Last week, Rob Maille, our Head of Strategy and Customer Experience, attended NRF at the Javits Center in New York City. As the world’s largest retail conference and expo, the annual conference brings together retail vendors and organizations from around the globe.
Following the conference, we sat down with Rob to discuss the 2019 show in more detail. Check out his thoughts on the top trends from the show, what is ahead for the retail industry and what surprised him most last week.
In your opinion, what were the top three trends you saw at NRF?
Rob Maille: One of the biggest trends I saw at this year’s conference was the convergence of technology. If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that connecting the technologies that power the buying, selling, and servicing experiences is something we’ve been talking about a lot recently. While we refer to this as the commerce ecosystem – which represents an end-to-end connection from the consumer to the middle office, back office and the supply chain – the convergence of tech was definitely a prominent trend at this year’s show. Forbes contributor Daniel Newman discusses this trend in an excellent recap he wrote about his experience at this year’s show. I recommend you check it out.
In addition to the convergence of technology, two other prominent trends were vendors offering technology that allows retailers to provide a better in-store experience and solutions that harness the power of technology to use customer data and other information to provide insights.
What surprised you most about this year’s show?
RM: Industry conferences are always an experience. Getting that many like-minded industry folks together in one place is a great opportunity to talk about what is happening in the industry and hear different people’s perspectives. In reflecting on this year’s show, I was surprised at how much I saw the phrases “customer journey” and “customer experience.” They were everywhere. It seemed like no matter what booth I stopped by or what conversation I was having, these two topics kept coming up. Both of these phrases are ones I’ve been pushing for more than 10 years so I found it fascinating to see just how much chatter was happening around them at the show. It felt like the market was finally getting it.
What was the biggest takeaway you walked away with from this year’s show?
RM: There is always a lot to see at industry conferences. It’s easy to lose yourself on the expo floor or listening to panel discussions. With so much to see, hear and learn, something that stood out to me was that there are a lot of options and solutions available to retail companies today. Because of this, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that many of the attending companies left the show even more confused not only about everything that is available to them today, but also which options are the best for them and their customers.
After attending NRF, what do you think is next for the retail industry in 2019?
RM: Looking ahead, one thing is clear: there are enough technology solutions and options available to retail organizations that will not only enable them to fight back against Amazon but also to reinvent themselves. The ability to do this starts and ends with understanding the wants and needs of customers and then leveraging those insights to provide a better buying experience. With platforms like retail-as-a-service and others growing in popularity, retail organizations will be able to start spending less time configuring technology and more time using it.
What was your favorite moment/talk/presentation from this year’s show?
RM: It would have to be the event from Perch – a leader in interactive physical & digital retail displays that can detect what products customers are touching, picking up or putting down & respond with dynamic digital content. At this year’s show, they demonstrated how their in-store marketing products align with the buying experience. Leveraging this technology, physical stores, displays and even pop-up stores can completely take the customer experience to another level with the right amount of digital, education and product selection. This includes capturing critical customer data that can be used for insight and AI. Perch is at the forefront of their industry – providing retail stores with solutions that allow them to reinvent themselves and be much more interactive and informative which ultimately will drive sales. Seeing their solutions in-person really helped demonstrate how their solutions can help retailers disrupt their market.