Best of NRF 2024: Top 10 Takeaways

1/16/2024

Editor's Note: This wrap-up is continuously evolving. Check back regularly for updates over the next week and subscribe to our free, weekly newsletter HERE for more information. 

This year’s “Big Show” lived up to its name. Even more bustling than last year’s event, a palpable come-back following a pandemic-prompted slowdown, The Big Show 2024 from NRF featured packed audiences eager to learn more about the latest tech advancements, partnerships, and innovations from across the industry. 

Below you’ll find retail’s most comprehensive recap of this influential event, presented across 10 key takeaways that showcase everything from eye-catching booths to keynote presentations to the latest tech innovations and research.

The running joke at this year’s event was that the term “artificial intelligence” was required for entry. Nearly every panel either focused on AI-powered innovation, or the discussions trailed into that topic of interest. 

Here’s a sampling of some AI-focused sessions that took place across the three days:

1. Keynotes

 

Sunday, January 14

 

Levi's Leadership Journey

NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Levi's Michelle Gass and NRF's Matthew Shay. Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography
NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Levi's Michelle Gass and NRF's Matthew Shay. Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography

On day one, excited attendees filled the keynote session hall to hear soon-to-be Levi’s CEO, Michelle Gass, in conversation with NRF president and CEO, Matthew Shay. 

While Gass’ official start date as the new Levi’s head might not be until January 29, 2024, the retail and consumer goods veteran has spent the last year learning the Levi’s ropes with outgoing CEO Chip Bergh. The transition period has included travel to 15 of the 110 countries where Levi’s has a presence, including three in Asia — a region where Gass sees immense opportunity and potential. 

During the keynote address, Gass outlined five key pillars of learning: the power of branding, being hyper-focused on the consumer, brand innovation; thinking like an omnichannel retailer, and the importance of purpose and values. 

Looking ahead, Gass says the focus will be on “rewiring” the business to be more agile and “faster than the market.” 

Gass attributes her understanding of branding, in part, to her tenure at P&G, a stint that taught her “to never forget a brand is one of your most important assets. And if you don’t have a strong brand, like the rest of it, it’s going to be really, really tough.” 

Heading up one of the world’s most renowned lifestyle brands is an exciting but daunting task, Gass explained. “It’s Levi’s. It’s the 501. That’s not going to change. It’s a beloved, iconic brand around the world. What an amazing opportunity to come here with all of this brand strength. But yes, we have to continue to invest,” Gass shared. 

On the topic of e-commerce versus in-store, Gass tapped into one of Big Show’s bigger 2024 themes: Omnichannel retail is the future. It was the potential to diversify and transform that first attracted Gass to Kohl’s, where she spent many years “rewiring” the retailer from a brick-and-mortar entity to operate as a “best-in-class omnichannel retailer.” Since 2013, Kohl’s e-commerce business has grown from less than $1 billion to $6 billion.

FedEx & CNBC

NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
FedEx CEO and President Raj Subramaniam & Sara Eisen Co-Anchor CNBC - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
FedEx CEO and President Raj Subramaniam & Sara Eisen Co-Anchor CNBC - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography

Next up, FedEx CEO and president Raj Subramaniam talked about smart supply chains, data-led innovation, and vendor/consumer partnerships. Taking to the stage with CNBC’s Sara Eisen, Subramaniam highlighted predictions that online retail sales were expected to reach an annual total of $8 trillion by 2026. 

“You’re all here because you want to take a larger share of that $8 trillion,” Subramaniam said. “You want to reach those 4 billion consumers and turn them into loyal customers. And you want to optimize your supply chain end-to-end and deliver a better, seamless e-commerce experience.”

Throughout the conversation, Subramaniam returned to the importance of data, analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning: “We combine the power of AI and machine learning with the capabilities of our physical network to create end-to-end digital solutions and an unparalleled experience for you and your customers. To put it simply, our mission is to make supply chains smarter for everyone.”

Monday, January 14

 

Earvin Johnson Brings Magic to the Business World

Magic Johnson
Earvin Magic Johnson. Credit: Shutterstock
Magic Johnson
Earvin Magic Johnson. Credit: Shutterstock

NRF is known for bringing in big celebrity icons with parallels to retail business to keynote the conference. 

This year’s headliner was NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who sat down with Walmart CEO and president John Furner to discuss the athlete’s transition from sports hero to entrepreneur and leader.

Johnson took the audience through his life’s journey, beginning with how he earned the nickname “Magic” after leading a high school basketball team to victory when it was picked to come in last. His fame continued to build during his time at Michigan State, where he helped the team win its first national championship in men’s basketball.

The lessons learned transcend basketball, however. He’s taken his success strategies to the business world, implementing them as chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, an investment conglomerate that provides high-quality products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities.

Johnson said achieving success has always been about mindset and attitude.

“I only hire the same type of people with the same type of focus,” said Johnson. 

There will always be challenges, posed Furner, who said that “sometimes incremental changes don’t work and you need to have a vision.”

For Johnson, that vision, particularly amid difficult environments like COVID, includes meeting with his leadership team and holding strategy sessions, with takeaways translated down to managers and then employees. 

“Everyone needs to be on the same page,” he said. 

To be future-minded is essential in business, according to Johnson, who said he’s always looking ahead in three-year increments. Within those three years, there needs to be self-evaluations to continue learning and improving, along with searching out mentors who can provide support and guidance. 

