This was my second year attending the National Retail Foundation Big Show in New York. I streamed from session to session and booth to booth, alongside 35,000 other people trying to suss out the future of retail, along with 500 vendors who think they have the answer. The difference between the two years was remarkable – it feels like the past 365 days have provided a great deal of clarity since the 2016 Big Show.Here are the 5 key calls to action that will be driving retail innovation in the year to come:
- Embrace the three Imperatives of innovation: XRC Labs’ founder and managing director Pano Anthos articulated the trends retailers must pay attention to in order to transform to deliver the experiences customers will expect:
- User experiences must change: Retailers must emphasize great design in order to create engaging experiences that will attract people online and, more importantly in stores.
- Supply chains must change: Anthos sees the revolution of 3d weaving and printing transforming the convenience economy to the instant economy. Retailers should be imagining the impact and opportunities now.
- Information sharing must expand: More than ever, creating a personalized, unique experience for a customer at an affordable price will mean turning the massive amounts of data being gathered on consumers into instantly actionable insights. Data science and machine learning will drive differentiation across all channels.
- Escape the retail squeeze: Holiday 2017 made it perfectly clear. The big guys are getting their digital act together, with Amazon, Walmart, and others showing that their investment in digital is paying off with sharply increased online sales. The upstarts abounded at the Big Show, showing off curated experiences that drive rapid growth with a set of targeted customers. The sharpest squeeze is in the middle – traditional brick and mortars that are trying to restructure from the past to provide the fuel to create a new, differentiated relationship with their consumer.
- Make the consumer your point-of-sale: Distributed Commerce. Conversational Commerce. Unified Commerce. And, this year, Responsive Commerce. This new commerce keyword was brought to life in Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynote on data, smart tech, and amazing customer experiences. No matter which one captures your fancy, they all add up to enabling the consumer to shop when, where and how they want. What we are now starting to see is the industry beginning to deliver. Perseus Mirrors showed off a smart mirror for the home, designed to capture sales in the “getting ready” moment, before the purchase intent is lost. At another session, Rebecca Minkoff discussed how her connected stores have provided a consumer-driven fitting room experience that has tripled sales. Results that are driven by meeting your customer wherever they are.
- Expand your reality: Everywhere you looked at NRF ’17, it was through a pair of goggles. Vendors are innovating at a rapid pace to make augmented and virtual reality immersive shopping experiences an everyday differentiator.
- Certainty sells: All of these trends are ultimately in service of one key objective – to drive a delightful experience that convinces the consumer that product they are evaluating is exactly right for them. That translates into higher conversion rates, lower returns, and stickier customers. Exactly the kind of metrics that drive growth in a constrained retail environment. Metrics that separate those treading water from those taking market share.
The intervening months between Big Show 2016 and 2017 have nailed home the point that iteration is death. Each speaker warned that tweaks alone will not drive the growth you seek, nor the experiences your connected customers demand. To truly thrive, you must innovate the way you go to market and create rich, detailed shopping environments with your most loyal shoppers in mind. This much is certain: I look forward to seeing the next generation of shopping experiences at the Big Show 2018.