The timing of this year’s NRF Big Show couldn’t be more perfect. Growing positive consumer sentiment about the economy is set to drive robust retail purchases in 2024. According to analyst group eMarketer, this year’s global e-commerce sales forecast is $6.3 trillion, a significant 9.4% increase over 2023. Retailers and brands are preparing to take advantage of this growth with exciting new creative experiences to attract more customers.
The NRF Big Show always has strong international representation, and Syndigo’s global team was busy interacting with visitors from Europe, Latin America, and Canada as well as the US. In the booth and on the main stage, global retailers highlighted the complexities and opportunities in today’s marketplace. It was interesting to note the variety of retail segments as well—Home Improvement, Grocery, Beauty, Pharmacy, and more were all present with big ideas.
One prevailing theme continues to be the intersection of technology and product content as a driver of commerce. This “Content Driven Commerce” influences the shopper’s journey as they shop and engage with brands across retail, media and entertainment channels. Several international customers mentioned the growth in sales across borders due to digital media and connected retailers that are integrating their in-store and online presence. This fast-changing landscape presents challenges and new capabilities in generating relevant content for the shopper where and when they want to receive it.
A more diverse consumer base is also changing how retailers take products to market, and the ability to serve a broad shopper base is a key advantage. In their NRF session, Ulta Beauty highlighted how different brands that have a wide range of consumer needs can serve shoppers on the lookout for what is new and different. In a similar vein, Ikea was another retailer that discussed the need for Unified Commerce, highlighting the need to eliminate barriers between physical and online stores in a way that offers their own unique view to customers.
A few other key themes and topics stood out to our team at the NRF Big Show.
The Growing Role of Technology Ecosystems
Retailers are looking for greater integration of their systems for efficiency, and they are turning more and more to their technology vendors to be able to proactively integrate (and even interoperate) more effectively. Today’s connected cloud solutions mean that retailers can operate across technology environments with data and related workflows—and they are looking to work with partners that can facilitate the flow of their data across applications and even cloud environments.
AI Takes Center Stage
Not surprisingly, AI was everywhere. From robots that manage shelf placements and beauty apps that can show you your optimal hairstyle, nearly every vendor had an approach to using the latest technologies. And retailers of all sizes and types were interested in AI strategy. From delivering personalized recommendations and pricing, to optimized supply chains and automated tasks, AI is destined to be a driver of efficiency, customer satisfaction, and growth. And the quality of data feeding these AI systems is crucial for success.
There has always been a mountain of data available to retailers; however, leveraging it has not always been easy or efficient. That is changing with today’s cloud-native capabilities, and retailers are embracing it more and more. From understanding customer behavior and preferences to analyzing market trends and optimizing pricing, data will drive informed decision-making at all levels. Advanced analytics and data visualization tools are critical for gaining actionable insights from this flood of information.
Physical Presence for Online Brands
How the tables have turned! A driving concern for many on-premise brands and retailers in recent years has been how to deliver the in-store experience, online. However, the opposite has come to take place as well, as many online-first retailers are recognizing the value of physical experiences. Pop-up stores, brand activations, and experiential events are becoming increasingly popular as ways to connect with customers on a deeper level and build brand loyalty.
The days of separate online and offline channels are over. As consumers have grown comfortable living in a mobile world that intersects physical locations and virtual experiences, retailers also are prioritizing a seamless experience across channels, blurring the lines between physical and digital with initiatives like buy-online-pick-up-in-store, personalized digital signage in stores, and data-driven inventory management across channels. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in-store first, or mobile-native…you need to reach shoppers everywhere.
This is a topic that will continue to inform shopper decisions. Consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable practices from the brands they support. Retailers have responded with eco-friendly packaging, ethical sourcing of materials, and initiatives to reduce their environmental footprint. Transparency and accountability for how products and their components are sourced—as required by programs such as the new EU Digital Product Passport—are becoming increasingly popular not just as a way to meet regulatory requirements but also to get a competitive edge. Sustainability is now mainstream—no longer just a niche concern, but rather an integral part of a company’s business model.
Let’s Get Started!
Based on what we’re seeing now, 2024 is going to be a more profitable year for retailers, brands, and manufacturers. Don’t miss out on the latest technologies and creative content opportunities to catapult your business into a record year of success. We look forward to making this journey together!