Fireside Chat: Dick’s Sporting Goods and NRF

NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Dick's Sporting Goods Ed Stack, Executive Chairman - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography
NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Dick's Sporting Goods Ed Stack, Executive Chairman - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography

Dick's Sporting Goods executive chairman, Ed Stack, joined NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay on stage for a fireside chat after being honored with The NRF Visionary Award. This award, presented annually to an outstanding retail leader, was given to Stack in recognition of his leadership of the largest omnichannel sporting goods retailer in the United States.

Stack held the positions of chairman and chief executive officer of Dick’s from 1984 through January 2021 and, under his stewardship, the company grew from two stores in upstate New York to achieving Fortune 500 status. 

Stack and Shay’s conversation centered on resilience and rolling with the punches in retail, emphasizing the importance of following your own heart. Citing the example of Dick’s House of Sport model — large, experiential 140,000 square-foot spaces that feature batting greens, climbing walls, golf simulators, and more. 

“[Wall Street] would say your store is too big,” Stack shared. “[House of Sport was] exactly the opposite of what Wall Street wanted us to do. And now they've seen what we’ve done, and they love that. So, follow your dreams and your thoughts of what you need, and don’t listen to Wall Street.”

The Dick’s leader also had to follow his heart — and faced extensive backlash — when, following the Parkland school shooting, the leader made the decision to cease selling certain types of weapons in Dick’s stores. With his explanation followed by applause, Stack emphasized how he believed it was crucial for the retailer “to really step up and make a statement,” despite the company losing $250 million in 2019 from the restrictions. 

How Ulta Beauty Is Tapping Tech

NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Ulta CEO Dave Kimbell and Melissa Repko, CNBC - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography
NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Ulta CEO Dave Kimbell and Melissa Repko, CNBC - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography

Ulta Beauty’s customers have an insatiable appetite for newness, from products to services, shared CEO Dave Kimbell during the keynote “Beauty Redefined: How Ulta Beauty Is Shaping How the World Sees Beauty Inside and Out.” 

From robots that do nails or robotic eyelash extension services, to vending machines that distribute samples, Ulta is trying innovative services that tap automation. 

“I’ll start by saying the human experience is most important for us at Ulta Beauty,” Kimbell said. 

That is the core, but Ulta tries to surround it with innovation across the connection between technology and digital and the human experience. He gave the mobile app as an example, where the retailer sees 50% of e-commerce sales. 

“AI has been a big area of focus for us, as I know it is for everyone in this room, imagining the possibilities of what comes next. We’re bringing that to life in the ways we personalize our communications and our experiences.” 

Ulta has an Ulta Beauty virtual chat capability fueled by AI, and elevated virtual hair try-on capabilities that tap Gen AI. 

“When we think of beauty innovation, it has to start with ‘how can we compliment, elevate, and highlight human experiences that happen, we think uniquely, in the Ulta Beauty environment?’”

2. Eye-Catching Booths

On the show floor there are always a few standout booths and technologies on display for attendees. For starters, robots roamed the city. 

Seen below: Apptronik in the Innovation Lab; Badger Technologies and Stop & Shop asked attendees to take a selfie with  #MartyTheRobot and donated 10 meals to the Stop & Shop School Food Pantry Program for each social post; and next door to the Javits Center at the Classic Car Club, Brain Corp unveiled its inventory scanning robot developed in collaboration with Dane Technologies.

Cooler Screens at Microsoft
Scenes from Microsoft's booth. Credit: Liz Dominguez
Cooler Screens at Microsoft
Scenes from Microsoft's booth. Credit: Liz Dominguez

Microsoft has become an increasingly popular tech provider within the industry, using its powerful infrastructure to support the innovative technologies of start-ups and emerging vendors that are shaking up the way retail operates. The Microsoft booth, therefore, featured several notable solutions, including Cooler Screen’s technology, which is bringing retail media to life in brick-and-mortar settings by leveraging AI and data science to identify marketing activation opportunities. Also, Capgemini’s demo of self-service POS systems with avatars that assist shoppers throughout the ordering process brought to life interactive AI. Additionally, 1MRobotics showcased its pick-and-pack autonomous store tech with nano fulfillment. Powered by Microsoft Azure, the technology resembles an ATM-like system for shopping.


The Amazon Web Services (AWS) booth was packed with attendees checking out cutting-edge digital and in-store technologies; partners, such as Infor; and Amazon services, such as Buy with prime and Amazon Today. One of the technologies displayed was Amazon One, where shoppers pay with their palm. It now features age verification to identify if shoppers are 21 and over, and was also showcased as a palm scan for food ordering kiosks that integrates loyalty card info immediately into the order. The Amazon Dash Cart was on display again — this year with a new map function allowing shoppers to search for products, and the cart will tell them the location in the store. Finally, RFID is hot again — AWS was showcasing how it’s using RFID tags on apparel items in a Just Walk Out by Amazon setting — the tag charges the shopper as they “walk out” of the store. 

Google Cool Booths
Google's Booth at NRF - Credit: Lisa Johnston
Google Cool Booths
Google's Booth at NRF - Credit: Lisa Johnston

Google’s sprawling booth had a host of (naturally) generative AI technologies for retailers to improve their customer and employee experiences, as well as streamline operations. Among the highlights on display included new features coming to Google Workspace to help employees more quickly complete tasks through the use of natural language. This includes things like providing summaries of long chat records, drafting suggested customer emails, developing spreadsheet reports, and building presentations. New LLM capabilities in the Vertex AI Search are designed to let retailers custom-tune an LLM to align with their product catalog and customer shopping patterns, while the Google Distributed Cloud Edge is meant to help retailers quickly execute their store operations while enabling real-time store analytics. 


