NRF Big Show 2023 Takeaways

The National Retail Federation (NRF) hosted the annual Retail’s Big Show and Expo January 14-17, 2023, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. This event is hugely anticipated every year because it offers the retail industry the opportunity to converge to discuss and experience the latest innovations and technologies.

Connors Group serves as an exhibitor every year, and it is so wonderful to see our retail friends and colleagues new and old. It is such a rewarding experience to speak with so many like-minded people, network, and discuss all the possibilities for retail over the course of these three days. 

Retail’s Big Show is just that, big. Well, enormous might be a better adjective. There is a lot to take in with more than 350 speakers and 1,000 or so exhibitors, and I’m happy to bring you some highlights, including information on technologies and products that will likely significantly impact retail in the next two years.

Putting Technology to Work:

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there are daily news headlines targeting how technology and artificial intelligence’s use is infiltrating our lives. The retail industry is at the forefront of this, and as technology advances, retail operations continue working toward increased automation. With options like robotics in stores and fulfillment centers to task automation, leaders are looking to allocate human resources elsewhere while allowing technology to automate more redundant or data-driven tasks to ensure success in the future. 

There are many programs offering data analysis and resulting recommendations for retailers. Some offer data analysis specifically for store leaders, allowing them to automate task management to better prioritize store activities and their daily impacts. Others help streamline and improve planning, planogram compliance and overall sales with intense data profiling, customer heat mapping, and customer journey analysis.

With data ranging from traffic counts to length of transactions to planogram compliance, in 2023 retailers have access to many programs that can help field leaders prioritize.

Workforce Management (WFM)

At Connors Group we specialize in workforce performance and productivity improvement, so we are always interested in discussing workforce management news and software. There is still buzz around the Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG) October 2022 announcement that Workforce Central would be retired. UKG seemingly owns the market share for WFM in retail, but WFM options like Legion, Quinyx, Blue Yonder, Zebra/Reflexis, StoreForce, Logile, etc. also saw significant foot traffic at the event. 

Interestingly WFM is not relying on AI yet as much as we anticipated. The exception was the Legion WFM, which uses Intelligent Automation to generate and manage optimized schedules. 

It won’t be long before AI is thoroughly incorporated into WFM.

Affording to Automate

The newest technology offers more efficiency and productivity, but it also requires the largest investment. But some products are proving more accessible in 2023.

With technology like cameras becoming even more affordable, their use continues to expand, providing data for everything from planogram audits, customer service tracking, and brand compliance to out-of-stock (OOS) alerts and loss prevention. 

Radio frequency identification technology (RFID) had a large throughline at the show, considering the possibilities of its use across retail operations: inventory management, store operations, and the customer experience. While RFID isn’t necessarily new technology, the cost of RFID tags and readers has dropped significantly over the last decade. Utilizing this technology still requires significant time and financial commitments (tags, hardware, software, plus implementation), but retailers can experience considerable ROI and increased productivity.

Throughout the event, there was a lot of focus on frictionless checkout and streamlining in-store returns in order to improve the customer experience, so the use of RFID will expand in this context, offering shoppers the ability to select their merchandise and simply walk out of the store. 

As more retailers commit to the use and investment of RFID, upselling, smart dressing rooms, and improved inventory tracking will help increase sales and productivity.

Virtually Tomorrow

While it may not take off in 2023, virtual reality (VR) will significantly change the retail landscape with a hybrid in-store/in-VR experience within the next five years or so. The use of twin technology, a virtual replica, for products to create an immersive shopping experience will likely become standard.

And, more immediately, shopping via social platforms will develop even further with shoppable livestreams, omnichannel integrations, and the incorporation of photoreal virtual stores. 

Think Innovatively

Retail’s Big Show did not disappoint. With innovations in automation, task management, and technological advances like AI, retail has an exciting year ahead, and we love bringing this cutting-edge thinking to our clients. 

Connors Group is dedicated to guiding your business to increase productivity, efficiency, and sales. Contact us today to learn how we can help your company navigate the newest technologies through data-driven and informed strategy.