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NRF is the biggest retail conference and expo in the world. At NRF 2020, attendees got an inside look at the futuristic tech that’s changing how retailers approach commerce. To learn more about the industry trends and innovations we’ll see in 2020, check out these four key takeaways from the conference.

Leveraging technology for more personalized experiences

One important tactic that NRF 2020 focused on was how to leverage new technology in order to stay one step ahead of your customers’ needs, bringing added value and helping to accelerate their purchasing journey. 

It has been known for a while that advanced product management and merchandising capabilities can help you unlock more personalized browsing and provide highly tailored online experiences. These tools include refined search queries, automated complementary or related products suggestions, loyalty program and recurring orders management. Although during this year’s conference, it was revealed that personalisation should not only apply to online shopping, but also to in-store experiences.

In an interview, Helena Foulkes, chief executive of Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), pointed out the importance of empowering store associates with the right technology to provide tailored services for repeat customers. HBC is a Canadian retail group that owns and operates multiple brands and stores in Canada and the United States, including Saks Fifth Avenue department-store chain.

Helena described how the Saks team skillfully use “new digital insights and tools to empower frontline employees to absolutely delight customers.”

She explained how Sacks equipped 4,500 employees, responsible for helping customers with their purchase and styling options, with more data and the ability to view the shoppers’ online activities, obtain important insights about their needs and invite them to visit a store to complete their purchase. With the right information in hand, it made it easier to maintain and develop relationships with clients.

NRF 2020 | Orckestra booth presentation

Mastering your customer journey

Customer behaviour is changing, and so are customer expectations. One idea shared during NRF was how technology can help you create unique customer journey and be a hugely effective tool to help you build one-on-one customer relationships. Technology can be used for refunds, credits, and to personalize every interaction with a customer. New tech can help you offer a better customer experience—which 16 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for.

Retailers need to create brand-representative experiences and social media is taking an increasingly important role in shoppers’ pre and post-purchase journey.

“We make a concerted effort to make it easier to shop, and to make that transition from inspiration to maybe pushing a checkout button as easy as possible,” said Amy Eschliman, senior vice president for client engagement at Sephora, during a panel focused on driving commerce through social content.

Mastering every step of your customer journey and developing authentic content for your clients is a key element for growth.

Brick-and-mortar transformation

The e-commerce industry is growing at a steadily increasing pace. Global e-commerce sales jumped from $2.93 trillion in 2018 to $3.46 trillion in 2019, and e-commerce giant Amazon made up a whopping 20 percent of that web sales growth, according to a study from Digital Commerce 360. NRF 2020 asked an important question: How can brick-and-mortars coexist with e-commerce titans such as Amazon?

According to Steve Dennis, President and Founder, SageBerry Consulting “No, there is not a retail apocalypse, but that doesn’t mean all news are good. One third of retail CEOs fear their company will be out of business within three years. 2019 was another record year for retail bankruptcies – 28. Also, many iconic retailers are struggling such as Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, JCPenny and HBC.”

It can be helpful to use the latest technology to understand and connect with shoppers in stores. What exactly does this look like? You could let your customers scan the QR code of a product to learn more about that item and how it was made. You might let shoppers select their favourite clothing items online and then try on those products in-store. You could even let customers shop and pay online, and simply stop by your location to pick up their products.

By using tech-savvy strategies like these, you can reinvent the purpose of the store by turning store visits into memorable experiences. Delivering micro-experiences can also have a major in-store impact. Micro-experiences typically occur over digital channels, but you can provide micro-experiences in-store, too. These brief interactions of in-store engagement might seem minor, but they can do a lot for your customers’ brand loyalty, helping your business succeed down the road.

Before anything else, small businesses need to maintain and foster the human element, even in this digital age. In a world of digitalization both at home and in-store, human connection can play a key role and become an element of differentiation for your brand. For example, many customers enjoy receiving advice from in-store experts and getting the chance to test a product before purchasing. E-commerce sellers can’t offer this hands-on experience—but brick-and-mortar stores can. If you have a brick-and-mortar filled with smiling employees, that’s an asset you should advertise.

“As human beings, we were meant to interact with one another,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbucks CEO, during a keynote session. “It’s how we get energy. It’s how we get support when we’re dealing with adversity. It’s how we share joy and successes in our lives. I think one of the common themes going forward is finding ways to create human connection. Human interaction. The world needs that.”

Both Starbucks and Sam’s Club leverage cutting-edge technologies to automate certain repetitive tasks in order to free up employees so that they could spend some time interacting with customers.

“There’s no better investment you can make than in the people you have on your team, who are serving the people that are paying you to be there,” said Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner during a keynote session with MIT professor Zeynep Ton.

NRF 2020 | Orckestra Mobile Store Fulfillment Demo

Use omnichannel order management and fulfillment program to improve your customers’ shopping experiences

In addition to creating more compelling experiences, many experts highlighted the extra advantages for retailers to focus on omnichannel order management and fulfillment. Often shown to be the secret to many brilliant brands’ success, advanced order routing allows you to ship from the best location and reduce your shipping and fulfillment costs. It collects inventory from all your stores and distribution centres, making your products available to customers wherever they shop. For consumers, convenience is key, and by using this method, you can provide them with top-notch products no matter where they are.

The process not only benefits customers, but also enables retailers to fulfill orders more efficiently. By adopting new technologies allowing them to streamline their processes, become more efficient and meet their customers’ expectations, retailers can respond to the changing shopping habits and become better positioned for growth.

“Listening, having a process, having a system, making sure we have the data we need—balancing all that with a little paranoia is probably what you need to be a great retailer today,” revealed Kevin Plank, executive chairman and brand chief at Under Armour.

Keep up with your customers’ rising standards and stay at the top of your game by utilizing new technology. Don’t be afraid to pursue innovation! Test a new brand experience or break a boundary. Leverage the power of new tech to smooth out the bumps in the omnichannel fulfillment process.

Visit our webpage on mobile store fulfillment for more information on how to make store inventory accessible.

To learn more about the omnichannel commerce topics discussed at NRF 2020, download our eBook, 10 Trends Changing Omnichannel Retailing in 2020. If you’re ready to launch your next commerce experience, contact us to get started!