When it comes to Samsung, people might typically associate the company with hardware or mobile devices. However, the tech giant also has an extensive retail media network, which they were eager to show off at their bustling booth. At Samsung's showcase, digital signage and interactive screens abounded. Some highlights included “Sam the Sommelier,” an AI-powered Digital Human designed by Samsung to help customers pick out wine. Users were invited to ask a question – “I’m having steak tonight, what wine should I buy?” and Sam would fire back recommendations for wine pairings based on past purchases. Sam can also upsell related products like cheese, dark chocolate, and more. Samsung also showed off a new pilot program, combining UHD Samsung Smart Signage Displays with a data-driven content strategy to drive shopper engagement at Chevron ExtraMile convenience stores. The customizable displays show location-specific details and data, such as quick poll results of customer candy preferences in particular geographies. 

Samsung Booth
Samsung's Booth - Credit: Maia Jenkins
Samsung Booth
Samsung's Booth - Credit: Maia Jenkins

3. Session Quick Hitters: Customer Experience & Strategy

 

How to Harness Data

Harnessing Data Session
Harnessing Data to Stay Connected to Consumers - Credit: Jamie Goodman

AI and generative AI were not only the biggest buzz words on the show floor, they made their way into many of this year’s session topics. During “Harnessing Data to Stay Connected to Consumers,” Brendan Witcher, VP, principal analyst, Forrester Research, interviewed panelists on how to tap gen AI and allocate marketing spend for the strongest connections.

Samir Desai, chief digital and technology officer at Abercrombie & Fitch Co., noted that gen AI feels like having more tools in their toolbox and Abercrombie is experimenting with using genAI to aid in the copywriting process. 

Scott Devlin, CIO, The Vitamin Shoppe, noted that as the company thinks about what AI can do, it has to be careful about what AI tells the customer in its space, and how it can put guard rails there. 

Sneha Narahalli, VP, head of product & UX, Sephora, said, “we’re very deliberate about what we can learn from every experience,” and is always looking for areas where they don’t know enough about the consumer, but could build an experience to learn more. 

The group talked about loyalty programs and customer data, with Narahalli cautioning, “It’s important to build experiences that don’t scream we want data from you.” 

Devlin noted The Vitamin Shoppe introduced “different ways to interact and earn points with the program [surveys, scavenger hunts, wellness goals]... all with the intent to understand more about the customer and have the customer interact with the program.” 

Desai shared that over the last 18 months, Abercrombie has been implementing a new customer data platform (CDP). Previously, channels were not sharing information, but now “with the CDP, we’re able to stitch together that data, and then the loyalty profile has a bit more capability and can deliver a better experience.”

[Want more on analytics and Sephora? Register now for Analytics Unite this May]

4. Session Quick Hitters: Digital Experiences

 

How AI-Powered Composable Commerce Is Supporting Wegmans and Five-Below’s Shopper Journeys

Composable Commerce Is Unleashing the Full Potential of Artificial Intelligence
Composable Commerce Is Unleashing the Full Potential of Artificial Intelligence - Credit: Liz Dominguez
Composable Commerce Is Unleashing the Full Potential of Artificial Intelligence
Composable Commerce Is Unleashing the Full Potential of Artificial Intelligence - Credit: Liz Dominguez

Retailers are flocking toward composable commerce in order to integrate various tech functionalities into their operations while keeping processes and information centralized and streamlined. 

During “Composable Commerce Is Unleashing the Full Potential of Artificial Intelligence,” panelists discussed the role artificial intelligence is playing in composable commerce, and why Wegmans and Five-Below have invested in composable platforms from commercetools to optimize their businesses. 

SVP of technology at Wegmans Food Markets Inc. Smita Katakwar said the company had two primary drivers for choosing composable architecture. First is flexibility in order to meet the changing dynamics of customer preferences. Composable tech is modular by nature, allowing Wegmans to create journeys and sub-journeys and free up developers’ time.

“Second is optionality,” said Katakwar. “We can create various customer interfaces utilizing the same engine. It makes the foundation for futuristic AI experiences very simple.”

Five Below’s VP of engineering, Paul Johnson, said composable tech allows the company to design custom experiences with limited resources, allowing them to connect several systems across the shopping journey and plug in capabilities as the tech infrastructure builds out.

“It's all about data and being able to test something quickly and determine if it’s something that will work — and moving away if it doesn’t,” said Johnson.

Building Next-Generation Seamless Commerce

Lowe’s has a history of digital advancement, having implemented tech like digital twins to better inform its business practices, and lately continuing to dive deeper to achieve seamless commerce. 

The company’s EVP, chief digital and information officer Seemantini Godbole recently tackled the subject during NRF’s “Advancing Next-Generation Seamless Commerce: A Discussion With Lowe's” session. 

NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Lowe's Seemantini Godbole at NRF - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography
NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Lowe's Seemantini Godbole at NRF - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography

“Five years ago, it left a lot to be desired from a technology standpoint,” she said, adding that the company has since been on a multi-year journey to elevate its digital initiatives.

“In omnichannel transformation, you need to think about overall associates and incentives. The whole company’s outlook has to change.”

A key component has been ensuring that the tech runs on a centralized system to keep operations running smoothly. 

“The same tech that runs our checkout in the store is the same tech that runs our website,” she said. 

