NRF 2014: How to Read a Retailer’s Brain & Heart and Does the Customer Deserve Better than “Almost”?

What is unique this year compared to previous years? Well, my pre-NRF blog noted that it will be “business as usual” at the Big Show but for the fact that I am now dawning a new era as an EKN- Edgell analyst. Humor aside, my quip was not too far removed from reality and candidly I was merely trying to read the pulse of retailers and consumers. All said and done there are three macro-economic factors that continue to define retailers and consumer behavior today. First, the pressure is on retailers to re-define operations due to high total landed costs due to escalating raw material, transportation and overall cost of goods sold. Second, for best-in-class and average retailers’ expansionist strategies at home into diversified segments and abroad are becoming a “need to have” strategy. Third, the channel inter-connectedness and device penchant of the customer has meant that even the largest and most profitable retail chains are playing catch up. So beyond the talk of transformation and Omni-channel changes, retailers need to execute spectacular customer engagement this year, and plan the roadmaps for the next 3 years to usher a new retail paradigm that EKN will continue to explore- “One Retail”.

I mentioned in my previous blog that the combined power of online, physical and mobile for each customer on their personal or wearable devices, an extended BYOD impact but hyper-localized and hyper-connected from source or supply chain- to-consumer. Knowing exactly where the customer is in the shopper experience lifecycle due to merging of real-time device & order data, location-based/GPRS identification, and inducing behavioral shopping/marketing/advertising tailored to each customer at their location or preference with their tacit approval. This is as game-changing for retailers and perhaps as aspirational as “Internet of Things” or “Augmented Reality”. So in my view “One Retail” will give retailers with at least some ability to catch-up with consumers when it comes to “showrooming” , “the Amazon effect” and the vacuum created by often incomprehensible “cognitive consumer purchase behaviour”. I was impressed that my friends in the retail technology sphere within Microsoft Retail, SAP, JDA, Oracle, HP, Intel, Cisco, Epicor, Motorola, and several others who were at least discussing some or many aspects of “One Retail”. Some of them had their own unique terms but the paradigm or the doctrine was the same.

So till my next blog, it was an amazing 3 days at the NRF Big Show!!  My Top NRF14 Trends/Takeaways under “One Retail”: Get down to it mobile execution (i.e. locationing, custom ads); Build/upgrade your own store experience; Smarter & more personalized omni-channel shopping tools (trial room engagement, beat showrooming apps etc..); Precision/predictive shopper analytics; and Source-to-consumer lifecycle & store device portability.  Follow: @sahiranand @EKNResearch @gpantEKN @giri_EKN Edgell @Apparel_Mag @RISnewsinsights