elliott Edwards
Account Lead – North America

Recently, Poq joined the throngs of retail brands and technology vendors that braved the cold to descend on New York City to attend one of the largest gatherings of retailers in the U.S., NRF 2019. We quickly learned that NRF, while a great show with a lot of buzz, is large and can be a little overwhelming. If you plan to attend next year, we highly recommend that you plan your show days in advance to get the most out of the very compelling conference content. My first takeaway is that NRF lived up to my expectations and confirmed my belief that technology continues to be the innovation driver in retail.

Rob Garf, the VP of Industry Strategy and Insights at Salesforce Retail, summed this up best, “Digital transformation remains on retailers’ minds as the anchor to a ubiquitous shopping experience. Retailers now want to think and act like software companies — with constant experimentation, agility, innovation, and, of course, transformation to meet the needs of their shoppers.”

One key takeaway from NRF is that the “stores are dead” mantra may be empty rhetoric. While I appreciate that physical stores and malls may be struggling somewhat right now, dead is an exaggeration. In my opinion, stores are of huge importance in the customer journey, they offer consumers experiences, inspiration and immediate gratification. Executing a true omnichannel experience that’s consistent across all touchpoints, stores included, will only enhance the consumer shopping journey; leaving them with an affinity to your brand – and hopefully an increased spending habit!

The conference content was rich and varied, with a lot of emphasis on the following topics:


Talk about omnichannel retail at NRF ran throughout many of the presentations, with emphasis on developing and maintaining consistent branding and experience across all channels. Presenting a unified message across all touchpoints and owning the relationship with the consumer. Omer Iqbal – SVP Global Architecture at Shiseido Corp (Bareminerals & NARS) spoke on driving more direct-to-consumer interactions and sales while John Hill, SVP & CIO, Carhartt, discussed identifying and tackling the challenges of building tech teams to create and maintain effective and efficient channels that save time and maximize revenue. Both Iqbal and Hill made it clear that consumers want to pick how and when they engage with a brand, and when they do, they want to receive a consistent and personalized experience – no matter the channel they prefer. Poor and conflicting experiences directly impact a brand’s bottom line and market share. Having a strategy in place to unify experiences across all channels is essential.

Data is power

The massive amount of data that retailers are able to accumulate empowers them to personalize and shape the consumer experience. Jennifer Braunchweiger, VP of Brand Marketing at M. M. LaFleur, pointed out that personalizing experiences is greatly beneficial and appreciated by consumers, however, personalization should only be attempted if it can be executed well. Braunchweiger and other speakers emphasized that data is a fierce weapon in a retailer’s arsenal. Brands must focus on creating enhanced and consistent experiences across all channels and managing/translating data into actionable insights allows this.

Attracting the younger demographics

As Millennials and Gen Z start to dominate consumer spending, attracting and retaining these demographics have never been more important. One retailer championing this at NRF was Chip Bergh, president and CEO, Levi Strauss. As Bergh explained, acquiring younger customers is key and placing their brand at the center of culture, for example, sponsoring music festivals has proven a great acquisition strategy for them.

As expected mobile commerce was a hot topic at NRF 2019. It’s no secret that there is a rapidly increasing volume of consumers moving to the mobile and specifically app channels. Our own research from the 2018 holiday season backs up this theory: App (28%) and mobile web (36%) share of commerce revenue combined have overtaken the desktop (36%) share of revenue from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.

As retailers continue to struggle with their mobile initiatives, consumers don’t receive the high-quality experiences that they demand – directly resulting in consumer churn and market share loss. Retailers are coming to the realization that the mobile web can’t offer consumers the consistent personalized experience that shoppers have come to expect from other digital experiences. Retailers are beginning to move towards apps to offer consumers a seamless, convenient and immediate native shopping experience with an almost immediate return on investment in enhanced loyalty, brand engagement and lifetime value.

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