Key Takeaways from NRF 2020

Well, it’s that time of the year again – where we have the opportunity to unite with 40,000 of our closest retail friends and take a pulse on the industry.  Now that the keynotes are complete, the booths are coming down, and we’ve all exhausted our supply of business cards, I thought I would take a moment to share a few of my key takeaways from NRF 2020: Retail’s Big Show.

  • The reports of a retail apocalypse are overstated – There certainly are individual retailers that have lost their way and/or been unable to pivot to the new expectations of the shopper, but broadly, retail continues to be strong. Throughout all three days of the expo, we met with many retailers and saw very heavy traffic in our booth and around the show floor; we heard keynotes about the positive changes happening across the industry, driven by technology; and we spoke with many companies with plans to invest and a strong sense of optimism for the future.
  • Most companies have a vision and the beginnings of a plan – It’s been five years since Amazon surpassed Walmart in valuation and dramatically disrupted the traditional retail model, and most of the companies I’ve spoken with have now figured out how they will operate in this new economy. Whether they are aiming to be a niche player, an innovation disruptor or have embraced a ‘co-opetition’ model, the C-Suite has at least answered the question: “how do we continue to thrive in this new retail world?”
  • Powerful sense of urgency – That being said, a plan is nothing without execution, and most companies are now very incented to move quickly to bring their vision to reality. With the pace of change accelerating, standing still is not an option. For example, in a recent survey of C-Suite leaders, 82% of supply chain executives plan to deploy or test cognitive analytics technology in the next 24 months.
  • The discussion is about selecting a partner, not a piece of software – Given the rapid pace of technological advancement, even the most cutting-edge technology will be ‘old news’ in just a few years. Retail leaders today are looking at the holistic approach of potential partners – everything from how sustainable their footprint is, to how well they can pivot and evolve to incorporate new innovations and breakthrough technology that provides scalability, maturity and security.
  • Lines between manufacturing and retail continue to blur – Given NRF is a retail event, I was amazed at the number of conversations I had that quickly shifted to include a discussion related to our manufacturing solutions. Whether talking with a grocer that is trying to reduce waste in their prepared foods area, to convenience stores with their ‘ready-to-eat’ options, to vertically-integrated softline retailers, the concept of a true seamless end-to-end platform that can manage manufacturing and retail effectively was topic of conversation and a theme throughout each discussion.

And so, as we bid farewell to yet another excellent NRF Big Show and say hello to a new decade, I find myself sharing many of the same emotions as my retail partners – optimism, urgency and a sense of purpose.  I wish you best of luck in the new year, and look forward to partnering with you. If you attended NRF, what were some of your key takeaways?