How NRF is setting the stage for retail in 2020

Senior vice president for conferences Susan Newman highlights how the Big Show will help firms to execute their strategic visions for this year and beyond

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 10 January 2020
How NRF is setting the stage for retail in 2020

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.

What makes NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show an ideal platform for discussing the future of retail?
NRF’s Big Show brings together more than 38,000 retailers, vendors and industry experts from over 100 countries, and it’s the largest retail event in North America and the third largest in the world. It is produced by the world’s biggest retail trade organisation and offers conference sessions that focus on top-of-mind and forward-thinking ideas and solutions from globally recognised brands in the retail, technology and business sectors. 

Featuring multiple stages and floors at the Javits Center in New York City, NRF’s Big Show programme will offer a platform for experts, industry practitioners and speakers from retail and adjacent consumer-facing verticals to share contemporary ideas and actionable proof-points to help retailers win over consumers. The education programme will feature a high density of C-level leaders across multiple retail verticals, who will share successful strategies and provide battle-tested advice that retailers can use for themselves.

Can you tell us about the theme of NRF’s Big Show 2020? 
We want to show that retail is much more than just an industry; it’s a platform that empowers consumers, employees and communities. Our ‘2020 Vision’ theme will do that by reflecting the fact that the retail industry must aspire to clearly see, plan and execute strategies in a way that both predicts and creates its future. As the rules of retail are constantly being rewritten, we’ll outline why retailers must develop a dedicated vision that reveals new opportunities, establishes a clear route for innovation and improves their competitive advantage. 

Which transformative technologies can delegates expect to see at the show?   
We’re expanding the Innovation Lab this year. Here, we’ll see the newest technologies that are changing retail’s future. They will include the latest applications in artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, machine learning, facial recognition, robotics, 3D food printing and much, much, more.

Will you be adding anything new to the show for 2020?
Sessions will be structured around six pillars that support the 2020 Vision theme. The ‘business process’ pillar will allow delegates to explore how general automation, AI, machine learning, robotics and data analysis resources are becoming key enablers for retail success. Meanwhile, the ‘business models’ pillar will focus on the disruptive forces that will be felt by retailers as digital-first companies and start-ups seek to quickly fill the gaps left by heritage retailers.  

Delegates at the ‘partnerships’ sessions will hear why powerful partnerships continue to dominate retailers’ strategies as brands join forces to maximise their reach, or team up with unexpected players from adjacent industries to capitalise on their differing consumer expertise to elevate retail experiences and drive sales. In our ‘Customer Experience’ sessions, we’ll showcase why retailers need to engage consumers in unique and meaningful ways. As part of the ‘talent’ pillar, we’ll highlight the talent development and acquisition strategies that will help retailers to transform how their teams operate in the digital world. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, our ‘purpose’ sessions will discuss how retailers can boost their authenticity by going beyond simple transactions to prioritise corporate social responsibility and sustainability to emotionally connect with customers.

How do you think the retail sector will evolve in 2020 and beyond?
The retail industry is transforming to keep pace with changing consumer behaviour. It’s no longer just a matter of digital and e-commerce versus bricks and mortar; instead, retailers must evolve their operating model to meet consumers wherever they want to be met. This could be in physical stores, online, via social media or augmented and virtual reality. Modern retail aligns this philosophical transition across all touchpoints – from initial customer outreach to supply chain, the store and delivery. That’s why we’ve grouped our topics, speakers and brands into the six visionary pillars that the sector is evolving towards in 2020 and beyond. In 2020, NRF sees retail going through a sustained (r)evolution with innovative technology adoption, inventive business models and a new wave of consumer demand. 

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