Jan 17 2020

NRF 2020: 4 Trends Will Drive Retail in the 2020s

Data, cybersecurity, customer experience and omnichannel shopping are all key to success.

NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show has ended, but retailers will continue to build on the themes discussed at the event for the rest of the year — and for years to come. A few things about the state of the industry and its near-term direction became clear this year during retail’s massive annual gathering.

Here are our top takeaways from the event.

1. Building Great Shopping Experiences Is Every Retailer’s Mandate

Retailers have always focused on the shopping experience. But two things are new: First, consumers, especially younger ones, are increasingly demanding that shopping be more than just a way to buy products; they want retail brands to delight and engage them, in part because they know from experience that this is possible.

Second, businesses have more tools at their disposal — namely, rich data sets and a buffet of technologies — to deliver great experiences.

2. Data Is the Key to Retail Success in the Next Decade

For all the talk of the customer experience at this year’s NRF, the real differentiator between the retailers that will succeed in coming years and those that won’t is data. Businesses that have rich, clean data on their customers, employees and processes — and that are able to use that data to inform artificial intelligence and analytics projects — are the ones likely to be attending Retail’s Big Show in 2030. 

As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pointed out during his keynote address on Jan. 12, “intelligent retail” starts with knowing your customers: “How do you use all that data, and how do you take digital technologies to the next level to empower employees, enable the digital supply chain and redefine the retail experience itself?”

Data is the key to solving every major challenge retailers face today. How can they optimize supply chains so stores are stocked with exactly the right products at the right time and in the right quantities? How do they know what kinds of products their consumers will want next month? How much should they charge for merchandise and when should they discount items? How do they properly staff their store locations? 

These questions can only be answered with data, and retailers are sitting on mountains of it. But can they optimize their data analysis programs to deliver the right insights?

3. Cybersecurity Remains Top of Mind for Retail CIOs

Maintaining secure systems is perhaps no more a challenge in retail than in most industries. But the stakes are high because retail is a favorite target of threat actors, and the hit to a business's reputation in a consumer-centric industry can be devastating. 

At the same time, security is getting tougher for everyone. “As the technology evolves, so does the cyberthreat actor,” explains Richard Purizaca, security solutions architect for CDW, in a video from the event. “So, for example, take the wide deployment of 5G networks: We know that 5G delivers higher speeds, better availability and better connectivity, but that creates another avenue for threat actors to leverage. They understand it’s going to require new hardware, new operating systems and new applications.”

Retail cybersecurity professionals at the conference said one important defense tactic is collaboration. In an industry that’s fiercely competitive, retailers will have to learn to work together to defend themselves against threat actors trying to exploit them all.

“All the bad guys are working together to figure out how to attack us,” said Target CISO Rich Agostino. “Companies need to do the same to help defend against them.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH AT NRF: Read why voice recognition is a big untapped opportunity for retailers.

4. Omnichannel Is Not Just a Buzzword

Retailers that once thought their job was to defeat online shopping have at last come to see that embracing all shopping channels for consumers is their only path to success. They’re still learning how to optimize each channel, including brick-and-mortar stores, while continuing to discover new channels, like speech-recognition devices.

But they accept that each channel is its own opportunity to make a sale and build a lasting relationship. This is what David Dobson, director of retail, hospitality and consumer goods for Intel, called the “second wave of digital disruption” in retail while speaking at the conference.

“The first wave of disruption was about how to compete with online,” Dobson said. “The next wave is really about the integrated solution. It’s not online versus in-store but rather how to deliver value to the customers wherever they want to be. It’s clear that you have to have both, and you have to merge those experiences.”

Check out this page for all of our coverage of NRF 2020, follow us on Twitter at @BizTechMagazine, and join the conversation using the hashtag #NRF2020.

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