NRF 2014: The REALLY Big Show

If you could sum up the NRF 2014 show in one word, it would have to be “big.” And this time, as attendees know, it was “REALLY big!”

Our Ketner Group team descended upon New York recently along with 30,000+ other NRF attendees, and the show was big in every way: More attendees than ever. More exhibitors on three different levels of the Javits Center. More social buzz (check out the #NRF14 social  infographic from the National Retail Federation). And for Ketner Group, a full schedule of editor and analyst meetings for our retail technology clients. It was an exhilarating, information-packed, exhausting event that underscored why NRF is THE “can’t miss event” for retail.

What were some of the big impressions we walked away with? Here are some thoughts based on the meetings I participated in, as well as a few other nuggets.

Omnichannel and Big Data were key topics. Despite all the buzz about omnichannel, there was widespread discussion about siloed channels, inconsistent pricing, and an inability to forecast and plan across channels. I came away convinced that true omnichannel retailing is still several years away, at least, for many retailers; one analyst said flat-out that “no one” is doing a good job in planning and forecasting omnichannel demand.

And while nearly every vendor claimed to be leveraging Big Data in some way, one analyst says that only 15% of Fortune 1000 companies will be prepared to use Big Data correctly by 2020. For all of us who make our living in retail technology, it’s a sobering reminder that there’s still a big gulf between hype and reality in some cases.

The really hot topic of discussion at NRF was data security; the Target and Neiman-Marcus security breaches were top of mind, and since the show, the news about security has only gotten worse. Clearly PCI compliance isn’t enough, especially when someone with inside knowledge can access information, as appears to be the case with Target. Suddenly, chip and pin is on its way to becoming a household word – and from my perspective, it can’t happen soon enough.

Retail’s Big Show Will Showcase Hot Technologies For 2014

President and CEO of National Retail Federation, Matt Shay, speaks at the 2013 Big Show
Matt Shay, President and CEO of National Retail Federation, speaks at the 2013 Big Show

It’s NRF time again and the Ketner Group Team is getting ready to head out to New York next week to attend the Big Show! Leading up to what should be a convention full of new and trending retail technologies, renowned retail industry analyst, Forbes contributor and Ketner Group friend, Paula Rosenblum, shares in her most recent article, “Retail’s Big Show Will Showcase Hot Technologies For 2014,” what she predicts to be the best selling retail technology solutions of the year on display at retail’s “Big Show” next week. This year, Rosenblum expects the biggest tech trends to focus on keeping consumer satisfaction and attention with competitive prices and seamless online and in-store experiences. Retail is a crazy roller coaster ride of an industry, and the Ketner Group team looks forward to an exciting 2014!

Here’s a short summary of what Rosenblum lists as her “Top Five” of 2014.

1. Technology to improve the customer experience in stores. It’s not a secret that more shoppers are moving online to make their purchases. Retailers are finding ways in-store technology can differentiate and improve in-store experiences so customers  keep coming back.

2. Cross-channel Order Fulfillment. Because consumers want instant gratification these days, retailers are making sure that merchandise is always in stock, whether physically or virtually. Customers don’t want separation of in-store and online—they want brick-and-mortar stores to have e-commerce-style inventories.

3. Promotion and Price Optimization. According to Rosenblum, Black Friday has become the Superbowl of shopping and promotions. In order to attract the most customers, retailers are investing in technologies that help uncover the most effective promotional and end-of-season prices.

4. Big Data and Predictive Analytics. Big Data is everywhere. Adoption of analytics is becoming widely popular for retailers and they are looking to these technologies to determine what consumers really want so they can sell smarter.

5. Data Security. Thanks to the data breach Target suffered in December, Rosenblum says this shot up to her list. Retailers will be looking for ways to protect not only their customers, but themselves, as well.

For more information, check out her full article here on Forbes.