Keeping data at the core has been essential too, Godbole added.

“Data can be used for multiple reasons, and lets us see if our dollar investments are paying off. It inserts a healthy dose of objectivity — it’s not my opinion anymore,” she said.

For example, a powerful use case for data-run seamless commerce includes gaining insight into why people are abandoning their carts. Is it the product descriptions on the website? Is it how checkout is structured?

Godbole does, however, warn that technological shifts occur every five to seven years, and so IT execs need to pay close attention, because when they try to scale technology, it’s easy to spread efforts too thin.

“You need to take your time,” she said. “You need really meaningful, under 10, use cases with true impact.”

5. NEW! Supply Chain 360 Summit

This year at the Big Show, a newly envisioned day-long program included informative sessions on supply chain strategies and tactics, plus a networking luncheon. The NRF Supply Chain 360 Summit was only open to retailers (and press) and required pre-registration and a separate fee.

Walmart’s Supply Chain Shake-Up

Jane Ewing, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability
Jane Ewing, Walmart’s SVP of Sustainability - Credit: Maia Jenkins
Jane Ewing, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability
Jane Ewing, Walmart’s SVP of Sustainability - Credit: Maia Jenkins

In the session, “The Reimagined Supply Chain Is Connected, Transparent, and Sustainable: Walmart’s Supply Chain and Sustainability Leaders Talk Shop,” Jane Ewing, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability and David Guggina, EVP of supply chain operations, provided insight into Walmart’s supply chain strategy and how sustainability contributes to more resilient and effective supply chains. 

In 2020, Walmart committed to becoming a regenerative company, focusing on putting nature and humanity at the center of its business practices. The approach involves a shared value approach, making decisions that benefit the business and all stakeholders, emphasizing ethics, integrity, and trust. Sustainability goals include addressing climate, nature, and waste, with a focus on decarbonizing operations, achieving zero emissions, and using 100% renewable energy. 

Within the supply chain, this touches on sourcing products through regenerative agriculture, ensuring sustainable ingredients, and collaborating with suppliers through collective action platforms. 

“If you think about a product, it can be all the way from the farm to the fork,” shared Ewing. “It starts with how we source the products that we sell. We have a sourcing team that works around the world to try and buy the best quality ingredients and ensure that they are sustainable. Whether that be buying through regenerative agriculture or commodities that are certified all the way through to whether the packaging is as efficient and sustainable as possible.” 

For Walmart, these goals not only involve integrating sustainability into every part of the business, it also involves giving back to the community. 

“It's more than just sustainability. It's about opportunity. It's about communities and the impact we have on those communities — and your ethics and integrity and building trust in doing the right thing,” Ewing shared. 

In terms of tech, the retail giant has expended significant resources in building out supply chain network simulation and emulation. 

“That way, we can test and see how our new software capabilities are going to interact with our end-to-end supply chain network,” Guggina shared. “We can see what putting an additional node on the map does to things like packages or order or distance traveled or speed capabilities in terms of how we serve our customers.” 

The company is also investing in robotics to enhance efficiency, automate repetitive tasks, and meet evolving customer demands. 

“Taking in large quantities of data processing and quickly conducting those repetitive tasks at high speed, with high levels of precision,” said Guggina, “allows our humans to do what we do: utilize our creativity, our empathy for one another.” 

Target Talks Stores As Hubs

During the session, “Boosting Last-Mile Capabilities and Next-Day Delivery: A Fireside Chat With Gretchen McCarthy, Target’s Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain & Logistics Officer,” McCarthy spoke about how Target keeps learning and trying new things, including the retailer’s stores-as-hubs strategy and growing sortation center network. 

Target kicked off its Drive Up curbside pickup journey ten years ago, added fresh and frozen grocery in 2020, and added returns and Starbucks last year. “What I love about these last two [capabilities] are those are small problems, but huge guest impact,” she commented. 

NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Boosting Last-Mile Capabilities and Next-Day Delivery - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography
NRF Big Show 2024 - Jason Dixson Photography
Boosting Last-Mile Capabilities and Next-Day Delivery - Credit: NRF Big Show 2024, Jason Dixson Photography

Now, Target is investing $100 million in the expansion of its sortation centers, which help drive speed, productivity, and cost efficiency to improve the customer experience. 

“The beauty of sortation centers is on one hand, they are removing both workload as well as physical space in boxes out of the backroom of our stores,” McCarthy said. The typical sortation center serves 30-50 stores. “We’re extremely excited about what sortation centers can unlock,” she said. 

When Jon Gold, VP, supply chain and customs policy, National Retail Federation, turned the conversation to automation, McCarthy said one piece of automation Target is currently implementing that she’s really excited about is automation to simplify the store unloading process. Target is using automation to allow the stores teams to unload trailers safer and more efficiently, which gets product on the shelves faster. 

“Unloading that trailer is one of the most disruptive things that teams have to take on each day.”

Finally, McCarthy touched on sustainability and that it’s “one of the hardest problems we will face in our supply chain careers.” 

“So, I'm optimistic,” she said, “but I’m also very pragmatic. And I would encourage all of us to be really leaning into those conversations and problem solving and figuring out how [to go about sustainability]. 

Retailers: Interested in joining the League of Leaders, an exclusive gathering of like-minded retail and consumer goods executives tackling industry-wide challenges like sustainability? Email RIS News editor in chief Jamie Goodman at [email protected]

6. Innovation Lab

Held in the River Pavilion — just outside the new Supply Chain 360 Summit — the Innovation Lab featured a wide range of retail tech startups that are carefully curated by show organizers. Companies are selected based on several criteria, including solving problems of utmost importance to retail, serving retailers across the commerce journey, and helping represent the broad tech spectrum. 

