NRF 2018 is revealing trends and insights that will shape retailers’ business decisions, and customer experiences, throughout the year ahead. Here are some of the topics being discussed among JDA customers, partners and analysts at this year’s conference.

The Challenge of Digital Transformation

Retailers are still working to define what digital transformation will mean for their company and how it will create value for shoppers and stakeholders.

“We’re hearing retailers asking, ‘How do we deploy technology quickly and iterate with agility?’” said JoAnn Martin, VP of retail industry strategy at JDA. “Retailers know they can’t afford to spend time and resources implementing if there’s no clear ROI.”

Two areas that have generated lots of interest are machine learning in general, and more specifically, artificial intelligence applied to creating customer-centric assortments.

“On the other end of the spectrum, we’re hearing that lots of retailers are still being held back by legacy software and manual solutions, including relying on Excel spreadsheets,” Martin said. “They want to move to solutions that will allow them to scale, minimize manual inputs and maximize returns.”

Overall, retailers are viewing technology spend as a positive in 2018, with many looking to technology investments as a way to drive clear business results. But retailers are still trying to define the steps in that journey, and looking for knowledgeable partners to assist them with key steps that will enhance customer experience and build loyalty – especially when it comes to bridging the gap between in-store retail and digital experiences, Martin said.

Personalization: Critical, Yet Problematic

Understanding how to deliver a personalized retail experience is something that’s as talked-about today as omni-channel retail was a few years ago. As one industry expert told JDA: “Everyone knows they need to do better at personalization, but how do they start? Is it by leveraging Big Data and analytics, or social media insights, or something more?”

One thing is certain: When it comes to creating localized assortments and getting the right product in the right place at the right time, some retailers are still struggling.

Standing Out In a Crowded Market

 Another topic continues to be a focus on what the world’s mega-marketplaces have announced – especially when those new services or products impact customer expectations.

Case in point: Amazon Go, the company’s checkout-free shopping concept, and Amazon Key, which allows the e-commerce giant to extend the last mile of fulfillment into the shopper’s home.

Yet, as many retailers already know, the key to differentiating in today’s rapidly-evolving retail marketplace is often by being what Amazon and other major retailers aren’t.

Only 343 Days ‘Til Christmas

Retailers attending NRF are reinvigorated by recent holiday successes and are eager to look ahead to initiatives to drive more sales and customer engagement in the year ahead.

Some are already talking about how to get ahead of the 2018 holiday season.

“Right now, we’re seeing a very positive attitude about sales expectations coming out of Holiday 2017,” Martin said. “Retailers feel like they have momentum and have stabilized their base going into the new year.”

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