4 key takeaways from NRF 2020
ZigZag were delighted to back exhibiting at NRF 2020 Vision, the world’s largest retail expo, to showcase how its award-winning SaaS platform is transforming the returns experience globally. For three content-packed days, ZigZag’s stand stood amongst a 38,000 strong-crowd of industry professionals representing 16,000 retailers. Here’s just some of the lessons we gleaned from this monstrous retail conference.
Data Privacy v Convenience
To paraphrase a wiseman, in the shape of KPMG’s Paul Martin, the 2010s were defined by the battle between offline and online, whereas the 2020s will oversee the conflict between Convenience and Data Privacy. With data privacy, or lack of, increasingly getting more scrutiny in today’s media, NRF 2020 showed us how this is playing out in the retail space.
Facial recognition, the use online social media profiles in offline targeting and the power of AI to make the lives of consumers more convenient was evident across the NRF’s three floors of exhibitors, and of course, effective AI is only as useful as the data powering it. Personalisation and customisation can also vastly improve the customer experience, particularly online, making it smoother and easier for them to navigate store catalogues. Accurate personalisation is only possible with sufficient data collection, so the big question is when will consumers push back and prefer less convenience in favour of greater privacy.
Jumping on the sustainability train
The NRF agenda gave further emphasis on the growing importance for retailers to put sustainability at the heart of their business. A company’s sustainability and ethics have greater influence on a consumer’s purchasing decision now more than ever before. Shelley Bransten of Microsoft and Arti Zeighgami of H&M Group discussed how AI is making the global fashion industry more sustainable, whereas Walmart, IBM and PVH Corp explored the importance of trust in retail and role of sustainability in creating brand belonging.
More retailers expected to adopt their own Take Back scheme this year to match those rolled out by brands such as H&M, Blacks, and Marks & Spencer, whilst many companies such as Superdry and Zara have made aggressive ethical sourcing promises. There were plenty of companies, including ZigZag on show at NRF that can help make the big named high-street brands achieve their sustainable goals for the next decade and beyond. Get in touch if you would like to learn more about how ZigZag is powering both in-store and online Take Back programmes across the US and Europe.
Bricks-and-mortar stores to focus on customer experience
Last year, eCommerce sales totalled £2.69 trillion and accounted for 14.1% of total retail sales worldwide. With many experts expecting UK eCommerce revenue to surpass that of offline revenue within the next ten years, and by the look of the exhibition hall at NRF 2020, retailers are gearing up their brick-and-mortar stalls to become hubs for innovative customer experience.
The likes of Amazon, ASOS, and Boohoo have proven to the retail industry that physical stores aren’t a necessity any more. Yet AI, personalisation, facial recognition and augmented reality are just some of the tech advancements being used to give customers an experience they may not have got online. Finger Food Advance Technology Group are one of the innovative companies reshaping this space; their custom technology has used AR to differentiate retailer’s commercial space and improve the customer experience. CONEX are another company working with retailers to redesign their point of sale environments, whereas many of the big tech companies such as Nokia, Macy’s, and LEGO focused on the customer experience. One to watch – TruRating who gather all the data around the customer experience in-store straight from the POS..
Stay open-minded to innovation
One of the key takeaways you often get from visiting a fast -paced and large-scale event such as NRF 2020 is there is no shortage of innovation happening across the industry. Some of the exhibitors may be more bizarre or niche than others, but there are plenty of suppliers and partners that can help you develop outdated business methods, reach new customers, or help take your business in a completely different direction. There also seems to be a renewed focus on Service. Technology is great but it only goes so far if it leaves the retailer blank or worse still, the customer cold.