Here’s a snapshot of just a few of the standouts: 

ARHT: Holograms are the future of immersive and interactive retail storytelling! This technology can capture and display realistic holograms that can be transmitted in more than one location at a time. 

Zenlytic: Ask and ye shall receive: The goal of this business intelligence AI tool is to enable retailers to more easily consume data. Users are provided quick insights upon asking natural language questions to speed up decision making. 

Fox Robotics: The Austin-based tech startup developed a self-driving autonomous forklift that is specifically designed to unload and load trailers. Intended for large retail and/or food and beverage companies, they’re primarily meant for shipping receiving docks or in high-volume distribution centers.  

Ownit.ai: The goal of this technology is to help brands reach the top of Google search results by doing something most currently aren’t: answering shoppers’ questions. It leverages generative AI to expand simple product detail pages into robust content experiences that provide contextual product information. 

Trollee: These smart shopping carts use AI to not only improve the customer experience, but also to help retailers solve perennial pain points like inventory management and fraud. It uses computer vision for product identification, side cameras for shelf inventory management, and contextual digital advertising and a multichannel ad platform to help create and manage campaigns. 

Arianee: These digital product passports use QR codes to help luxury brands turn their products into engagement platforms. Data is created for each product, which is then transferred to the owner — rather than owners transferring their data to the brand. This paradigm shift puts the user in control and lets them prove they’re the product owner when it’s time to transfer it to someone else. 

Zero10: Heavily geared toward apparel companies, this company leverages immersive augmented reality to help retailers enhance the customer experience. The company said it’s already working with major brands like Disney and Nike. 

Treet: This branded resale solution is designed to help brands think outside the traditional secondary resale market to instead control their own resales — as well as their branding — through a range of customized programs. 

LiquiDonate: Turn the problem of excess inventory into someone else’s benefit: This technology integrates with a retailer’s inventory management system to move excess inventory and customer returns to a local nonprofit or school. It also works with a Shopify app so retailers can both sell and set up parameters for donations. 

7. Retailer Deployments

The Paper Store and The Vitamin Shoppe are leveraging a unified promotions solution from Jumpmind that provides a single engine and authoring tool to streamline multi-channel workflows. The centralized hub includes a campaign builder with reusable templates and the ability to stack promotions and build in exclusions and inclusions. They can release promo codes on-demand and tap a “best deal” promotion algorithm to highlight the lowest price items according to qualifications across all active promotions. 

Victoria’s Secret & Co. is working with Google Cloud in a strategic, multi-year partnership that taps into generative AI technologies to create more personalized and inclusive online shopping experiences for customers. Using Google’s Vertex AI solution, Victoria’s Secret will leverage conversational chatbots that provide consumers with personalized product recommendations and advice based on their lifestyle and needs. VS-owed Adore Me has already used Google Cloud’s Vertex AI platform and Duet AI for Google Workspace for generative AI efforts.

Allbirds is working with Sensormatic to enhance Allbirds' customer experience through RFID-enabled inventory accuracy. Allbirds selected Sensormatic's inventory intelligence solution to improve item-level inventory tracking between warehouses and stores, enabling future omnichannel execution. The footwear brand selected Sensormatic’s inventory intelligence solution to help improve item-level inventory tracking between warehouses and stores and enable future omnichannel execution.  

Zenni Optical migrated to the world's only end-to-end AI Search and Discover platform, Algolia, streamlining customer data and improving search functionality, leading to a 34% increase in revenue. Algolia's cloud-hosted AI Search platform allows customers to browse Zenni Optical's extensive eyewear catalog seamlessly while ensuring customer data is secure. 

PriceSmart announced they are utilizing the newly expanded capabilities of RELEX, allowing it to enhance and automate its promotion and pricing strategies, helping to improve the management of fluctuations in global currency changes. Before integrating these capabilities, PriceSmart relied on RELEX for advanced replenishment, promotion, and forecasting across its network of clubs. 

Trigo and Netto Marken-Discount (Netto) have collaborated on the world's first end-to-end frictionless full-sized grocery store in Regensburg, Germany, generating real-time receipts. This hybrid store includes Trigo's EasyOut system, permitting consumers to select items and leave with them without going through checkout, leveraging AI technology to review, approve, and pay for items before leaving the store. 

Jumpmind has deployed its cloud-native, mobile-first POS and CX Connect customer engagement solution within Build-A-Bear Workshop's 450-plus retail store locations worldwide, providing associates with the tools to enhance customer engagement. The rollout is completed within locations in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. and will expand to additional geographies throughout 2024. 

Brookshire Grocery Company incorporated Logile's retail labor planning and workforce management (WFM) solutions into 209 retail stores in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma and their corporate offices. The tools are currently being integrated into their distribution centers and warehouses, and store execution management will be the final phase of the implementation. These new solutions will support forecasting, staff planning, labor standards and modeling, budgeting, employee scheduling, time and attendance, mobile employee self-service, and store and task execution management. 


Learn More About Logile


Adroit Worldwide Media and Choice Market are embarking on an exclusive partnership to incorporate frictionless technology to scale its automated Mimi-Mart format within EV charging destinations, hospitality properties, festivals, campuses, and multi-family developments nationwide. The collaboration will supply consumers with a seamless and technology-driven shopping experience and accelerate Choice's rollout of digital integrations highlighted by disrupting functionality. 

