After months of preparation and anticipation, the NRF 2017 Retail Big Show in New York City has come and gone seemingly in the blink of an eye. The whirlwind 3-day mega-event drew in its typical gargantuan crowd of approximately 35,000 attendees, all of whom descended on the Jacob Javits Center in New York City to learn about the latest trends fueling the retail industry, and meet with the technology vendors driving these changes.
This was the 106th year of the annual convention and the 46th year for Jesta I.S. at the show. Jesta was there to showcase its end-to-end retail and wholesale solutions and assist retailers with their technology woes. Among the many hot topics of discussion in retail technology, the theme of omnichannel has continued to pervade the industry chatter as something of a Gordian knot.
Despite making the leap from a nice-to-have to the industry standard, many companies continue to struggle to implement the necessary foundational structure to make unified commerce a tangible reality for their organization. That’s where we come in, as we have made it our mission to help retailers simplify their omnichannel journeys – wherever they may be in their quest. Check out our official NRF recap video below!
During the packed 3-day expo event, we met with dozens of retailers, all in varying stages of omnichannel maturity – some at the very beginning of the journey, and others who were seemingly putting on the finishing touches to their technology transformations. From our many frank and fruitful discussions with retailers in verticals of all kinds here are our seven key takeaways:
1. Bells and whistles can’t get the job done
While it can be tempting to plunge headlong with a best-of-breed distributed order management system this kind of approach misses the crucial first step, which is to establish the integrity of the data feeding it. The best way to ensure accuracy is to have a solid inventory management system firmly in place. Once you have that, it is essential to make sure that your order management solution is properly integrated to your core system, to allow for real-time reporting.
2. Making the in-store experience a top priority
It sounds like a cliche, but it’s the truth – your customer has to be at the center of everything you do. While for many companies e-commerce accounts for the lion’s share of total sales, brick-and-mortar locations still play a vital role. It is a place to experience products first-hand and try before they buy, a place to pickup and return goods and a place to offer great in-person customer service. Retailers must embrace this changing paradigm and prioritize making their physical stores a destination people look forward to visiting, rather than merely a place to purchase products.
3. Bridging the gap from physical to digital
This builds on point #2 above. Much has already been said about the modern consumer, particularly their comfort and ease with digital – and the expectations that that creates for retailers to deliver an experience that matches and even exceeds those expectations. Selling online or offering a cool app isn’t enough anymore – all these elements need to tie together in a way that delights shoppers and builds genuine loyalty, the true holy grail for any retailer.
4. Mobility is (still) king
While having all operations mobile-enabled is certainly nothing new, it’s worth mentioning here as perhaps the key element in a holistic unified commerce ecosystem. From an operational standpoint, mobile POS is a must-have and indeed many retailers have already embraced this advent. But mobile capabilities must extend to the entire supply chain. Critical tasks like processing PO’s or receiving alerts for key analytic insights must be mobile-enabled to match the speed of operations demanded by customers today.
5. Brands are more than just a name
Gone are the days where an attractive logo or a catchy slogan were all you needed to capture people’s attention and get them to make the trip to your store. The most successful brands today are those that resonate with shoppers through a distinct personality that elicits an overall sensation in clients such that shopping that brand (through any and all channels) is a completely gratifying and unique experience. To make a lasting impression on savvy consumers, brands must be nothing less than transcendent – and this all boils down to a seamless customer experience.
6. The unequivocal supremacy of analytics
This is one is a game-changer. Simply having access to the data isn’t enough anymore. What really counts is what you do with it. Now more than ever, retailers are leveraging real-time and rich data to craft personalized and thoroughly rewarding shopping experiences for their clients. While much progress has been made, it’s clear that the industry is poised on an exciting precipice in terms of what’s to come – particularly with raw unstructured data from social media channels.
7. Organizational change affects everyone
This may sound obvious, but when the C-suite decides to pull the trigger on a technology revamp, it’s crucial to make sure that everyone – from the CEO to front-end store associate – are completely on board. Change management has become a much talked-about topic of discussion and for good reason – oftentimes dealing with the human element of a drastic system change is even more challenging than the technical aspects that are involved. The best strategy is to partner with a vendor that is well versed in both sides of the coin.
Of course, NRF wouldn’t be NRF without a little break from business talk. Jesta I.S. played co-host to clients old and new as well as future members of the Jesta family at their annual client dinner, along with U.S. partner RPE Solutions. Guests enjoyed delicious food and drinks and took in the sights and sounds of New York City at Gallagher’s Steakhouse, right in the heart of Times Square.
The annual NRF show and expo has become a time-honoured tradition for all members of the retail community, from the retailers themselves to technology providers, exhibitors and even students. It’s the place to be to get a real pulse on the trends, disruptions and innovations that are shaping the retail industry.
For us at Jesta I.S., NRF provides a golden opportunity to share insights with retailers not only about technology needs but also with best business practices. These invaluable conversations help us enrich our software solutions to come back each year with improved offerings for retailers to provide their customers with a delightful experience.