Ketner Group Takes on the NRF Big Show 2019

In retail, we know that the holiday madness doesn’t end once the ball drops in Times Square. Even those of you who identify with “A December to Remember” more than “Ford Truck Month” – and are still reconciling the fact that no one in your family loves you enough to shell out a year’s salary on a front-wheel-drive convertible parked in a snowy driveway – know it’s time to take one more deep breath from the bottom of your newly built Saint Nick belly and get ready for NRF 2019 in New York.

Although Austin isn’t exactly the North Pole, we’ve been hard at work the past few months getting everything ready to knock it out of the park for a major mid-winter event. And this year, building on years of experience our team’s had at the event and given that our agency experienced pretty incredible growth in 2018, we’re collaborating with our largest cohort of retail technology innovators to date – representing 18 clients in total. Therefore, we’ve coordinated meetings with media and analysts, promoted their presence via social media, overseen email campaigns and used every other conceivable medium to get us ready to take on the Big Apple with the enthusiasm of Buddy the Elf.

What’s In Store

We’re excited to feel the energy in the expo hall as we move another year away from the doomsday ramblings about the ‘retail apocalypse’. We’ve seen firsthand how innovative retailers partnering with innovative vendors have established a bulwark against Amazon’s encroachment. We’ve seen how enigmatic executives have rallied an industry in need of optimism and vision to become a catalyst for even greater change. We’re excited to hear stories of recent successes and learn about what the future holds for the industry and for the everyday consumer.

Although NRF stands firm as the last hurrah before we can officially call the holiday season quits, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be excited about having more time than anyone else experiencing The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Meet Us at NRF!

So, if you’ll be at NRF and would like to meet us to learn about our agency, our services or our clients – or would like to meet with any of them – please don’t hesitate to reach out! You can find us at [email protected] or feel free to find us helping our clients at their booths, including:

  • Columbus Consulting – Booth #3083
  • DisplayData – Booth #1910
  • DynamicAction
  • Elo – Booth #3655 (with partner and Ketner Group client, Shoptelligence)
  • GK Software – Booth #3267
  • GroupBy
  • Kibo – Booth #4419
  • Mercatus – Booth $4560
  • Mirakl – Booth #206
  • NGC Software – Booth #4523
  • Opterus – Booth #4911
  • OrderDynamics – Booth #240
  • PlumSlice – Booth #1200
  • Shopgate – Booth #551
  • Symphony RetailAI – Booth #3036
  • Theatro – Booth #1517
  • Zynstra – Booth #230

Flashback (Black) Friday

Working at an agency where I can obsess over retail, I’ve started appreciating the impact it has on my life. I love the industry because as NRF says, “Retail impacts everyone, every day, everywhere,” and it’s true. As I sit down to write this blog, waiting for inspiration to hit, vivid retail memories come to mind.

A Retail “Remember When?”

One of my earliest memories of Black Friday was in seventh grade when a classmate chose an early-morning shopping spree as a “birthday party” of sorts. The day after Thanksgiving, her mom picked up our group of friends in the family van, passing back orange juice and brown-bag breakfasts to enjoy as we headed for the mall. The year was 2002 – “back then,” stores didn’t open until 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. We were among the first people inside when the security gates were lifted. At that age, Black Friday to me wasn’t about Christmas gifts or strategizing my purchases. It was the thrill of the hunt, feeling like a grown-up in the holiday bustle and looking for bargains. I remember buying a pair of trendy sunglasses for less than $2 and thinking, “this is so fun!”

Knowing what I do now about the current retail landscape, I wondered if a little Googling would provide more perspective on that memory of mine. The furthest back I could go was 2004, but it was still a fun window to the past. Try it for yourself… the Black Friday Archive serves up more than 850 ads from the past 15 years. You’ll get a kick out of all the landline phones with Caller ID and portable DVD players, and you can make your own observations on the evolution of Black Friday.