Zebra Technologies Corporation is helping Office Depot achieve greater operational efficiency by integrating Zebra Workcloud software and mobile computing solutions. By integrating Zebra's Workcloud Task Management and Scheduling software, Office Depot has streamlined scheduling to align schedules with customer and store needs, reducing scheduling time from three hours to 30 minutes a week and saving 6% in payroll annually. 

Leslie's is incorporating the UKG Pro Suite into their HR practices, allowing employees within its 1,000 retail stores nationwide to focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences. UKG solutions help Leslie's employees with recruiting and onboarding, including benefits administration, schedules, learning tools, performance reviews, real-time access to pay information, and HR service delivery.  

8. Tech Announcements

Celerant Technology announced new advancements, coming soon, in artificial intelligence. Celerant’s AI Content Suite includes tools to generate on-site content in a fraction of the time, directly posting it to the website and social platform; create optimized and detailed product listings and category pages by giving the AI suite basic attributes about merchandise; and monitor and respond to product reviews in a timely manner. The content suite can also help generate email responses for customer service reps, and social posts which can be directly posted onto the platform.

Constructor announced its new AI Shopping Assistant (ASA) conversational product discovery tool. Powered by transformers, ASA blends generative AI with Constructor’s AI-based personalization technology. Shoppers can explain what they want in long-form natural language, or have a conversation, when they engage with ASA on e-commerce sites and apps, and then receive recommendations personalized to their preferences, history, and intent — and reflective of real-time inventory.

Composable commerce platform commercetools launched Foundry, a platform that allows CG and retail companies to scale CX. The company taps AI-powered assistants and provides businesses with a composable commerce journey that delivers documentation, API-doc updates, and implementation details.

Manhattan Associates rolled out its Fulfillment Experience Insights dashboard to give retailers a real-time assessment of how their omnichannel fulfillment performance compares to others in the industry. Fulfillment Experience Insights provides continuous benchmarking of fulfillment performance, letting retailers know how they stack up compared to a large pool of peers and competitors. Included in Manhattan Active Omni, the new capability gives visibility into digital order fulfillment KPIs like store pickup conversion, shorts and abandonment, and time to fulfill.


Tech in Action at NRF!


Eagle Eye has launched a modular, customer-centric data science solution for the retail and grocery segment that is powered by artificial intelligence. EagleAI will allow companies to optimize their promotional spending and enable one-to-one engagement via machine learning- and AI-powered personalization.

Interactive, AI-powered bitHuman provided NRF attendees with information throughout the conference with nine life-size interactive service agents (eight at the entrances and one at the booth). The real-time demonstration featured human-like characters on large screens that engaged in personable interactions by leveraging generative AI.

Brain Corp has launched a retail inventory analytics platform that analyzes inventory data captured by autonomous mobile robots. The company also launched Dane Air, an inventory scanning robot developed with Dane Technologies. These two technologies work together to automate the inventory process with robots and AI to reduce losses from out-of-stocks and issues with pricing discrepancies. The tech includes navigation through store aisles, advanced sensors for inventory capture, automated docking and charging, and more.

Aptos announced its Aptos ONE solution will add the following capabilities in early 2024: Aptos Store Inventory Management (SIM); Aptos Universal Promotions Manager; and more flexible payment partner integration. Aptos also now supports Tap to Pay on iPhone powered by Aptos ONE and Adyen.

5G solutions provider Cradlepoint has released its E100 5G Enterprise Router, which helps support retail and small office applications like POS, video surveillance, inventory management, and IoT. The tech provides reliable connectivity and network protection from external threats. 

In-store traffic analytics provider Kepler Analytics has added a new Surrounding Active Shoppers metric to its Exterior Traffic Toolkit. This allows retailers to measure and grow their share of active shoppers within a 150-foot radius compared to competitors. The real-time feedback allows retailers to obtain a holistic view of the shoppers’ journey.

Supply chain solutions provider Blue Yonder has released its largest product update in the company's history, launching a set of interoperable solutions across the entire supply chain — from planning to warehouse, transportation, and commerce — delivered on the company’s Luminate Cognitive Platform. Blue Yonder launched a set of cognitive solutions for retailers, including Cognitive Merchandise Financial Planning and Cognitive Demand Planning. Other solutions and offerings include Forecasting for Retail, Replenishment for Retail, Intelligent Allocation, Workforce Management, Commerce, Warehouse, Transportation, and Logistics Network — and more are set to be generally available in Q1.

Shekel Scales unveiled Sentinel, an easily retrofitted loss prevention in-store product geared towards scan-and-go retailers, improving self-shopping checkout security while decreasing shrinkage and labor costs. The product transforms existing retail shelving infrastructure through high-definition load sensors and an AI-driven security module to detect and analyze interactions between customers and products, ensuring items removed from shelves correspond with what is being scanned by customers. 

SAP SE has announced new AI-driven capabilities, providing retailers with true end-to-end retail solutions with data analysis and holistic customer insights. The latest SAP Business AI technology capabilities include predictive demand planning for accurate, longer-range demand forecasts, predictive replenishment for enhanced fulfillment efficiencies, order management for sourcing and availability for robust sourcing strategies, and order management foundation to create reactive omnichannel order flows. 

Revionics unveiled a new GenAI-powered chatbot, targeted for release in Q1 of 2024, that leverages a retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) system to provide accurate responses in seconds. Additional GenAI chatbot investments are planned throughout 2024, with later phases integrating analytics capabilities and advanced data mining. 

