Best of NRF 2023: Top 10 Takeaways
NRF 2023 was one of the busiest in recent memory. While it was physically impossible to see everything, RIS News has you covered, with our comprehensive, curated take on the most vital retail news, trends, and sessions from Retail’s Biggest Show.
Below you’ll find the top takeaways from The Big Show 2023, presented in 10-not-to-be-missed highlights from keynote presentations, to session coverage and eye-catching booths, to the consumer product showcase, and NRF tech and research announcements.
What word encompasses this year’s massive turnout of retail executives, thought leaders, and technology providers — and what they have in store for the remainder of the year? Here’s what attendees had to say:
1. Keynotes Set the Stage for Action-Packed NRF 2023
Sunday, January 15
The conversation focused heavily on culture as the foundation that holds leadership accountable to actually delivering on inclusivity and diversity. Here’s what the panel had to say:
“The culture is the ‘who we are’ and ‘how we work,’ and the strategy is ‘what we do’ — those are natural compliments. We use the culture much more prescriptive as a guidepost for decisions we make in the business, both big and small.” — Hennington
“We design our store experience over building a deep connection with our guests. We are their happy place. These moments don’t just happen by chance. They happen because of our culture of care and core values of inclusivity. They run deep across 4,000 team members. When our guests feel seen, that brings more joy in their lives.” — Sylvester
“We spoke to local store leaders and had such an impactful conversation about how the target culture has impacted both their personal and business lives.” — Sheppert
“We asked them what are the sentiments when you think about working at Target, and they were a sense of family, connection, how we come together to accomplish different things. It captures the voice of the team.” — Hernandez
“You can't put culture aside even for a day or a moment,” said Cornell. “We know we have to embrace it each and every day. For every part of the organization, for our guests, and for our communities. It's not just something that just sits on the wall, but how we lead and how we run the business.”
2. Eye-Catching Booths
On the show floor there are always a few standout booths displaying dazzling tech to attendees. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was one example, packed with attendees checking out cutting-edge technology such as Just Walk Out by Amazon. The theme of the booth was unified commerce, and AWS had an array of physical and digital commerce innovations on display. Frictionless checkout was a big focus, including: Amazon One tech where shoppers pay with their palm; Just Walk Out, displaying how its store kits might work in a 400-3,000-square-foot space; and the Amazon Dash Cart, which allows shoppers to scan and item and drop it in the cart, exiting through dedicated lanes to be checked out instantly through their mobile app.
Immersive Retail was also featured, including how the company is achieving personalization through AR/VR, the metaverse, virtual try-on, live stream commerce, virtual stores, and more. Additionally, Amazon’s Buy with Prime direct-to-consumer offering for merchants’ own online stores was on display. The company just revealed the wide availability of its services and an upcoming integration with BigCommerce, the first e-commerce platform to integrate with Buy with Prime. Previously available to retailers by invitation only, Buy with Prime will be widely available to all U.S.-based merchants by January 31.
In summing up the project, Chambe praised the efficiency, accuracy, and speed that have emerged as a result.
First off, Chambe said, Anaplan’s technology has allowed Sephora’s teams to move from multiple sources into one single entry point, meaning all costs are added into the P&L. This means less work for the team and the ability to rapidly consolidate numbers in real-time. Forecasts are always updated and accurate as data points are connected, allowing for enterprise planning alignment and real-time P&L updates. Similarly, with no data reconciliation, there are fewer data discrepancies.
“You get your data right and your process right, and everything else gets better,” Chambe shared. “The job has changed for the finance team, which now spends more time talking with business partners and scenario planning and has won a lot of time. It has freed them up from data crunching and tying up numbers.”
The way consumers shop and behave has changed significantly since the pandemic — often in unexpected ways. One of the major benefits of Anaplan, according to Chambe, is the ability not only to do rolling forecasts, but to have multiple scenarios running at once without having to pause processes. The connected planning also allows for synchronization allocation models across stores, online, and through wholesale in the U.S. and Canada.
While the digital transformation has been enterprise-wide, the finance and IT teams have been particularly impacted. “Our CFO is constantly connected to the platform and can challenge the team,” Chambe said, adding that the company can now spend 60% of their time talking with business partners and preparing presentations rather than concentrating on the numbers.
When asked about creative ways to deal with excess inventory, Debicki told RIS that, "across the board, retailers leaned more heavily on data – social media trends, point-of-sale data, inflation rates, etc. – to inform their inventory decisions in this dynamic environment." In addition, retailers began to explore different pricing strategies they could leverage to boost margin dollars at different points of the year, including bundling less expensive SKUs for certain holiday promotions to try and limit carrying costs.
The Future of Drones
Coughlin noted that so many “smart” people told him he had to get rid of his stores. But he posed the question, what is a store? If a retailer is doing BOPIS, ship-from-store out of the back, is it a store? “It’s a static asset for us.”
He also touched on how Petco is in a 10-store pilot with Lowe’s to bring Petco products to their stores, and how the retailer is getting into insurance, veterinary care, and more. “We’re increasingly thinking about ourselves as a platform.” When discussing the overall business, he commented on saving the lives of pets and keeping them healthy: “Having that mission is a much more powerful unlock than I even expected.”
The Future of the Store
The pandemic forced retailers to re-evaluate the role of the store. From design considerations, to frontline staffing, to customer journeys, brick-and-mortar has undergone many changes in just a few years. Brands today know a robust, agile store strategy depends on tech investments, including comprehensive POS cloud systems, mobile-first solutions, and easy-to-use apps.
