NRF 2020 Recap: Retailer Takeaways and Trends
The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Big Show 2020 kicked off on Sunday, Jan. 12 at the Javits Center in New York. This year’s event attracted a record-breaking 40,000 attendees, 16,000 retailers and 800 exhibitors. Sunday conveyed two vital messages summing up today’s state of the retail industry message, “It’s very healthy, and retailers are eager to discover technology-driven innovation to drive growth in a dynamic market,” reported Progressive Grocer. Additional NRF 2020 Big Show takeaways, trends and highlights include:
NRF Chairman Christopher Baldwin, chairman and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club opened the show Sunday with promise saying retail is thriving and winning. He also pointed out that 83 percent of consumers say convenience is more important to them today than it was back in 2015. “… And all of this translates to more power for the consumer … Today, the largest retailers in the world will bring your purchases to the curb for you,” said Christopher. “They’ll shoot virtually anything to your home. They’ll also have it there today or the next day – and, of course, all of this is done with free shipping. The new consumer power is felt in every area of this great industry,” he added.
According to the NRF, “63 percent of consumers say retail technologies and innovations have improved their shopping experience on mobile devices while 66 percent said they have done so in stores and 80 percent online.” Bed Bath & Beyond Chief Value Optimization Officer Barrie Carmel suggests leveraging social media, email marketing and other digital tools to meet customer demands – for example, Bed Bath & Beyond now offers digital coupons and discounts to their mobile app. Retailers like Under Armour, Rite-Aid and Albertsons Co. are leveraging Adobe Experience Cloud applications to enhance customer experience as well as assist with digital transformation. “Adobe is at the forefront of empowering brands to better understand their customers and deliver impactful experiences in real-time and at scale,” shared Michael Klein, Head of Industry Strategy – Retail, Travel & CPG – for Adobe Systems.
From environmental and sustainability enhancements to improving the customer and employee experience, Starbucks is doing it right. On Monday morning, CEO Kevin Johnson spoke with Fast Company’s Editor in Chief Stephanie Mehta, reminding attendees, that “… as human beings, we were meant to interact with one another. It’s how we get energy. It’s how we get support when we’re dealing with adversity. It’s how we share joy and successes in our lives. I think one of the common themes going forward is finding ways to create human connection. Human interaction. The world needs that.” By using technology, employees can focus more on customers and spend less time on typical tasks such as inventory or scheduling. Kevin added that from the start, the company’s mission has been to “inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote address pointed out how tech intensity continues to rule retail and the importance of gathering and using the best data possible. He pointed out how Home Depot is successfully using its data to create new opportunities for both customers, brands and suppliers. Retailers with winning e-commerce business strategies and retailer/supplier partnerships are doing it right. “We have to change the dynamics … [retailers] have the real data,” said Satya. “The data, used effectively, will reshape business models. The question is, how can you, through your marketing efforts, convert that into effectively new online advertising channels that could benefit every brand, every supplier,” he added. “This, to me, is perhaps what’s needed to reshape retail.”
According to the NRF, “retail supports 1 in 4 American jobs” making retail the largest single-sector private employer in the U.S. “There’s no better investment you can make than in the people you have on your team, who are serving the people that are paying you to be there,” explained Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner on Sunday morning. Over the years, Sam’s Club increased pay raises, worked with team members to find and fix pain points, and integrated technology assist employees with laborious tasks. “The work that we do does matter,” he said. Drawing on his own experiences and early days in the garden center at a Walmart store, John added, “I realized that serving people and making their lives better made a real difference. Our role, leading big organizations, is to make sure our teams have the resources, the clarity and really a whole system and process around them to make the environment work, so they can feel successful.”
Oscar-winning actress and entrepreneur, Gwyneth Paltrow closed out NRF with an honest deep dive into the roadblocks and challenges she experienced turning Goop, a newsletter she started back in 2008, into a lucrative brand worth $250 million. “I wish I had been bolder about asking questions,” she shared of her early struggles. “For example, when you migrate from one e-mail service provider to another and you don’t know to ask questions around warming an IP or questions around ‘Are we sending the right portion to the most engaged people first.’” She went on to admit that owning and learning from her mistakes was “invigorating.” After five or six years, her efforts began to pay off. According to Gwyneth, Goop’s contextual commerce—its focus on women’s “optimization of self” and good content—made the brand what it is today. Goop has transformed into a 300-employee strong, multilayered powerhouse. It’s an e-commerce site with physical stores in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, a popular podcast, and now a six-episode Netflix series.