NRF 2018 - It's BIG!
If you believe the headlines, Mark Twain may have written retail's epitaph:
"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated"
On the evidence of the first day at NRF's BIG Show in New York, instead, he wrote the rallying cry with even Doug McMillon, Walmart CEO quoting Twain during a keynote session in the afternoon.
It's not so much a resurgence of retail but a re-branding if you will.
They say there's nothing new under the sun and to a large extent that's true but on the evidence of today, what changes is the perspective.
For example, last year, we were hearing about Artificial Intelligence; this year we are hearing about Artificial Intelligence blended with different technologies to create real meaningful value for the customer.
That's a fundamental shift.
Each day at NRF we are calling out our top two trends which we feel are going to make an impact in 2018.
1. Blend of Technologies
That evidence of the blending of technologies to create a new solution which now adds real value to the customer.
AI and facial recognition for example. Before it was one or the other, each in isolation a blunt, incongruous tool. Marry them together and suddenly a proper usable, valuable offering which the consumer can relate to.
2. Virtual Reality
With the convergence of physical with virtual as brilliantly demonstrated by Roots in an inspirational Innovation Lab session, Virtual Reality has finally found a natural home.
It felt as if we were searching in the dark for a suitable use case for VR but now Roots have demonstrated that it is possible to create wonderful immersive, interactive experiences by blending the two.
Expect more of this in 2018.
And mention of the Innovation Lab brings us to a fascinating insight into where both NRF and retail thinking is heading.
Not even standing room at the Innovation Lab
In 2017 the Innovation Lab stage occupied a small area which was never really that busy.
In the two sessions we attended today on AI and emerging technologies it wasn't even 'standing room only' - there wasn't any standing room!
Retail and Technology converging even further.
Great first day where the heavyweights of Levi and Walmart were out in force so it seems fitting to leave the last to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon commenting on the current state of retail:
"If you're bored right now, you're not paying attention"
Amen to that.
Retail Reflections is a retail analyst consultancy. Founder & CEO Andrew Busby is ranked as one of the top retail influencers globally by Vend and is an IBM Futurist.