On Monday, during “Getting Real About Cloud POS and the Future of the Store,” Aptos VP of strategy, Nikki Baird met with Calvin Anderson, VP of global digital (Dickies, Smartwool, Altra) owned by VF Corporation, and Dylan Bruntil, global director of retail technology at New Balance to discuss how their cloud POS journeys have impacted operations, and shared their perspectives on the future of the store.
“If you're looking for a different experience and coming into a store you're going to get a more personalized experience,” Bruntil shared. “You're going to get really immersed in the brand. And that's really a differentiator between stores and channels. One of the things that we've been seeing throughout 2022 is our store traffic has double-digit increases over the year. This just goes to show that the store is very much alive.”
While the store is thriving, there’s still opportunities for technology to better cater to brick-and-mortar. “I think maybe technology in the physical space is like an awkward teen stage right now,” Anderson shared.
Data — and data gathering — is a huge part of this transformation. But retailers are still grappling with getting the balance right. “Consumers are starting to understand that their data is valuable, they know when they're giving it away,” Anderson said. “And so, in a perfect world, we would make it a very even trade, which is [to say] that I am taking your data exclusively to make your experience with us significantly better.” In this sense, technology can and should “ease the labor of the store experience and exchange” and lead customers to discover products they love.
Modernizing the Store With Mobile POS and RFID
Innovation Lab Participants
6. Consumer Product Showcase
New to the show this year, NRF’s Consumer Product Showcase featured 50-plus diverse small businesses showcasing products across multiple categories. The majority (84%) of the products were from minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, disability-owned or LGBTQ+-owned companies, with the aim to help retailers diversify their suppliers and connect with innovative products in categories such as food and beverage, fashion and apparel, beauty and home, and kitchen and pet.
This new exhibit also hosted a “Favorite Product” competition, offering retailers the opportunity to vote for their favorite product. RIS News witnessed the winners being announced and the excitement was infectious. Runner-up CordBrick won $10,000 for its weighted cord holder and first place went to Chica Beauty. The beauty solutions company took home a $15,000 cash prize.
Franchise pool service retailer Poolwerx is tapping Spryker to connect its digital and retail store experiences, enabling commerce across the full network. The platform includes a customer e-commerce portal, a franchise partner portal where they can manage their own products and orders, and an operator portal that provides increased visibility and operational capabilities across all channels.
Samsung unveiled a new edition of Samsung Kiosk solutions: Samsung Kiosk Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. The secure self-service tech combines a touch display with a speaker, printer, scanner, and payment solution. The technology will now also be available in Celeron i3, i5, and i7, as well as Windows Operating Systems (OS).
Computer-vision and artificial intelligence company Everseen has expanded its suite of products: Evereagle, Evershelf, Everstock, and Eversolve. The tech provides end-to-end computer vision AI for retailers from the checkout through the shop floor and the back of the store and beyond. Capabilities include increased insights for loss prevention and supported inventory management.
Cassida Pro has launched a split, open-air recycler, RevolAir SR-B1, that allows retailers to standardize and automate their cash operations at a lower cost. The patent-pending recycler enables session-based counting, packaging, and inventory recording of all on-site cash registers, tills and drawers, as well as cash storage like safes and change drawers.
Ottonomy.IO exhibited the Ottobot Yeti, an autonomous delivery robot capable of unattended deliveries. The robot can make multiple deliveries in a single trip, using four-wheel drive and four-steering wheels to enable a zero radius turn and navigate tight spaces.
Shekel Scales, a provider of weighing technology, recently launched a smart cart weighing solution that enables frictionless shopping, increased security, and legal-for-trade weighing for retailers. The solution weighs both fresh produce and packaged items.
More Tech Innovation
- Microsoft released a set of new features in Teams, Viva, and other Microsoft apps that will help support frontline workers amidst digital transformation.
- ACI Worldwide launched ACI Instant Pay, a real-time payments solution that enables merchants in the U.S. to accept online, mobile and in-store payments instantly.
- Locala announced Dynamic Commerce Areas (DCA), a geo-targeting tech that highlights areas where people are most likely to visit a store later on.
- Elastic Path launched Composable Frontend, which automates building modular, performant digital commerce front-ends customizable for brands’ specific needs.
- Epson released four new m-Series thermal receipt printers: the OmniLink® TM-m30III, TM-m30III-H, TM-50II, and TM-50II-H. They deliver enhanced connectivity in a compact enclosure.
- Veeve Inc., launched Veeve Connected Screen, an in-store personalized content delivery platform that combines aisle location in the store, promotional information, shopper identity, and loyalty with advertising, meal recipes, video, and more.
- Google Cloud launched a new shelf checking AI solution built on its Vertex AI vision platform. This gives retailers the ability to recognize billions of products to ensure in-store shelves are well-stocked.
- OnQ unveiled a new line of adjustable retail security brackets that promote sustainability in retail merchandising, enabling retailers to securely display phones or smart watches.
- Kore.ai launched RetailAssist, a conversational commerce assistant solution that enables retail and e-commerce companies to modernize, scale, and transform operations through self-service automation, personalization, and omnichannel fulfillment.
- Nexite, released its Connected Merchandise Solution, a module within the Nexite platform that delivers real-time customer journey analytics to help retailers increase in-store revenue and margins.
- Fluent Commerce announced the general availability of Fluent Big Inventory, which uses machine learning technology to intelligently process multi-source inventory data at scale to act as an inventory hub.