NRF 2013: What Editors and Analysts are Predicting

November 22, 2012  | By Jeff Ketner

They don’t call NRF “Retail’s Big Show” for nothing! Ketner Group has attended NRF for the past 13 years, and year after year, it’s the ONE show that matters more than any other – and a great place to connect with retail’s leading editors and analysts. We asked a number of our friends in the editor and analyst communities to share their insights about NRF, and you’ll be interested in seeing their thoughts on retail trends, technologies, and the biggest surprises of 2012.

What will you be looking for at NRF 2013, in terms of retail trends and technology?

Jordan Speer, Editor-in-Chief, Apparel Magazine: Generally, I’ll be looking for technology that apparel retailers/brands are using. In particular, I’ll be interested to see how things continue to integrate to make a seamless omni-channel experience possible. It’s difficult for me to think of distinct technologies these days. It all goes together: Social media is connected to CRM is connected to loyalty is connected to POS is connected to mobile is connected to RFID is connected to fulfillment and so on and so forth. I’ll be looking for ways in which retailers are casting off the barriers between all of these solutions and getting the big picture of their enterprise.

Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research: What I’m looking for is practical usability of technology.  I have been hearing a lot of buzzwords – “mobility,” “the customer as part of merchandising processes,” “Big Data” (my current fave), “Cloud.” So what I would like to see is the nitty-gritty of what it takes to actually get the job done.  For example, “What does the user interface in a system that includes the customer dimension of data look like?”  “How do you manage 30,000 iPhones and iPads in your stores?”

Joe Skorupa, Group Editor-in-Chief, RIS News: I am looking for technology strategies and solutions that are responsive to the dramatic shifts taking place in the marketplace as well as those that enable retailers to become more pro-active and get ahead of fast-moving trends.

Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints: I am expecting to see more advanced solutions that address the data collection and analytics related to Big Data and omnichannel retail. Retailers like Macy’s are starting to focus more on allocating by individual store, based on the demographics and seasonality of each store. New solutions need to provide an easy way for merchants to make this happen.

I also anticipate more solutions targeted to mobile payments, and the requirements around EMV. Retailers need to be prepared to accept EMV when the April 2013 deadline rolls around. Additionally, by October 2015, fraud liability will shift in the marketplace, which could be an incentive for merchants to enable EMV transactions before that date.

Greg Buzek, Founder and President, IHL Group, and Co-founder of the Retail Orphan Initiative: I think we’ll see a lot of emphasis in three main areas.  The rise of Big Data and Social integration will be a major trend.  Mobile will be everywhere – in all flavors – iOS, Android, Windows 8; we will be past our first mobile Christmas.  And then there are the rapid changes in the POS industry.  We are seeing a seismic shift right now in threats to this business and a changing of the guard in established competitors.  And of course everyone will be talking about how great Retail ROI’s SuperSaturday was!

What have been the biggest surprises in the retail industry so far in 2012?

Joe Skorupa, RIS: This is the year of bold transformation of business models and instead of taking a cautious approach or battling it, retailers are embracing change and finding new opportunities.

Greg Buzek, IHL: The biggest surprise is the speed in which retailers have come out and said they are never buying another POS terminal again.  We haven’t even seen mobile survive a Christmas rush, and several retailers have already said they are all mobile from now on.

Jordan Speer, Apparel: I think the big surprises for me are the increasing shift to the “fulfill-from-store” model and also the sense that, in apparel, we are really on the edge of seeing technologies like “magic mirrors” and such start to materialize at the commercial level. One other thing – it has really hit home with me this year just how much Amazon truly presents a major threat to so many retailers. I am glad that many of them are addressing that and will be interested to see some of the clever ways that retailers use product and technology to keep customers in their brick-and-mortar or online stores.

Paula Rosenblum, RSR: I suppose it’s the explosion of mobile payments – or the apparent coming explosion.  Starbucks adopting Square and Home Depot adopting PayPal was a pretty big surprise.  Beyond that? That wireless is still just not prevalent.  And overall in the industry, that the luxury market is softening.  I honestly don’t understand why it’s happening.

What do tech vendors and PR people need to keep in mind as they reach out to you for NRF?

Debbie Hauss, Retail TouchPoints: We look forward to meeting with as many companies and retailers as possible during NRF, to discuss industry trends and announcements. The most productive conversations are around innovations and how we can help retail companies improve their businesses. Once again this year, Retail TouchPoints will be filming short video interviews with retailers and solution providers during the NRF event. If any companies are interested in participating in these videos, they should contact us as soon as possible.

Jordan Speer, Apparel: I always appreciate a brief synopsis of press releases announcing new technologies, along with information on which apparel companies are using the technology (if any). If they can’t reveal that info specifically, it is helpful to know at least what type of apparel companies are using it (big vs. small; specialty vs. department, etc.) In the synopsis, it is helpful also for me to understand if the technology (or process or whatever) being announced is a significant shift, or basically just an update of what’s been available. It’s also helpful for PR people to keep in mind that I am looking for apparel companies that will talk to us on various topics, including but definitely not limited to those on our editorial calendar.

Paula Rosenblum, RSR:  They should understand that we’d be happy to take pre-briefings and will be doing a webinar or something for our customers afterwards to review what we saw at NRF. I would imagine what they want to know from us (besides “do you like our stuff?”) is “What did you see that was cool?”  This year, we’re going to have time to actually answer that question adequately.  Heck, we might even attend some sessions!  After much thought, we realized it’s a way better way to add value.

Greg Buzek, IHL:  Vendors should have talking points in handout form either in the meeting or use the meeting as more relationship building and very short demos rather than marketing speak. We see between 12-18 sales pitches a day; what gets remembered is the one-pager with key talking points. What are the 3-4 things you want me to remember? Have that on a piece of paper or better yet, show me and email it to me while we are in the meeting (not “I’ll get that to you”) so I am sure to have it in my inbox when I get home.

Personally, I am buried in the materials from my own event, other interesting things and several bags of swag items from different events. Standard collateral material doesn’t make it home. An analyst is not going to pay extra luggage fees to carry home a bunch of glossy materials.

Like everyone else, we are sleep deprived and exhausted and we will have heard 40-50 company pitches and caught up with another 100 friends and colleagues. Vendors give the same pitch over and over; we hear 50 different ones. What gets remembered past the show is what is written down or on a single page handed to us – and the meetings with our friends.