12 Mar 2020

Four key trends from NRF: Retail’s Big Show 2020

National Retail Federation, NRF, summed up its annual retail conference in New York with
40 000 visitors, 16 000 retailers, 800 exhibitors and more than 200 talks from well-known company leaders such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Reebok, Target, Estée Lauder and Walmart.

Four key trends to take into account 2020 are:

  • Stores should be a destination
  • It needs to be a seamless experience between the digital and the analogue
  • Brands needs to ask themselves, how they shall serve humanity
  • Relationships and human interaction is more important than ever before

In recent years, retail apocalypse have been in focus and brands have been urged to change to avoid this trend. A change driven by fear of failure. The congestion in New York was significantly more positive and the retail industry has gained new energy. Maybe it will come out stronger than ever when more and more companies are talking about changing to deliver better customer experiences.

A common denominator in New York was that brands now present a more honest and empathetic approach to their consumers, based on the understanding that humans needs to be put first. Relationships, interactions and experiences were repetitive words throughout the talks and many brand promises were about delivering on the customer’s needs prior to the companies. That is, brands really want to invest in building long-term relationships rather than short-term profitability.

Trade in Sweden employs almost 600,000 people, has a turnover of SEK 2,700 billion (2017) and accounts for 11 percent of GDP according to Swedish Trade.

Strong brands with a clear brand promise stand firm and have a major impact on society globally. But with great influence comes great responsibility and there is discussions of how brands can help create a better world.

Today, it is perhaps more important than ever to be true to its brand promise both internally and externally. Employees are the most important asset for companies, and higher demands are made on delivering their brand promise throughout the organization. The role of companies have changed and it is no longer about creating value only for the owners but creating good conditions for the employees, making a difference for society and creating real value for consumers.

The interaction and relationship with the customer is of the utmost importance for creating memorable experiences and build emotional values into their brand. Customers doesn’t only shop in one way and can vary between buying online and in-store. The trend where digital brands are opening physical stores and physical stores are investing in digital will continue, but the business model needs to be developed so that the place of transaction is immaterial and that channels drive traffic to each other in a new way.

There was also a lot of talk about AI, machine learning, RFID, 3D, augumented reality etc. Technologies that create the conditions for more honest meetings with consumers, relationship building and experiences that enable long-term profitability rather than cost-effectiveness in the short term.

The e-commerce company Wayfair, which sells furniture, talked about 3D images as a way to be cost-efficient and at the same time deliver on their customers’ needs; to be able to visualize the products with AR in their own homes in order to make a purchase decision.

Starbucks wants to work with AI to streamline operational tasks and build stronger and more personal relationships with its customers. By working with technology, they want to make people more human and work with human interaction.

To summarize, the focus in the future should be to revitalize brands, supporting employees in human interaction and investing in technology such as AI to free up more time for employees to create more meaningful relationships.

This column was first published on Dagens Handel.

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