12 of Our Favorite Sessions from NRF 2014

The National Retail Federation’s Big Show has come and gone once again, leaving many great ideas in its wake. Our Top 12 list of storylines and presentations from the show include:



1. Re-imagining Main Street—In this panel session, Rick Caruso, founder and CEO of retail development company Caruso Affiliated, said the rebirth of brick-and-mortar stores are being driven by technology, and because of the desire for consumers to physically connect with and be a part of a community. He also predicts U.S.-style shopping malls will be history during the next 10-15 years, giving way to shopping centers that provide atmosphere, entertainment, connection, community and character.


2. Innovate or Die, but Don’t Die InnovatingBrett Goffin of Google and Kevin Quiring of Accenture explored how retailers can choose the right innovation for their customers and their business, without risking the business. They said retailers must be agile and flexible in their approach, listening to their customers and testing each approach before choosing the best innovation for their business. The right choice could mean significant growth, whereas the wrong choice could spell disaster.


3. Future of Social ShoppingScott Monty of Ford Motor and Danielle Yacobovsky, co- founder of BaubleBar, discussed how retailers can create a social online shopping experience. Monty said retailers should embrace the social platforms their audiences use most, rather than the platform the retailer likes most. He added that social media should be used to deliver personal experiences and earn the customer’s trust. Yacobovsky says user-generated feedback in social media may take the messaging out of the retailer’s hands, but it also drives more interest from customers.


4. Is Responsive Design Part of Your Mobile Strategy?—More than 35 percent of online traffic comes from mobile devices. Consumers are taking multi-device path to purchasing – 65 percent begin the purchasing process on their smartphone and 40 percent will transition to PC to make purchase. Responsive design provides a single site that can easily render on a computer, smartphone or other mobile device, thus helping retailers deliver a compelling mobile experience for the consumer.


5. Power Couple: Loyalty and Mobile—In a panel discussion moderated by IDC Research Director Leslie Hand, executives from Sears, Sephora and Century21 explored how combining mobility and loyalty will shape and enhance the future customer experience. Mobile devices will give retailers another channel to deliver more personalized and targeted loyalty promotions to their customers.


6. Strategy to Outperform the competition in Brazil—A panel of Brazilian retailers discussed current trends in the country. One key message among customers in that country is for retailers to connect with them emotionally, and expand beyond their traditional roles as retailers to create an entertaining shopping experience. One example is with the retailer Customizaca, a kiosk that allows customers to customize their sunglasses, which are then processed and available in the store within five minutes.


7. Customer-Centric Convergence—The Web, Big Data, mobile, social media and all things digital, combined with a retailer’s need to react quickly to changes in consumer behavior, defines the concept of customer-centric convergence, according to STORES Magazine. Customers today can research no matter where they are by using smartphones and tablets. Retailers must adapt to this reality. For example, American Eagle Outfitters targets 15- to 25-year-old customers. Therefore they must adapt their marketing strategies and tactics to reach these customers in meaningful ways via mobile phones, tablets, Twitter and Instagram.


8. Real Time Analysis of Customer In-Store Behavior—A panel of industry leaders discussed how retailers can bridge the digital and physical worlds to enhance the customer experience and drive business value. They said retailers will be successful by making even small technology investments in an effort to better know their customers. They also said the omni-channel will bring flexible fulfillment options for customers, such as ship-to-store methods currently available.



9. Optimism, Compassion and Joy: How Selling the Right Mindset Can Grow Your Brand—Bert Jacobs, co-founder of Life is Good, said retailers must connect emotionally with customers for continued success. He also noted that brands must have clear knowledge of their company culture and core values, and associate themselves with a cause that ties into their customers’ values.


10. Single platform of Shared Commerce Merges Digital and Physical Channels—Industry experts discussed how a single platform of shared services for all commerce transactions can eliminate traditional channel barriers and improve the customer experience. Canadian Tire’s John T. Todd says retailers must use technology to enhance the customer experience in stores. He said the store element is still very important, but the shopping experience is not a one-path journey anymore. The end result is a multi-platform approach.


11. Use Social-Powered Engagement to Boost Loyalty & Outmaneuver Competition—Tom Hutchison of Raley’s Family of Fine Stores said communicating and connecting with shoppers via a 2-way social media dialog is a proven strategy to increase loyalty. He said a good social plan allows for “stealth promotions” that makes it harder for competitors to track, while still building customer loyalty. Hutchison added that next-generation platforms can also provide more intuitive analytics to help retailers better understand their customers’ paths-to-purchase.


12. Future of Retail 2014: Trends to Act OnPiers Fawkes and Scott Lachut of PSFK discussed how mobile and social platforms will continue to dramatically change the way shoppers behave in the years to come. Some trends they predict include:


  • Connected relationship management—Using shared access to customer information to bridge the gap between sales staff and shoppers, helping build more meaningful relationships.
  • Multi-channel service—Providing customer assistance on more platforms to create more staff touch points and enable interactions to happen on the shopper’s terms.
  • Instantly verified—Linking payment systems to verified shoppers to make transactions more efficient and secure.
  • On-demand delivery—Delivering on the need for convenience and immediacy by rolling out “buy it now, get it soon after” services to get shoppers their purchases quickly.
  • Community loyalty—Tying rewards to participation in a wider community to provide lasting benefits to both brands, retailers and their customers.


What were your favorite sessions from NRF 2014? Let us know in the comments below.