Retail Trends to Pay Attention to at NRF 2017

Retail’s BIG Show is almost here! If you’re headed to the Big Apple to take part in NRF’s annual conference, you’ll want to be prepared. With so much information to absorb and so many connections to make, having a game plan and knowing what to look out for can help you get the most out of your experience. In order to help you, we have put together this list of retail trends to pay attention to at this year’s conference.

Retail Trends to Watch in 2017…and at NRF’s BIG Show

Implementing Unified Commerce

This is a big one. Unified commerce, the ability to connect all channels seamlessly, is the ultimate goal for most retailers. According to a Boston Retail Partners 2016 POS/Customer Engagement Survey, 85 percent of retailers said unified commerce is their top priority. That’s because by offering a unified commerce experience that connects all channels via one centralized platform, retailers believe they will be able to offer a superior customer experience that allows for real-time support and visibility, ultimately resulting in greater customer engagement.

For example, as ecommerce continues to grow in popularity, returns are on the rise. With a unified commerce solution, shoppers could return items to a brick-and-mortar store or by mail to the ecommerce store, and the retailer would be able to pull up their receipt digitally to see exactly what they paid. Everything would be housed in one centralized system, creating convenience for the shopper and streamlining business for the retailer.

Currently, the majority of retailers are dealing with a number of disparate systems — to track POS, inventory, ecommerce, etc. — that are not interfaced with each other. In order to fully realize a unified commerce experience, retailers must find a way to integrate all of their systems — which is no small task considering the many moving parts and brick-and-mortar stores that many retailers manage. Fortunately, companies like Microsoft are now offering retail solutions that bundle all of a retailer’s required software and tools into one platform, making it easy for them to set in place a foundation for a unified commerce strategy.  

At the NRF Conference

Be sure to catch Carrie Ask of Levi Strauss & Co. and Brian Krzanich of Intel for their talk: Driving Retail Transformation: How Data and Smart, Connected Technology Deliver Amazing Customer Experiences.

Personalizing the Shopper Experience

In the age of big data, it’s all about personalization, no matter what industry you’re in. The retail industry could benefit greatly from this opportunity to personalize the shopping experience.

In fact, one of the primary benefits of implementing a unified commerce strategy is the ability to personalize the customer experience. By collecting data on the customer’s entire journey — from browsing on their mobile device or desktop to visiting the brick-and-mortar store to eventual purchase — a complete picture of a shopper’s habits and preferences is captured, making it possible for retailers to offer targeted and personalized offers to each customer. One way this personalized experience is being implemented is through loyalty programs. With unified commerce, retailers are able to track purchases and points, whether a shopper buys online or in store; offer customized rewards; and implement real-time in store offers to enable guided selling.

At the NRF Conference

Be sure to catch:

Grappling with Increased Labor Costs

Due to changes in overtime laws and increases in minimum wage requirements across the country, an industry that relies largely on a minimum wage workforce is seeing labor costs surge. In order to account for these new costs, some retailers will have to decrease their workforce, which means that the leaner staff will have to become more efficient and productive. To assist staff in achieving this goal, retailers will want to turn to technology such as the Microsoft Dynamics POS system  that provides the capabilities store associates need.

At the NRF Conference

Be sure to catch: Innovation in E-Commerce: A Retailer’s Key to Survival 

Strategizing for Mobile

The way consumers buy is changing. According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, over the recent Thanksgiving weekend, 109 million people shopped online, compared with 50 million in stores. And the segment of mobile online shoppers is growing. The Wall Street Journal reported, “Amazon said sales from mobile phones on this year’s Black Friday beat last year’s Cyber Monday and Black Friday, and exceeded such sales on Thanksgiving to become one of the biggest mobile shopping days on its site.” Similarly, “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said 60% of Black Friday online orders came through mobile devise, up from 50% last year.” The trend is toward mobile — and finding ways to offer the best customer experience that leads to sales should be a goal for all retailers this year.  

At the NRF Conference

Be sure to catch:

Evolving Store Operations

With ecommerce accelerating almost 18 percent per year, according to McKinsey, brick-and-mortar stores need to evolve if they want to stay relevant. Connected fitting rooms, near field communication, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are just some of the cutting-edge tactics that innovative retailers are implementing in their stores. In order to implement these tactics, however, data is critical. For example, for connected fitting rooms to function they need to be connected to a database that allows customers to explore products — and that database needs to be connected to a system that manages what sizes, styles, colors, etc., are available.  

At the NRF Conference

Be sure to catch: Tech Savvy Store: Tracking, Analyzing and Engaging for Profit

The retail industry is evolving dramatically as technology and big data continue to interrupt the market and put new demands on retailers. If you would like to talk more about retail trends in 2017 and learn more about the technologies that have been developed to help retailers like you implement the strategies and tactics that will be crucial in order to compete in a digital age, be sure to reach out to us!

Hitachi Solutions is excited to attend NRF this year and showcase our new and innovative product, Microsoft 365, designed specifically for retailers looking to offer a unified commerce experience and create a streamlined business model that leverages big data and simplifies processes. Contact us to schedule a meeting at NRF or anytime before or after the conference. We look forward to seeing you at Retail’s Big Show.