NRF 2020 Recap – Experience is Everywhere

By Kerry Young on Jan 17, 2020

That’s a wrap on NRF 2020! Retail’s BIG Show in NYC launched the global retail community into the 20’s (as it will soon be known), and really, the Tech 20’s as digitization imperatives confront legacy retailers even as they open new pathways for consumer driven commerce to emerge.

Let’s recap key takeaways from NRF 2020, along with our favorite moments shared with our partners and peers.

Big Ideas Session Highlights Gen Z

With 40,000 people in attendance, NRF 2020 hit record numbers – as did our standing room only Big Ideas Session, Gen Z and the Experience Economy: Experience Lifecycle Movement (ELM) for Growth.

This year I spoke on ELM as the next wave for digitally responsive and immersive retailing, building on my presentation two years ago at NRF, where the theme was on how Storeytelling (convergence of physical store visual merchandising with digital web presence and in-store augmented reality), would create an opportunity for the emergence of a Pokemon Go – type shopper experience.

This year, indeed, our panel included Carla Li of Niantic Labs (creators of Pokemon GO and other AR games) who shared insights on how the potential of real world AR gaming is being realized as revenue conversion lift at retailers, restaurants and malls.  On the Gen Z front, Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, highlighted how Gen Z has grown up with converged experiences and how the more digitally empowered platforms in China are migrating to North America in response to consumer demands for more immersive experiences from the experience economy.

3 Big Themes from the Show

1) Retail is becoming a C2B world with consumers in charge

Outgoing Chairman of NRF Chris Baldwin emphasized in his opening remarks that the retail industry has a thriving outlook due in large part to retailers’ investments in personalizing the consumer experience. Baldwin stated, “Retail is recognized as one of the most consumer-centric and innovative industries in the world today… We know that the majority of young shoppers like it when retailers speak to them personally. To do this, retailers are taking the lead in personalization, new technologies that will give the consumer even more power…it’s clear that we’re just in the very beginning of this revolution to give consumers more power.”

2) Employee engagement will be key to enhancing connection and personalization

Perhaps one of the more interesting trends to see is the growing importance of engaging employees in the consumer experience. Consumers still love to shop in-store, but want less transactions and more experiential moments.Starbucks President Keven Johnson discussed the importance of employees in strengthening human connections. Retail jobs are changing and employees are moving into jobs that enhance the customer journey – this requires the right technology to support employees and enhance that human connection.

Part of that connection means having the right goods at the right time for each customer: Starbucks uses “Deep Brew” technology that leverages AI and machine learning to more accurately manage inventory and adjust staffing for busy periods for better employee-customer engagement, which translates to more satisfied customers and higher average tickets.

3) Tech intensity is key to digital transformation, especially for Gen Z and younger shoppers

The consumer journey begins online, and the younger generation in particular wants to connect via social media and other highly-personalized digital channels. Meanwhile, stores know they need to be more experiential, but they also know consumers demand convenience and flexible order fulfillment options.

To keep pace, retailers must ignite their tech intensity, tapping into consumer data and incorporate those findings into developing the right products and promotions that bring channels together, including engaging consumer before they reach four walls of the store.

EnterWorks Highlights at NRF 2020

In addition to our standing-room-only Big Ideas session, EnterWorks’ highlights at NRF 2020 included Forrester Senior Analyst Sucharita Kodali presenting on Brand Authority in the B2B2C Product Vertical at the Harvard Club of New York City for our customer dinner, co-sponsored by Winshuttle and Pivotree.

We heard about AI and Robotic innovations from Steven Platt, Research Director of Northwestern’s Retail Analytics Council (RAC). Also presenting at this Annual Board Dinner was Coresight Founder and CEO Deborah Weinswig.

Our team visited with countless customers, prospects, partners, and peers at the EnterWorks booth – we loved having so many guests stop by to discuss their data management needs, including many that shared their musical talents by taking the Fender Stratocaster for a spin, which was featured as our booth giveaway.

As NRF 2020 comes to a close, the work of reinvention is just beginning. A pervasive theme at this year’s show was the fact that retailers must rethink and transform how they capture consumers who increasingly demand experiential moments from the retail world. In the Tech 20’s decade to come, having the right technology, including the tech related to key acronyms (AI, AR, VR, IoT, plus robotics) data-driven strategies, and a compelling experiential commerce vision will be crucial to making this new era of consumer-driven commerce a reality.

About the author

Kerry Young

Kerry Young joined EnterWorks in 2006 when Ennovative, Inc., the multi-channel publishing software company he co-founded, was acquired by EnterWorks. He directs EnterWorks’ operations and leads EnterWorks’ professional services and consulting organization, ensuring effective customer implementations and ongoing success. Mr. Young brings more than 25 years of technology and business management experience to EnterWorks, having served as CTO for a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, and earlier as VP, Information Technology for Marshall Industries, a $1.7 billion industrial electronics distributor. He previously managed information systems for a subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas Corporation. Mr. Young holds a B.S. degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and an M.B.A. from California State University Fullerton.

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