Biggest insights and takeaways from NRF's Big Show 2024

My Biggest Takeaways from NRF 2024 – Retail’s Big Show

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How leaders in retail are using artificial intelligence for digital transformation that delights customers

I had the pleasure of joining the pilgrimage to NYC for Retail’s Big Show, NRF (National Retail Federation). The theme this year was “Make IT Matter.”

Retail IT teams have a monumental task of remaining current and providing the business and its customers an informative, delightful, and seamless experience. Artificial Intelligence (AI) was, again, leading the way connecting the top of the supply chain to the customer channel shopping sphere and every juncture in between. Vendors show-cased a plethora of ideas and transformative technologies that promise to radically impact the future of retail.

Here is how they plan to do that.

The Practical Application of AI to the Retail Industry

One of the many AI interactive systems on display at NRF 2024 Retail’s Big Show

The question of how to use AI in retail took center stage, unveiling a transformative landscape where AI integrates into every facet of the industry. From optimizing supply chain logistics with predictive analytics to handling personalized customer experiences through advanced recommendation engines, AI emerged as a strategic ally for retailers.

Retailers shared their AI maturity journey with key business partners on AI playing a role in their ecosystems.

Many key lessons emerged.

Firstly, to be successful, start small and focus on solving a real business problem. Then test and measure results. Put your data to work to solve practical problems. Be financially prudent, know what you are spending on, what results you expect, and how you will measure those results. And, always think about your customer, both internal and external. How will your AI project benefit them?

Your technology ecosystem should be open, paving the way for additive solutions, in real time. AI must be considered a gene in your company’s DNA.

My Biggest Takeaways from NRF 2024: AI must be considered a gene in your company’s DNA. Click To Tweet

Some of the examples of how AI is already being used were for consumer hyper-personalization, pricing and promotion optimization, AI-driven forecasting, digitized workforce experience, omni-channel supply chain variability and integration, IoT and edge computing, and “directed activity”. (Directed activity refers to providing teams with the most important activities to complete based on AI suggestions. Some of these activities can be autonomously performed based on prior execution experience.)

Unified Commerce for Seamless Customer Journeys

Retailers are striving to create a seamless and cohesive experience for customers across various channels – be it online, in-store, or through mobile apps. The integration of inventory management systems, real-time analytics, and personalized marketing ensures that customers enjoy a consistent and delightful journey regardless of how they choose to interact with a brand.

In-app and email notifications need to be better. Consumers no longer want to see offers for a food processor once they have already purchased one, nor should it appear as a “buy again” option. Success in this area comes down to the data available to retailers and being smarter with core ERP data attribution to give AI models the chance to learn more about customer decisions.

Sustainability and Social Responsibility

Beyond technology, the NRF show emphasized the growing significance of sustainability and social responsibility in retail. Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and retailers are responding by adopting eco-friendly practices, reducing waste, and embracing ethical sourcing. Brands that align themselves with these values are not only meeting consumer expectations but also contributing to a more sustainable future.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

Data emerged as the lifeblood of retail strategy. Retailers are harnessing the power of big data to gain valuable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and trends. With advanced analytics and machine learning models, retailers can make informed decisions, optimize supply chains, and tailor marketing strategies to better connect with their target audience.

My Biggest Takeaways from NRF 2024: Ultimately, we must move towards a digital, single version of the truth, shared across the business and the extended supply chain. Click To Tweet

Retailers shared their partnerships with strategic vendors who offer connected cloud data solutions. It was clear, that connecting all business silos is necessary in order to make effective data-driven decision-making possible. And ultimately, that means moving towards a digital, single version of the truth, shared across the business and the extended supply chain.

Elevate the Employee Experience

Recognizing the pivotal role of employees in delivering exceptional customer experiences, the NRF show highlighted the importance of investing in employee well-being and training.

Retailers are adopting innovative technologies to streamline internal processes, empower their staff with the right tools, and foster a culture of continuous learning and development.

AI has been developed by vendors and retailer’s IT data science teams to automate repetitive tasks, in order to improve productivity and, ultimately, to allow retail associates more time with customers. Today’s customers are more demanding, and frequently want to know more detailed product information, product availability, and how they can get more competitive pricing.  

NRF 2024 in NYC served as a beacon, illuminating the path forward for the retail industry. From embracing digital transformation to championing sustainability and putting data at the forefront, retailers are gearing up for a future that is dynamic, customer-centric, and socially responsible.

As we navigate these transformative and uncertain times, the key messages from the NRF show can serve as a compass, guiding businesses toward success in the ever-evolving world of retail.


Nicholas Scott
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