5 Big Takeaways from Retail’s Largest Show

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The 2019 edition of the largest retail conference and expo in the world has passed. I’m proud to say I not only survived, I thrived.

NRF Big Show—the annual symposium of the National Retail Federation—took place last month at the Javits Center in New York and, as always, attracted upward of 40,000 people.

But while it’s possible for an event of such magnitude to make your head spin, it can just as easily make for a great opportunity to learn a lot about the state of retail and where it’s going.

And it was a great opportunity. By the time the three-day forum ended, I had gathered five main takeaways.

1 – Physical Locations Are Not Dead. Far from it, in fact. Retailers with a great brand, excellent marketing, a compelling assortment of products, a keen eye for innovation/technology, and best-in-class customer service are flourishing. They’re also investing capital in refreshing existing stores, and even more capital in opening new stores.

2 – Omni-Channel is Still Omni-Present. The industry has made a ton of progress in the last two to three years, and smart retailers continue to move rapidly to serve the customer exactly what they want—where they want it, how they want it, and when they want it.

3 – Personalization Comes Next. The race to provide a carefully tailored experience to retail customers is on. Whether online or in-store, a one-to-one approach is on the horizon. This is a heavy lift for marketers at retailers of all sizes and a big shift in strategy. However, the payoff will be massive for the retailers that can get there the fastest.

4 – Technology Solutions Must Possess Breadth and Depth. Retailers need to do their homework and choose wisely. It was clear that for lasting success, vendors need to be a natural extension of the retailer they’re working with. Specifically with technology, a day of reckoning is coming soon. It’s a very crowded space right now, so it will be “survival of the fittest” over the next several years. Retailers are hungry for depth and breadth in their technology solutions. It’s comforting to know that’s exactly what Domo delivers—a product that does everything well, and one that was made even better for the retail industry recently with the launch of the Domo Retail Suite.

5 – AI / ML / Predictive Tools Are Making an Impact. Some cool use cases are emerging quickly and showing real monetary value with advanced analytics. One big retailer talked about how they’ve managed to slash shipping costs ever since they adopted an AI-driven data management platform similar to Domo’s. Retailers big and small are leveraging data sciences more than ever to drive top-line growth, SG&A discipline, enhanced customer experiences, and operational efficiency.

All in all, it was another great experience at NRF Big Show. Retail is an exciting, rapidly changing industry, so I loved learning about what brands are doing to reach today’s shoppers, especially through technology.

I’m probably most interested to see if there will be an uptick in the number of companies that democratize their data. As more stores get spruced up or built, it forces more retail workers to interact directly with customers. Will they be put in a position to manage that responsibility well?

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