Key takeaways from NRF’s BIG Show 2014

 Ian Rogers

Ian Rogers

National Retail Federation’s 103rd annual BIG Show broke records with 30,000 attendees, 500 exhibitors, and 120 educational sessions. As usual, all the hot topics on the minds of today’s retailers were on the agenda, as well as a broad range of diverse technology exhibits.

Leading retailers from across the country were present, with different business goals but a seemingly shared vision: improve the customer shopping experience across multiple channels—online and off. Here’s a rundown of some of the few key themes and notable technologies that came up time and again at this year’s show.

Omni-channel is retail

Omni-channel, omni-channel, omni-channel. It’s plainly evident that most retailers are concerned with how to provide a consistent service across all the channels they sell in. It is also clear that customers expect it; it goes without saying that mobile is mainstream from the explosion of new consumer apps and mobile-store associate tools, including POS, inventory look-up, and many others.

Omni-channel is not a concept anymore—it is retail. This new reality requires a major process and technology evolution. We can expect to hear more about how we move from a product company to a customer-centric company in the year ahead. This quest for customer centricity is driving retailers’ huge focus on data.

Data-driven marketing

Last year we noticed a significant shift in retailers’ focus on improving the way they collect, manage, and analyze huge amounts of dispersed data (i.e., Big Data) to understand their customers. This year that focus will sharpen on bringing that data to life through interfaces that make it easy to understand the customer. This improved customer insight will be used to boost patronization and better understand the return on marketing spend.

Single platform

Now that omni-channel has moved mainstream and in-store POS systems are commonplace, the burning question is, “What’s the next-generation POS system?” There is not a definitive answer at this point, but there is a growing momentum to leverage a single e-commerce platform. In fact, e-commerce platforms are being repositioned as “commerce platforms.” This should be a very interesting debate, as the traditional POS technology firms will be pushing back with their own approach. Along with this the debate comes the complex question of how much of the stores’ systems can be added in the cloud.


Innovation was the key buzzword of this year’s show. Whether it was discussed explicitly or implied in the presentations around personalization or mass customization; or being eco-friendly or using the power of crowdsourcing, we heard it over and over again. The nine themes presented by Ebeltoft Group were:

Retail Innovations

On the technology side, innovation came into play during discussions about the next generation of location-based marketing analytics tools. Serving up advertising via text messages to customers when they reach a proximity to your store has now morphed into something much more sophisticated. An example was the iBeacon technology by Apple.

Digitizing the store

There is a growing trend toward blending the digital and physical stores, which is going to result in some very exciting new store formats. Everything from simple digital displays, interactive screens, and hologram store greeters to the novel zero-inventory front of store design Hointer .

This is just a snippet of some of the big themes we noticed at NRF’s BIG Show. What were your takeaways? Tell us in the comments.

About ianr2013
Ian Rogers leads the Retail Practice at Slalom Consulting and is an accomplished business leader with 20+ years in Retail/Supply Chain Management, Portfolio, Program, and Project Management. Ian’s expertise comes from working in multiple countries (including Canada, UK, US, and China) and in multiple sectors including manufacturing and multi-channel retail (office products, mass merchandising, and lifestyle brands). Over the years Ian has worked with Fortune 500 companies as both a senior line leader and as a management consultant in Supply Chain and IT. This broad-based experience enables him to take a holistic view, thereby understanding the potential impact changes in one area of the business will have on other areas.

2 Responses to Key takeaways from NRF’s BIG Show 2014

  1. Kyle says:

    Great observations. I am currently working with a major retailers and many of these same topics are coming to the forefront. Were there any leading class examples given?

  2. Kyle says:

    Great observations. I am working within the marketing organization at a major retailer at the moment and I am hearing many of these very same topics being discussed and prioritized for the future. I was curious if you have seen any leading examples or cases where these principles have been put into practice?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: