NRF Big Show Recap
January 21, 2016
Retail is booming, but it’s a whole new ball game. At this year’s NRF Big Show nearly 36,000 professionals from over 80 countries converged in New York to learn about and discuss the hot topics driving the next waves of retail revolution. New technologies were demonstrated, new brands were introduced, and familiar players shared new thinking and new approaches to their business amidst the most rapidly changing marketplace in history.
Among the prevailing messages throughout the show was that in today’s digital age, experiences matter more than things and that design is the frontline for delivering a differentiated experience. While customers today have limitless options and benefit from tremendous competition to deliver goods cheaper and faster, there’s also a new expectation for retail brands to put purpose before product by consumers who are asking why before what? This way of thinking may have been ushered in by Millennials but has proliferated across many customer segments and has been game-changing for the way brands define themselves and communicate what they stand for. Examples from the show include CEO Kevin Plank describing how Under Armour plans to grow as a technology company leveraging data to provide customers a more accurate measures of their physical health than ever available before. In a session on retail lessons from the hospitality industry Choice Hotels CEO, Stephen P. Joyce pointed out that as customers reject convention and continue to seek uniquely tailored experiences a brand’s non-traditional competitors are now their biggest threat. Two retail brands, the highly successful Detroit-based Shinola and new-to-market VIGGA a Scandinavian baby clothing concept both lead their brand positioning with their respective purposes before the products that enable them.
This shift in consumer values affect the full spectrum of retail players from manufacturers to brands to developers. Customer experience is certainly not a new term, but NRF’s Big Show reminds us its a continuum of constant evolution.