ProGlove expanded its software capabilities by introducing Advanced Scanning and MARK Basic multi range software features, addressing critical production and assembly-line issues. A flexible range scanner, the MARK Basic multi range uses advanced scanning modes and configurable feedback to increase productivity by up to 20%. Part of ProGlove's INSIGHT Visibility software solution, Advanced Scanning includes continuous scanning that captures multiple barcodes continuously, transmitting up to 10 scans per session. 

Lexmark unveiled its Engagement Automation Platform (LEAP), a new connected retail solution that drives foot traffic and retail sales through hyper-localized social media ads. The platform automates one-to-one promotions and allows store associates and merchandisers to create hyper-personalized posts or boost ads based on inventory while highlighting loyalty offers to their customer base. 

With the payment terminal industry expected to climb to over $57 billion by 2030, Castles Technology introduced new cloud-based products harnessing Android payment technology, streamlining transaction acceptance for various retail settings. These products include the S1F2, a secure payment acceptance device that speeds up the transaction process; the S1E2, which combines payment acceptance capabilities with inventory management functions; the S1P, a PIN pad that effectively guides the customer through their transaction; and the S2L, which features a large touchscreen that prominently displays payment and marketing messaging for the customer. 

bitHuman showcased nine life-size interactive service agents at NRF 24: Retail's Big Show, allowing participants to interact with hyper-realistic AI agents to answer basic questions concerning the schedule of events, the location of booths, and other event logistics. Retailers can deploy these personable AI agents to aid onboarding and additional employee training. 

fabric has unveiled the industry's first commerce platform with native OMS, delivering commerce services like dropship while simplifying order management and real-time inventory for omnichannel retailers. The new platform combines shopping and fulfillment to provide customers, store associates, and service agents with accurate order and inventory data for a heightened customer experience. 

commercetools introduced commercetools Foundry, combining composable technology with commercetools' experience with partners like Woolworths, River Island, and Bang & Olufsen to unlock the full potential of composability. This seamless compostable commerce adoption program helps B2C retail businesses expedite composable commerce, providing them a competitive advantage and opening future opportunities. 

Jabil has unveiled a newly expanded center of excellence in Chihuahua, Mexico, to enhance its digital commerce capabilities by developing, manufacturing, and designing warehouse and retail automation solutions. The new center provides customers with over one million square feet of regional production capacity and greater access to robotics, process automation, AI, and additive manufacturing. 

Jumpmind unveiled its new unified promotions solution, Jumpmind Promote, delivering promotions intuitively to streamline execution. Promote operates within a centralized hub, allowing promotional teams to build, launch, and execute campaigns across various channels. 

Zebra Technologies Corporation will improve retail offerings for The Modern Store by Zebra, supporting retailers as they tackle pressing operational challenges through comprehensive services and an ecosystem of over 10,000 partners in 100 countries. The blueprint for the store is continuously evolving due to retailers' needs while retaining the agility to adapt based on future market conditions. 

WorkJam unveiled three new products. The new offerings include Site Coach, a digital dashboard tailored for frontline employees; Analytics Insights Reports, an enhancement of WorkJam’s current reporting features; and Extensive Audit Capabilities designed to improve task management. These new additions integrate into WorkJam’s core technology, enhancing the WorkJam super app. 

MangoApps unveiled the new Onboarding Task Management feature that will complement its existing employee experience offerings, enhancing employee onboarding. Enhancements include automated task assignments based on user profiles, interactive call-to-action tasks, customizable task templates, bulk management, auto-run and expire features, and intuitive onboarding widgets for employees and supervisors. 

SmartSense by Digi introduced its new SmartSense SmartTag Sensor. The ultra-low-profile environmental sensor is designed for applications requiring real-time location and condition monitoring of mobile assets and inventory in transit. SmartTags collect and broadcast location, temperature, humidity, light, and shock data via a ubiquitous cellular connection to the SmartSense platform. The small form factor, equal in size to a credit card, and long battery life enable use case flexibility and ease of deployment.

9. Vendor Partnerships

SymphonyAI and Microsoft are collaborating to deliver next-generation AI software applications through Microsoft Azure OpenAI Service, providing rapid, in-depth insights to increase productivity and efficiency for retailers and CPGs. Combining predictive and generative AI capabilities with retail-specific LLM capabilities provides secure insight into customer datasets and linked external sources, allowing retailers to make informed decisions faster. 

Cooler Screens, a platform Microsoft is investing in that powers in-store retail media and merchandising, launched CoolerX, which uses data science and AI for precise marketing activation in stores. Also developed in partnership with NVIDIA, the technology uses an “intent engine” to gather data such as consumer behavior, contextual signals, and first-party retailer insights to create targeted, personalized recommendations. The platform doesn’t gather consumers’ personal data but rather uses algorithms that are built for the anonymous nature of brick-and-mortar shopping.

Legion Technologies has integrated SAP SuccessFactors solution within its award-winning Legion WFM, allowing businesses to streamline employee lifecycle management. Utilizing intelligent automation, Legion WFM, now available on the SAP store, leverages AI and data science to enable companies to strengthen internal processes to enhance employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and overall operations. 

Lightspeed Commerce is partnering with Linnworks worldwide on the first ePOS integration, helping to reduce costs and automate processes for accelerated business growth. This collaboration allows Lightspeed to act as an efficient ePOS plug-and-play solution for Linnworks, simplifying multichannel selling and providing retailers with the tools necessary to scale their business.  

