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Key Takeaways from NRF 2020


On the last day of NRF 2020, one thing is clear – retail is NOT dead (in a big way). After witnessing countless visionary ideas, dynamic partnerships, and game-changing technologies, we know retail is alive and well and undergoing a major transformation.

While many retail markets across the world have slowed, some almost stagnantly, the United States’ retail industry has become a beacon of hope. The NRF Show provided the perfect location for business, technology, and thought leaders from around to world to showcase solutions for the future of retail customers. 

Dumb retail is dying

It’s 2020 and it’s no surprise that if you aren’t learning about your client’s needs, taking advantage of the data available, and crafting your user experience – things don’t look good for you. Year-by-year, in-store retail continues to increase, albeit not as quickly as online. But retailers won’t be a part of that growth if they continue to be boring, non-unique, and unable to adapt.

At the show, Google featured several data-focused buy optimization and demand forecasting services, which will help retailers plan inventory and manage supply chains. Optimizing supply chain and predicting consumer buying behavior before they step foot in a store creates an even stronger value proposition for retailers. Instead of long waits and shopping around to find a product, Google is helping retailers create a low-engagement user experience that will drive brand loyalty.

Today’s consumers are expecting a retail experience crafted to their needs. Thankfully, with all of the data available to retailers, this is totally doable. Machine-learning will continue to provide the insight and outputs necessary to craft these experiences. For retailers who aren’t interested in adapting to the retail revolution, it’s going to be hard to compete.

Easy, fast, and convenient service – no excuses

One of the highlights of NRF 2020 was the emphasis on learning about customer behavior and trends and being adaptable to consumer needs. Particularly, retail experiences that took advantage of most of the major omnichannel use cases: endless aisle (either buy in-store, ship from e-commerce DC or buy in-store, ship from alternate store), buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), or buy online, ship from store (BOSFS). Consumers want a seamless experience from one channel to the next and the future of retail will center around creating a retail strategy utilizing multiple channels.

Front-and-center of the conversation at NRF 2020 was the BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) trend. Consumers are choosing BOPIS for several reasons. They want assurance that the items they want will be available when they arrive in the store. They also want a quick and seamless transaction experience online while still receiving the customer service that they have come to expect from in-person shopping. Additionally, 48% of surveyed shoppers used BOPIS to counter shipping fees, meaning that an extra $5 for shipping is driving them to choose a higher engagement shopping option.

Luckily, this provides a unique opportunity for retailers as well. 30% of consumers who pick up in-store will make an additional purchase when they pick up. Additionally, supply chain management is simplified and even improved to tailor the eCommerce experience and in-store experience into one. Because both locations are now pulled from one source, inventory management doesn’t need to be separate for online and in-store inventory.

It’s the “Me” generation, and personalization wins

Likely #1 on the NRF 2020 buzzword list is “personalization”. Blanket retail strategies won’t suffice as a means for growth anymore. Across the board, retailers are understanding the importance of one-on-one touchpoints with consumers. Online is the most realistic location to create these one-on-one connections and personalizing the experience to match each customer’s individual needs.

A global survey, conducted by IDC and commissioned by Precima, uncovered that 55% of shoppers prefer personalized promotions. The paradox is that 63% of millennials like when a website keeps track of their activities and makes recommendations to them while 58% of all consumers are increasingly skeptical about trusting technology. Retailers, marketers, and technologists need to find a solution in the personalization landscape that can create a unique experience for customers while also being conscious of privacy.

Big surprise: technology is key

There were notably several technologies centered around supply chain management as a resource to improve overall customer service. Zebra introduced their new EMA50 utilizing SmartSight, a solution centered around correcting mismanaged shelves to improve negative shopper experiences and decrease missed sales opportunities. Other technology-based solutions were focused on improving order fulfillment in warehouse operations as well. Improvements in supply chain technology will support continued growing expectations that consumers have multiple ways to shop and ensure products are available when they want them.

“Adoption of AI-driven intelligent automation in the retail and consumer products industries is projected to leap from 40 percent of companies today to more than 80 percent in three years” – The coming AI revolution in retail and consumer products, IBM & NRF.

Virtual reality and augmented reality made a return to the show floor. This year, however, we saw much more promise in VR technology to integrate into the existing retail infrastructure. Converging the online experience and in-store retail with augmented reality provides a unique opportunity. Consumer behavior has always been based on personal experiences shaping decision-making. With VR and AR, consumers experience how they can interact with products firsthand. This experience will continue to drive buyer behavior and demand for in-store retail experiences.

Get on board or get out of line

If you’ve given up on retail, you should check your own pulse. Retail brands that innovate, take advantage of technology and data, and drive demand through omnichannel strategy will never die. If the NRF 2020 show taught us anything, it’s that there is a bright future for both retailers and consumers. We will continue to see personalization, data, technology, and smart retail lead the industry toward new opportunities and growth.


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