NRF BIG Show Recap: Editors’ Perspectives, Session Recaps

Following is an overview of the NRF BIG Show 2013, featuring editorial perspectives from Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief of Retail TouchPoints and Alicia Fiorletta, Associate Editor of Retail TouchPoints. The article also includes brief recaps of 9 key educational sessions held during the 4-day event in New York last week.

Positive Energy Pervades NRF 2013 Event

Editorial perspective: Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief

DebbiesHeadshotIf 2009 was the low point for the retail industry and the NRF BIG Show, 2013 definitely was the high point. There was a palpable positive energy throughout the exhibit hall, in the walkways, during sessions and even in the long line at Starbucks.

With the economy rebounding, retailers and solution providers have moved past the question of “Do we have the budget for new implementations?” to “Which implementations should we kick off first?”


Whether the focus is on workforce optimization, mobile technology, marketing or social media, most strategies share the central theme of improving the customer experience. To that end, retail executives are seeking to reach shoppers at their channel of choice and provide a consistent brand experience across all channels.

Mobile payment continues to pose questions and create confusion for retail executives who are unsure of how the scenario will play out. While EMV and NFC are on the way to the U.S. marketplace, groups such as MCX and ISIS are positioning for leadership roles in the process. The most pressing question, as expressed by a number of industry experts, is: What will the shopper be willing to do in order to participate in mobile payment?

Another interesting trend to watch in the retail industry is the continuing announcements of acquisitions. A selection of recent announcements to note include:

Even though the holiday numbers for 2012 may have been a bit disappointing, overall I think 2013 is going to be a successful and exciting year for many retailers and their solution provider partners.

Mobile Steals The (BIG) Show Once Again!

Editorial perspective: Alicia Fiorletta, Associate Editor

AliciasHeadshotFor the last few months, the Retail TouchPoints office has been buzzing with activity: prepping, researching and organizing for the 2013 NRF BIG Show. Since it was my second year attending, I had a somewhat better idea of what to expect. While I wasn’t necessarily nervous this time around, I still got the same feeling of excitement and butterflies as I got my bearings at the Javits Center on the first day of the conference.

This year, the EXPO hall consisted of two floors, and many of the exhibitors seemed to be following the same mantra: “Go big or go home.” Companies such as Dell, HP, JDA Software, Motorola, Oracle, Verizon and Zebra Technologies, pulled out all the stops, creating compelling booth areas that showcased their partners, solutions, and most importantly, their variety of retail clients.

In terms of trends, it was evident that in 2012, everyone was talking about mobile and social. There was less focus this year on social media as a single channel or strategy. Instead, there were more discussions regarding how social sharing and content can integrate with retailers’ e-Commerce and mobile strategies.

But mobile remained a hot topic at the BIG Show. In fact, I met with a variety of solution providers to find out their answer to a top question among retailers today: “How can I harness the power of mobile technology to better connect with, and serve, my consumers?”

Here is a snapshot of the key trends and technologies discussed:

  • Mobile POS;
  • Mobile clienteling;
  • Self-serve mobile checkout;
  • Utilizing mobile technology to create “endless aisles” in stores; and
  • Geo-targeted push notifications via smartphones.

Needless to say, it will be a very exciting year for mobile. Cutting-edge retailers such as Macy’s and Sephora already are testing a variety of mobile strategies. But I can’t wait to see what other brands and retailers join the pack in 2013!

NRF Educational Sessions Cover Mobile, Social, Payment Topics

This year, NRF BIG Show educational sessions provided strategies and insights from retailers, analysts and solution providers, covering a gamut of topics including mobile, social and payment.

Below is a quick recap of a selection of sessions:

Coca-Cola Opens Happiness For Consumers And Retailers. Walgreens and HSN have partnered with Coca-Cola to better engage with shoppers. From implementing digital technology in Walgreens flagship stores to integrating sentimental Coca-Cola products to, consumers want to choices, and that’s what Walgreens and HSN plan to offer.

The Landscape Of Mobile Payments — What Are The Options For Retailers?
Mobile payment focuses on two areas: online payments via a mobile device and payments conducted in physical stores using a mobile device. An NRF panel discussion, moderated by Andrew Morris, Principal at inCode Consulting, shared his viewpoint on the mobile device and payment landscape.

Conscious Leadership: A Call To Action For The Retail Industry And Beyond
Walter Robb, Co-CEO of Whole Foods, suggested that businesses take a wider range of responsibilities in the world: “Stepping into more responsibilities helps retailers not only as a competitive advantage but also helps executives the capability to realize more of their full potential as a business.” 

Howard Schultz, Chairman, President and CEO of Starbucks, added that he believes the greatest threat to the retail industry is the 15 million unemployed U.S. citizens. “We are all walking around silently, almost asleep as though everything is okay,” said Schultz. “It is time for Americans to recognize that democracy is about having a voice, and it must be heard as an industry, business leaders and citizens.”

Focus On The Guest And The Rest Will Follow
When Build-A-Bear Workshop wanted to revamp its stores, the company sought out experts — children. During a breakout session, Dave Finnegan, Chief Information Bear, and Teresa Kroll, Chief Marketing Bear of Build-A-Bear Workshop, shared insights on how focusing on the guest has helped Build-A-Bear create a more compelling in-store experience.

“We invited our experts to help us brainstorm new ideas for our stores,” said Finnegan. “Not only did we take their ideas into consideration, but we also built a real-life model of their suggestions for them to view and offer feedback. When we finalized the layout and built the actual store, their faces said it all, and knowing that they were a part of this new model gave them a sense of confidence.” 

The Future Of Payments: How Retailers Can Prepare For Mobile Commerce Revolution
Mobile transaction volume is expected to triple to $730 billion by 2017, according to Adobe Marketing. “Make your content personal, or see your customers switch,” advised Suzanne Kereere, SVP and GM of Global Network Business for American Express. “Keep in mind that more than half of active mobile consumers are willing to share their location in exchange for real-time offers, and retailers must make it easy for customer to tell them when they have met the consumer’s needs.”

Big Ideas Session: Smarter Analytics
The Children’s Place discussed how business analytics can be an integral part of a strategy to improve the customer experience, build brand loyalty and target promotions. A personalized email approach can help retailers achieve higher click and open rates.

Big Ideas session: Workforce Management
Workforce management is a useful tool for making sure the retailer is meeting customer demand, but managers need to review the computer-generated schedules to be sure they work for their needs. “We stress to our managers that they own the schedule and the goal is to get people in when the customers need them,” said John Thrailkill, VP of Store Metrics and Systems, Customer Support and Business Development for The Container Store, in an NRF session sponsored by Kronos. “We want scheduling to be a true collaboration.”

How Metro Personalized Its Way To Growth
With the average customer carrying more than a dozen loyalty cards, Metro, a Canadian grocery retailer, had to find a way to make its program stand out. The retailer’s My Metro & Moi loyalty program sets has several differentiating factors, including the quick accumulation of points and checks that are issued to consumers every three month. “Our program gives consumers control of when and how they redeem their rewards,” said Marc Grioux, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, adding that a rewards program can help retailers make better business decisions about which items to stock and increase the average basket size and trip frequency. The company developed the program with dunnhumby Canada.

To view additional coverage of the NRF BIG Show 2013, click here to access Retail TouchPoints TouchPoints TV video interviews with retailers, consultants and solution providers. Check back regularly for additional NRF BIG Show videos, as well as other TouchPoints TV coverage.

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