The Big Show of 2017 was indeed a Big Show!

35,000 attendees from 95 countries gathered in New York this week at the Javits Center for the annual NRF Big Show. I attended this year, and I was anxious to hear what the global leaders in the Retail industry had to say about the continual disruption in Retail.

Retail in the USA is a big deal. It is the second largest industry right below Healthcare. It employs 1 in 4 Americans.  As Retail goes, so goes the US economy.

We have all read the headlines. More and more stores are closing. And we should expect more stores to close in 2017.

“Every 7 years, Retail gets a slap in the face and this time it was the biggest slap of all,” shared Terry Lundgren, Chairman of Macy’s.

Disruption in Retail is here to stay.

Key drivers behind the disruption: the shopper journey has changed, more consumers are buying online, Amazon continues to raise the bar, millennials spend more on experiences than stuff, fast fashion has made clothes cheap and disposable, much of the extra discretionary dollar has gone to paying down mortgages, and mobile is where we live.

So anticipating that I would hear a sad swan song at #NRF2017, I was thrilled that the vibe throughout the show was upbeat! Matt Shay, the President of the NRF, was bullish. He challenged everyone to accept the reality and use the disruption in the industry as a pivot point.NRF Big Show 2017

It is time for Retail to change. The stores are the same stores of 100 years ago. But the consumer has changed. Stores must change. That means there are a ton of new opportunities and the Retail industry needs to attract the best talent ever. From the clerk on the floor to the best designers, planners, merchandisers, software developers, analysts, data scientists, and innovators. And the NRF is going to help.

The NRF Board along with the top 30 retailers have invested in a new initiative “RISE Up” a powerful new program offering training and credentials for entry-level candidates to get excited, trained, and credentialed to enter the retail industry.

The key themes of The Big Show were: Digitize, Customize, Socialize, Innovate! 

Key takeaways were:

  • Every Retailer must be investing in their concept stores. Testing innovations from:
    • Tally, the robot, goes up and down aisles capturing all the inventory on each shelf, identifying stock levels, out-of-stocks, mispriced items, and misplaced items then digitizes the information back to corporate

      NRF Tally robot
      Tally robot at NRF Big Show
    • Dressing room mirrors that allow your customer to select a different color or size without having to leave the dressing room
    • RFID tags that automatically update where the inventory is, what is being tried on but not bought, what is never touched, what is flying off the shelf
    • Integrated sales associates tools that combine “endless aisle” inventory with the best “clienteling” capabilities on an iPad or an iWatch for each floor associate. Enabling sales associates to stay with the customer updating that they can get the right size or right color, right away
    • Adapt relevant Apple Store features in your store. Complete the sale not at the Point of Sale but at the Customer point of sale
    • Optimize your store inventory to be targeted to your local clients. Don’t over inventory. Have the ability to get their size, or the color they want the next day
  • Customization and Personalization (I want it my Way!)
    • The brands that can customize (let the consumer configure the options) or personalize (make a product unique to me) are growing
    • Think how you can personalize the shopping experience  (I know what you bought from me before so let me show you relevant options) or customize/personalize the product (put your own stamp on what you are selecting)
    • Conversion rates for brands and retailers that can customize or personalize are 3X
  • Consumers want to know the Brand and want the Brand to know them
    • For many shoppers, social media is now a primary driver. In a recent global sampling by PwC, 78% of shoppers said that their shopping habits were influenced by social media (up from 68% in 2015)
    • Consumer views matter now more than ever, and their eagerness to share online is constantly growing
    • The shopping journey has changed and buying online needs to be seen as a set of stages. For many consumers, the process begins with a share on social media and ends with clicking a buy-button.

      Sir Richard Branson at NRF Big Show 2017
      Kip Tindell, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Container Store & Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
    • Retailers must invest time and care into their customers through social channels. Before, relationships with customers were private, and now they are public.
    • Consumer-shared, user-generated content is the holy grail of social communities. It helps foster strong customer relationships and has a huge impact on brand-trust and brand-loyalty
  • Retail Analytics. Harness, Visualize, and take Action on Your Data
    • Data is the new Oil
    • To survive in this Digital world, you must become data decision driven
    • Data is overwhelming. Find a way to visualize your data so everyone can see easily and quickly what is happening
    • Hire a Data Scientist. This is not Sci-Fi.  This is today’s world

And the best news.  Retail will Grow – in its new disruptive ways. Embrace change and get excited about new opportunities!