What Have Retailers Got In Store For Customers In 2014? Report from Retail’s BIG Show

My friend and colleague, Andrew Busby has just returned from New York, buzzing with all the latest gossip from Retail’s BIG Show. As I know we all shop…I thought I would share his experience with you. This year customer experience, in-store experience and customer-centric retailing were all key themes from the show, which is great news for shoppers.

NRF, The BIG Show, New York
NRF, The BIG Show, New York

2014 was the biggest and best NRF Show so far (well it would be!) with more than could be absorbed in the time available. However some key themes emerged which are both exciting and significant for retailers worldwide. Here is a personal summary of my 3 days at NRF 2014.

You can follow Andrew @andrewbusby on Twitter and follow his blog Retail Storm here

Theatre Emotions

EvitaThis ‘theatrical’ guest blog is from Andrew Busby, (colleague, motorsport lover and retail expert).

I love going to the theatre, I tend to fall asleep if I go to the cinema. It must have something to do with the live shared experience which the theatre provides and which exists between the performers and the audience. It engages you on an emotional level.

Nothing is quite like it; I still recall the last night of Evita with Elaine Paige and the goosebumps at the final curtain call; not because I’m a particular fan but because of the intimate shared experience which it provided. I witnessed it…..I was there.

I was fortunate enough to attend the National Retail Federation’s annual convention in New York in January – otherwise known as Retails BIG Show. And for good reason; 2 whole floors of exhibitors from the big names such as IBM, SAP and Microsoft down to the smallest of niche players. 26,000 delegates over 3 days from all over the globe made this a truly remarkable event. But what was most memorable to me were the number of sessions and exhibitors covering one aspect or another of the in-store customer experience. Bricks & mortar stores aren’t where the investment is being made, right? Wrong! Online sales maybe booming so why have a large store estate? Well from the interest shown at NRF it is clear that whilst online will continue to grow, the store estate will remain. Perhaps in a different guise but the importance of the store and therefore the in-store experience has never been as important or relevant as it is today.

One of the sessions at NRF discussed best of breed retailers and what struck me was what they had in common. Virtually all focused obsessively on the in-store customer experience – the retail theatre which they created for their customers. If you have ever been to the Burberry store in London’s Regents Street you’ll know what I mean; if you haven’t – GO! It must be one of the truly memorable experiences on the high street and I would argue one which rivals the West End theatre for spectacle. I half expected that at any moment, Gloria Swanson would sweep down the wonderful curving staircase as if in a scene from Sunset Boulevard.

As more and more retailers embrace the in-store experience as a way not only to entice customers into the store but to stay there and purchase, it becomes a key differentiator in the fight for survival. Some, like Apple achieve this in a very simple straightforward way – no frills when you look at the store, just rows and rows of tactile ‘iSomethings’ to touch, feel and try out. Others like Burberry follow a different route but both are engaging their customers at an emotional level and this is rapidly growing in importance amongst retailers. This is the retail theatre and long may it continue.

Next time I shall explore how store colleagues are the cast and how crucial it is to fully engage them if the ‘Show’ is to be a success.

Posted 19 hours ago as a guest blog by Richard Shorney

A review of the ‘The BIG Show’

Andrew Busby and David Bacon, Kronos for Retail at NRF 2013My colleagues David Bacon and Andrew Busby had the opportunity to attend NRF13 in New York and here is a brief insight into their experience from Andrew.

The National Retail Federation’s annual show otherwise known as Retail’s BIG Show held in New York between January 13th – 16th was the biggest show ever with over 26,000 people attending not just from the US but from all parts of the globe. Exhibitors included IBM, Microsoft (who had a Formula 1 car on their stand), SAP and of course Kronos. Our stand was impressive and attracted a lot of attention, especially the moustache party at the end of the first day. In return for each visitor to the stand wearing a moustache, Kronos donated $5 to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.

But the Expo wasn’t the only attraction for delegates, there was a full 3 day conference including keynote speeches from Kofi Annan and Donna Karan. Other sessions included a fascinating insight into the continuing austerity which will affect retailers who will have to adapt to meet the changing socio-economic trends which will emerge. For me, the session discovering examples of best in class retail from around the world was the most interesting and perhaps relevant to the Kronos value proposition for retailers. Examples from Burberry, Uniqlo and Harrods show how retailers are striving to connect with their customers and deliver not just great service but a great experience.

NRF 2013 was also an opportunity for David and I to meet not only the Kronos US team who made us feel very welcome, but also customers, prospects and partners including M&S, Boots, Arcadia, PCMS and Axium. And of course it was also an opportunity to take a bite out of the Big Apple. The sights and sounds of New York are an assault on the senses never to be forgotten: Times Square, Empire State Building, Central Park, Rockefeller Centre, 5th Avenue are all iconic landmarks, and seeing such a presence by the NYPD it was easy to imagine Cagney & Lacey appearing at any moment.  

But back to the business of the conference and some clear themes and trends in retail soon emerged.

  • Online and in particular mobile shopping will continue to increase at a dramatic rate
  • Customers now have the power and the retailers who embrace this will be those who survive
  • Omni-channel (some say hyper-channel) will become ubiquitous as part of this mobile online revolution. Some analysts likening this as being even more significant than the industrial revolution
  • Big data and Cloud will proliferate
  • Bricks & mortar stores will always remain but the in-store customer experience will be ever more critical to the success of the brand. For those who have ever visited Burberry in Regent’s Street or a Hollister store will appreciate the lengths leading retailers are going to in order to attract and retain customers

And all this underlined the fact that Workforce Management’s time has come; employee engagement, productivity, aligning labour cost to customer demand and delivering great customer experience are all high on the agenda for retailers. Retail’s BIG Show provided the inspiration and insight – the rest is down to us!