The Buzz At NRF 2012

Note: This article is a first-hand recap of The Big Show: NRF 2012, delivered in four sections by the editors of Retail TouchPoints.

Retail TouchPoints was out in force at the 101st NRF Big Show last week — attending sessions, meeting with solution providers, shooting videos and sharing industry insights with passersby at the RTP booth. Collectively, RTP editors met with more than 100 industry executives including retailers, solution providers, and industry analysts.  In this article, we are sharing each editor’s personal perspective on the show, including insights on industry trends and hot topics.


Creating A Cohesive
Cross-Channel Experience

Editorial perspective:
Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief


Buzzwords abounded at this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show, most of them relatively obvious: mobile, social, cross-channel, cloud, customer-centric and the like. One thing is clear to me: the over-arching sentiment among retailers and solution providers is that the consumer is now in charge of the shopping experience.

With that in mind, solution providers are hard at work honing their expertise in order to bring the most comprehensive solutions to the marketplace that will ultimately motivate consumers to shop a particular brand. The key is creating a cohesive cross-channel environment that delivers the items shoppers want, where they want them, and at the price they desire.

The good news this year was that the show floor was abuzz with activity. More than 24,000 retail executives walked the show floor, visiting more than 400 booths. The general vibe was positive and optimistic ― a welcome and drastic mood swing from a few years ago. (Also, the weather permitted most attendees to hang around the show floor until late on Tuesday.)

Personally, I met with more than 30 companies. Most had news to share, including new products, solution upgrades, plus customer implementations and success stories. Some of the key topics discussed included:

  • Item-level RFID tagging;
  • Creating customer behavior models;
  • Choosing the right mobile devices for store associates;
  • Optimizing the supply chain for the buy-anywhere-deliver-anywhere model;
  • The impact of the convergence of marketing and IT;
  • Clienteling
  • Big Data
  • The timeline for the proliferation of mobile payment
  • Advances in shelf labeling and digital signage

For 2012, I am looking forward to a lot of productivity, innovation and success stories from the solution providers and retail customers that have committed to a keen focus on meeting their customers’ needs.

The Social Staple

Editorial perspective:
Amanda F. Batista, Associate Editor

At NRF’s Big Show 2008, my first retail rendezvous, retailers and solution providers were working to “crack the code” of social media, and conversations then were centered on driving Facebook fans.

Now in 2012, the social retail discussion has significantly advanced. The industry has seen a proliferation of technologies, tools and plug-ins for social analytics and commerce, and it’s clear that social is now considered a staple tactic.

Each customer-facing application or in-store technology that I saw demoed at the show had some sort of social experience to it — be it an option to share with friends or post a purchase to the Facebook wall. Social commerce — my favorite retail topic — was talked about less this year. While many retailers have an integrated Facebook storefront and are successfully driving commerce on the channel, there are still adoption concerns and the implications of consumer perception that must be addressed before widespread adoption. 2012 may very well an important year for the evolution of Facebook commerce.

The show vibe was additionally exciting due to a breadth of funding and acquisitions news, indicating that the retail industry is getting back on the right financial track. In nearly 30 meetings with vendors and retailers, conversations centered around the need for:

  • All-in-one, integrated tools;
  • Consumer education on the security of mobile payment;
  • Enhanced mainstream adoption of smartphone technology (industry research indicates that about 50% still do not have a smartphone); and
  • Engaging, in-store solutions, such as virtual fitting room and gaming technology, to optimize the shopping experience and brand impact.

Mobile POS, Digital Signage Create
New Rules Of Shopper Engagement

Editorial perspective:
Alicia Fiorletta, Associate Editor

Retail’s BIG Show is the most-discussed event in the Retail TouchPoints offices. It’s also one of the most anticipated among retailers and solution providers. This being my first year attending, I was equally nervous and excited.

As I entered the Javits Center, there was a rush of chaos and energy, with attendees waiting in line impatiently to receive their badges. Once I checked in, I briskly walked to the EXPO floor, which was buzzing with conversation, product demonstrations, and an overall strong sense of enthusiasm and excitement. Based on my conversations with company executives, this level of gusto wasn’t present in the last few years. The inconsistent economy was a figurative dark cloud over retailers’ heads, creating strong hesitancy to roll out emerging cross-channel marketing tools and tactics.

The growth of the cross-channel shopper has lit a fire within retailers’ boardrooms and encouraged them to investigate mobile point of sale, digital signage solutions and interactive marketing strategies for the brick-and-mortar store. For example, clienteling tools and purchasing capabilities accessed via tablets and smartphones revealed how store associates can create a more media-rich in-store experience. Personalized and location-based advertisements displayed on digital screens also indicated how retailers can boost basket size and overall loyalty by tapping into customer data and new media.

Many of the companies I met with discussed the importance of merging new, interactive, media with the in-store experience. Others discussed the importance of connecting the data dots across channels to create a more personalized, relevant shopping experience. It’s clear that the rules and tools of engagement are changing. With that in mind, I’m excited to see what retailers will do during 2012 to make the store the star once again.

Mobile And Social Implementations:
Will Customer Experience Suffer?

Editorial perspective:
Fatima D. Lora, Assistant Editor

Attending this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show was a great experience. Although it may have been my first, meeting with familiar companies and discussing their latest products and services gave me the confidence to make my way through the EXPO floor.

Arriving at the Jacob K. Javits Center before sunrise and leaving after sunset on a Sunday was a bit exhausting, but with all the interesting announcements and case studies, I kept an open mind and was eager to learn more the next day.

In total, I attended close to 10 sessions which featured insights from leading retailers, including Abercombie & Fitch, C.Wonder, Guitar Center, Kenneth Cole, and Macy’s. Each session focused on customer engagement through e-Commerce, mobile technology, localization and customer loyalty programs.

As I made my way through the showroom floor, I met with solution providers and reviewed products and services from retailers and solution providers. Most solution providers placed an emphasis on their social and mobile commerce strategies, reiterating the trend that s-Commerce and m-Commerce are on the rise for 2012.

After tuning in on mobile implementations to better equip store associates, and based on a recent encounter at the Apple store, I wondered if mobile technology is creating robots out of employees. On the ride home, I shared a cab with a retail CIO. We discussed equipping store associates with mobile technology. He noted that retailers who input all the necessary information onto a tablet or smartphone can actually cause employees to become dependent on their mobile device, taking away from the customer experience. “Focus on equipping your store associates with knowledge, rather than just technology,” he advised.

I’m curious as to see how mobile and social implementations pan out for retailers and solution providers in 2012.

For more follow-up from the NRF 2012 Big Show, stay tuned for the Retail TouchPoints Solutions & Services Recap in the February 7 issue of our newsletter.

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