The “Black Friday Creep”

I’m a Target girl through and through, so I started exploring its ad archive first. In 2004, deals started Friday at 6:00 a.m. By 2010, Target opened at 4:00 in the morning, then midnight in 2011, and 9:00 p.m. Thursday in 2012. You already know the rest of the story. In the year 2018, many stores will open before some families have sat down to eat their Thanksgiving meal. When looking at the collection of past ads, it’s easy to see how this trend evolved. Slowly but surely, Black Friday sales crept into middle-of-the-night territory, and then into the Thursday evening hours. And this year, JCPenny made headlines when it announced it would open at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That’s earlier than any other retailer yet.

For the first time ever, forecasts predict Christmas sales in the U.S. to surpass $1 trillion, and this year, the first day of November was very noticeably the kick-off of a big push to shop. Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, and others started special promotions the day after Halloween, all competing for a share of your wallet. In the years to come, we’ll continue to see retailers dazzling us with deals and experiences each of the 54 days between Halloween and Christmas. Whether Black Friday will continue to be an important 24 hours of retail activity remains to be seen.

Smile, Then Shop

Four years after that birthday party, where did I find myself the Friday after Thanksgiving? In “Zone 1” of Bath & Body Works, working my first day as an employee there (side note: probably not the wisest day to start a retail job). That day is no less vivid than my first Black Friday memory. I was stationed at the store’s entrance with shopping bags and a ‘Tester’ bottle of peppermint lotion. Frenzied shoppers breezed right by me, too focused on the center-store deals to pay me any attention. I’ll never forget how frazzled yet energized I felt. This year, I don’t plan to do much in-store shopping, but I’ll leave you with this: if you’re gift hunting in-store this holiday season, be nice to retail workers. Even if it’s just a smile at the nervous high school girl trying her darndest to make your “offline” shopping experience a fun one.

Until Next Year NRF

NRF’s Big Show is officially over and we are back in Austin! After several cups of coffee consumed as well as analyst and media meetings coordinated for 13 clients, I think it’s safe to say this year’s show was one for the books. Check out what the Ketner Group team was up to while in the Big Apple.

nrfinfographic17

NRF 2017, Here We Come

In most industries, the holidays are a time to disengage from the hustle and bustle of work, plan for 2017 and clean out the junk folders to start the New Year feeling refreshed. But as we all know, quite the opposite is true in retail. And once a new calendar gets pinned to the wall, the heat really starts to turn up as we make final preparations for the biggest conference of our year, NRF’s BIG Show.

This year, the Ketner Group team has been as busy as ever, meticulously preparing, pitching, coordinating and managing all sorts of client announcements and on-site briefings. As the newest member of the KG team and a rookie to the realities of NRF life, I have to admit it’s been impressive watching our team stay (mostly) stress-free, while securing some truly terrific opportunities for publicity next week, without losing sight of client needs in the now.

As our entire office goes wheels up this weekend, heading from sunny and warm Austin, Texas to the hopefully not-so-cold and not-so-gray Big Apple, I expect to feel the same excitement and confidence in our client outcomes as our veterans who have been mastering the NRF process for over ten years.

We look forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces, connecting with new clients and having NRF ’17 mark the start of another great year at Ketner Group, for our clients, and for the retail industry in general. Good luck everyone!

Ketner Group clients at NRF, and where to find them:

 

NRF 2017: Don’t Throw Away Your Shot in the Greatest City in the World!

For those of you who are theater nerds like me, perhaps you caught the mashed-up reference to two songs from the critically acclaimed, Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. (For those of you who didn’t catch the reference, I’ll forgive you only if you can score me 5 tickets to the show next Tuesday!)

Image provided by Kathleen See
Image provided by Kathleen See

But, back to the matter at hand. Those of us working in the retail industry know there are exactly nine days until NRF begins. As of right now, the race is on to be in the room where it happens -“it” meaning where the best and brightest in retail come together to showcase the technologies that will change the way consumers shop in 2017 and beyond. (I’d also like to say I threw in another Hamilton song reference in this paragraph. I’ll let you figure that out on your own.)