Mashgin and Keyo have partnered on an AI self-checkout experience that leverages Keyo's contactless pay-by-palm technology to allow customers to pay with a simple wave of the hand. This integration eliminates the need for phones, credit cards, or wallets, reducing the total transaction time by 15% to 30% compared to conventional payment methods. 

Placer.ai and Esri are collaborating on new advanced geospatial analytics, leveraging consumer behavior analysis capabilities for site-specific and trade area intelligence. This collaboration will help unlock additional features that will benefit commercial and retail property operators to help support more effective decision-making and improve business performance. 

Jabil and Revoult have collaborated on Revolut Reader, allowing merchants to securely accept in-store or on-the-go payments. The lightweight and affordable pocket-sized reader offers instant transactions using debit and credit cards and mobile payments such as Apple Pay, Google Play, and Samsung Pay. 

SAS has launched the SAS Intelligent Planning Suite, powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), maximizing outcomes through the use of SAS Demand Planning, Assortment Planning, and Demand Planning. Users can employ AI-generated suggestions to ensure items are stocked in the appropriate locations. 

Diebold Nixdorf rolled out its new AI-based checkout solutions that mitigate the most common sources of loss at self-service and traditional POS checkouts. In conjunction with Diebold Nixdorf's current AI-based solutions, the new Vynamic Smart Vision I Shrink Reduction is powered by SeeChange's AI and machine learning cloud platform and will help retailers innovate while avoiding duplicating efforts. 

10. Studies & Reports

NCR Voyix Corporation unveiled its first Digital Commerce Index, which discovered that 43% of consumers prefer self-checkout over traditional grocery, dining, and fuel convenience checkouts. Fifty-three percent of younger shoppers (18 to 44) preferred self-checkout due to speed, shorter lines, and increased privacy, while older shoppers (45 to 60-plus) opted for traditional checkouts due to purchasing more items and feeling conventional checkout lanes are less time-consuming. 


More About NCR Voyix


Ernst & Young’s inaugural Consumer Products and Retail Executive Pulse, which surveyed over 250 retail and CPG executives, found that 53% of leaders say economic and inflationary pressures, as well as keeping pace with constantly changing consumer preferences, are among the top three pressures keeping them up at night. Another 51% say profitability and margin pressures are a major source of anxiety. In response, and to create more value across the business, 99.6% are experimenting with GenAI in some capacity, and 91% are looking into alternative revenue streams.

Return policies can make or break loyalty. According to SAP’s new Emarsys Customer Engagement study, which surveyed over 2,000 shoppers in the U.S., 72% of shoppers show greater loyalty to retailers who offer free returns. Eighty-eight percent, in fact, have stopped shopping with a retailer because of a paid returns policy being introduced. Getting it right the first time is a priority, according to 60% of consumers, while 54% prefer not to return items. 

Retailers are shifting how they meet consumer expectations, but are the strategies effective? According to a report from SOTI, “Techspectations: Consumer Demand for Digital Transformation in Retail,” 94% of U.S. consumers have used in-store tech, but many feel the devices worsen the shopping experience. Meanwhile, 69% of consumers say tech like self-checkout has insufficient staff assistance, and 48% reported issues with inadequate Wi-Fi connectivity.

ProGlove's "Leadership Insights for Retail Warehouse Management" report highlights that one in five respondents (19.3%) were dissatisfied with their current automation initiatives, emphasizing the opportunity for optimization in the automation space. Surveying over 1,000 retail management executives, the study suggests that automation technology remains challenging for 15.6% of leaders, and 14.6% struggle to integrate mobile commerce platforms. 

Examining how the present climate has impacted retention decisions within the retail workforce, Lotis Blue Consulting released the third edition of the "Lotis Blue Future of Retail Workforce Study" report, highlighting that 60% of retention decisions relate to company, leadership culture, or work environment. Using the Employee Value Proposition (EVP), the study found the current environment may have caused a decrease in turnover but a 7% increase in associates considering leaving their current positions, underlying possible job dissatisfaction among many workers. 

In partnership with Toshiba Global Commerce SolutionsIncisiv surveyed U.S., Canadian, and Latin American retailers for its "2024 State of the Industry: Innovation in Retail" report, exploring opportunities for innovation to reshape customer experiences and operations. 65% of retailers in the U.S. and Canada view leadership as committed to innovation, including transformative trends like AI and generative AI. Still, only 3% consider themselves leaders compared to cross-industry leaders like digital retailers and technology firms. 

NewStore, in collaboration with commercetools and ChangeCX, unveiled the results of its 2024 Omnichannel Leadership Report, assessing over 600 retail brands across 10 countries for a comprehensive worldwide snapshot of omnichannel retail technology adoption. The report highlighted that brands are investing more in online experiences, but even with the global popularity of mobile, only 32% of brands worldwide offer a dedicated shopping app. The average score for retailers assessed was 43 out of 100, shining light on potential opportunities for improvement in omnichannel technology adoption. 

Capgemini released the third edition of the Capgemini Research Institute’s Consumer Trends Report, which aims to give business leaders key insights that will deliver a competitive edge. The report highlighted that 33% of American consumers plan to reduce discretionary spending compared to 39% in 2022  and 27% of U.S. shoppers are aware of the use of generative AI while shopping and have used it already. In addition, more than half (71%) of millennials in the U.S. have bought products from organizations that are perceived as sustainable. 

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