The Ketner Group team has attended and supported our clients at NRF for nearly 15 years, and we’ve learned a few things along the way – one big one is to wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated in between your Starbucks trips! Here are a few additional PR tips to keep in mind as we enter these last few days before the BIG show:

Don’t save all your announcements until January. Most vendors spend months planning their NRF announcements. But why cram all your news into a three-day period? We counsel our clients not to save everything until NRF, but rather to adopt a release strategy for before, during and after the Big Show.

Announcing significant customer wins and new technology in the months leading up to NRF is a great way to build momentum going into the show and to trumpet your successes to prospects. During the show, your news faces stiff competition from hundreds of other press releases, but one or two newsworthy announcements can help drive booth traffic and create a buzz during NRF. After the show is a good time for announcements, too; editors’ inboxes will be a lot less crowded, many of your competitors will emptied their arsenal of news at NRF, and your news will have room to breathe.

Don’t expect to brief everyone at NRF. While NRF presents a terrific opportunity for face-to-face meetings with key editors and analysts, you won’t be able to meet with everyone on your list. The top editors and analysts are in high demand during NRF and have tightly packed schedules; many of them will have their entire days booked in 30-minute slots starting at 6:30 a.m., and paying clients and prospects will have top priority. It is important to respect the fact that they may not be able to meet with you; briefings before or after NRF can often be more relaxed and unhurried.

In keeping with this, we advise our clients to connect with key influencers in the months leading up to NRF. Schedules are more open, and it’s an excellent time to bring analysts and editors up to speed on your company’s latest products, customers and other developments. During these briefings, you can also lay the groundwork for a possible meeting or product demo at NRF.

Leave the PowerPoints at home. The editors and analysts you meet at NRF will likely be cramming 30+ vendor meetings into their day – which can mean an equal number of mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations. We advise our clients to scrap the PowerPoints during NRF. After all, if you’ve done your briefings in the fall, then an NRF meeting can be a chance to build a one-on-one relationship. Offer editors and analysts a comfortable place to sit (their feet will be aching!), bottled water and treat them the same way you’d treat your most valued customers. Find out in advance what they’d like to focus on during the meeting: demo, product roadmap or customer announcements. If an editor is accompanied by a sales rep, be sure to give him or her equal time, too.  After all, editors and analysts have to make a living, too, and many of the lead generation programs offered by the top retail and analyst firms can produce solid results.

 If companies prepare properly, NRF can get the new year off to a running start. Don’t forget, history will have its eyes on New York during those four days this January – what will you do to earn your shot in the greatest city in the world?

Retail’s BIG Show: #NRF16 Client Recap, Part Two

If there is any indication that this year’s NRF show was the most exciting yet, it’s that we need two whole blog posts to recap just how great it was. Our clients were among the best and brightest out on that show floor, demonstrating cutting-edge retail technology and hosting thought-provoking BIG !dea sessions. They were invaluable additions to the educational atmosphere of one of the industry’s longest-running events, but don’t just take our word for it, see for yourself:

Photo courtesy of Kathleen See
Photo courtesy of Kathleen See

Predictix

Continuing to stay “one step ahead of the competition,” as observed in PYMNTS, Predictix announced during the show that it has entered a strategic partnership with Infor to resell Predictix applications to its customers as a part of Infor CloudSuite Retail. This announcement, along with Predictix’s impressive 40% YOY SaaS growth, generated buzz for the predictive analytics company. Adding to the excitement, Aaron Surasky, Senior Director, Assortment Planning and Analysis for The Home Depot, led an NRF BIG !deas session where he discussed how retailers are working with Predictix to create differentiated, locally relevant assortments while operating multiple channels and stores to an audience of more than 200.

Check out some additional awesome coverage of Predictix from the show by Apparel, Retail TouchPoints, B2Becommerceworld and Just-Style.

Shopatron

The week was an exciting one for Shopatron as well, which announced that “it is now part of a unified omnichannel commerce solutions company called Kibo,” by merging with MarketLive and Fiverun according to RIS News . In a MultiChannel Merchant recap of the companies’ merge, Shopatron founder Ed Stevens (now COO of Kibo) and MarketLive founder Ken Burke “talk about how the responsive redesign and the enhanced back-end capabilities helped Modell’s {Sporting Goods] become an omnichannel success story this holiday season.”

Starmount

In the world of omnichannel, just-style was impressed with Starmount’s newly-unveiled Store Inventory application, which helps retailers maintain more accurate store inventory and allows store associates “to engage customers and process transactions.” Starmount used its time at NRF to demonstrate how this addition to its Customer Engagement Suite is an asset to retailers.

Thoughtworks

Included as a “Top 10 Takeaway” by RIS News, Thoughtworks took the opportunity at NF to highlight the new e-commerce engine it built for Mitchells‘ website. In addition to putting a spotlight on its latest project, Thoughtworks also connected with many retail industry professionals to learn from and share with the behind-the-scenes retail software experts.

Unata

In addition to meeting and networking with other members of the retail community, this year’s NRF for Unata also highlighted a major endeavor that is in-progress between the digital grocery solutions company and regional grocery chain, Lowes Foods. In a video interview with Retail Touchpoints, Michael Moore, CMO for Lowes Foods, spoke on how the partnership is “bringing to life a whole new customer experience” known as “retail-tainment” with the help of Unata.

Digital Retail’s Brightest Take Over Seattle This Week for Shop.org 2014

The annual Shop.org summit is already underway, and it has been a fast and furious few days for the team here at Ketner Group and our wonderful and innovative clients who are exhibiting at the show this week. The months and weeks leading up to Shop.org was full of planning sessions, scheduling meetings with media and analysts and preparing show announcements for our clients. This is a very exciting time of year for the KG team as it represents the unofficial kick-off of the holiday shopping season. We are working with all of our clients on some really exciting holiday-themed campaigns over the next few months, but more on that in another blog post!

Shop.org is a must-attend event for anyone in digital retail. In their own words, it is “a 2½ day event specifically for digital and multichannel retailers. Get the rush of discovering new ideas, getting actionable takeaways and building strong relationships with the brightest and most innovative players in the digital retail world.” The more than 5,200 attendees, 280 exhibitors and 100+ speakers represent the entire digital and multichannel retail community: senior management, marketers, merchandisers and solution providers.

In the first two days alone, attendees have had a chance to participate in various keynote sessions, roundtables and panels. Highlights include:

  • Jamie Nordstrom of Nordstrom speaking on the importance of evolving with your customer or “you die”
  • The Amazon.com story featuring leading Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru and veteran Silicon Valley journalist and author, Brad Stone
  • A special NRF members-only session focusing on “Decoding the New Consumer Mind”

To see the latest and greatest news, tweets and photos from Shop.org – click here!

For those of you still in Seattle and need some advice on a successful Shop.org (or if you have some free time available before your flight home) check out Shop.org’s blog, “12 Tips for Making the Most of the Summit.”

Video Courtesy of Shop.org

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.

Goodbye 2012!

We’d like to take this time to say goodbye to 2012. It was a good year, and–just like any year–we had a few downs, but mostly ups.

2012 saw Ketner Group go to NRF’s BIG Show for the 13th year. We explored our industry at SXSW Interactive, where we learned about visual storytelling, local SEO, social branding and new SoLoMo technology. We did a refresh of our company messaging and engaged with an awesome design firm, Creative Pickle, for a complete overhaul of our website.

We are looking forward to what 2013 may bring, but before we completely turn away from 2012, we wanted to share our Christmas card photo with everyone. That’s right, we know we look good.

NRF 2013: What Editors and Analysts are Predicting

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.