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Learnings from NRF 2024


Hotwire Global

by Gaby Yim, Senior Director

In the heart of New York City hosts the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show, the retail industry’s largest trade show. This year brought together more than 6,000 brands, 400 speakers, and 40,000 attendees to discuss all things retail and what’s to come in the industry. Against the backdrop of challenges such as inflation, supply chain disruptions, and labor shortages, industry leaders came together to explore innovations to better the customer experience. Retail experts like Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner, Ulta Beauty CEO Dave Kimbell, and Salesforce Chair and CEO Marc Benioff took the stage to showcase new technologies and strategies. Conversations highlighted what long-term business growth looks like by prioritizing high-quality customer experiences and streamlining operations.

With our retail expert team on the floor supporting clients and hosting media dinners, here’s what we learned from this year’s event.

AI is still on everyone’s mind – but now it’s about execution

The prevailing theme at NRF 2024 was AI, not solely in terms of automation and data analytics, but as a means to improve overall customer, employee, and store associate experiences. In other words, people want to know about the practical benefits of AI and when they’ll be put into action. Salesforce rolled out one of its biggest suite of AI solutions that allow merchandisers and marketers to tap into generative tools with a real-time understanding of customer behavior and preferences to optimize every customer interaction — increasing loyalty, driving revenue, and boosting employee productivity.

Additionally, Sony AITRIOS was onsite demoing their edge AI sensing platform that helps democratize vision AI by only capturing the meta data required to help retailers make smart decisions. The rise of AI was highlighted as an effective way to address customer service needs as well. Experts discussed how AI in customer service can provide instant, 24/7 responses, leading to increased customer satisfaction and freeing up employees for other tasks.

The golden era of retail media networks is here

Retail media 2.0 marks the beginning of the golden age of retail media networks. Retail media networks provide retailers’ brand partners with direct promotional access to shoppers. Typically, the networks deliver targeted ads to segmented consumers via channels such as in-store digital displays, as well as online advertisements and connected TV. As retailers seek new revenue streams, almost everyone is becoming an ad network – from Amazon and Walmart to DoorDash and Mastercard.

However, with cookieless going into effect this year, retailers are finally realizing the potential of their customer data and to challenge traditional advertising giants when it comes to providing more targeted ad solutions for brands and better engagement solutions (like predictive analytics) for their customers. Analysts see in-store advertising as a huge potential, calling physical retail the “new TV” for advertisers.

The future is all things hyper-personalization

Customer experience remains more important than ever, and we saw more brands dedicating even more resources to better understanding consumer behavior in order to increase brand loyalty and ultimately drive sales.

Will Mobley, Product Marketing Manager at Honeywell, says, “Personalization is driving retailers towards innovation. However, innovation isn’t just about adding new technology, like AI, to specific workflows. Instead, true transformation in retail is focused on unifying the total experience for both store associates and customers with the addition of new technology. Unifying the retailer’s experience from back of store, to point of sale, to curbside pickup, and through ecommerce, creates a transformed operation. Merging a customer’s journey from online to in-store and leveraging technology along the way to create one seamless, unified experience results in happier and more loyal customers.”

Macy’s SVP of Customer Journey, Bennett Fox-Glassman, spoke about how the department store is revamping its customer experience through hyper-personalized and connected journeys that drive profitable growth, brand love, and loyalty. Other use cases from Macy’s include driving first-to-second purchases, encouraging online shoppers to shop in-store and in-store shoppers to shop online, increasing Macy’s credit card usage, and re-engaging churning, high-spend customers. Retailers are also focusing on predicting consumer behavior by implementing “subscribe and save” features on commerce platforms in order to ensure the automatic delivery of regularly used products, allowing brands to monetize consumer data, anticipate user needs, and provide personalized offerings.

While we’re only one month into the new year, it’s shaping up to be a monumental one for the retail industry. We’ll be following the ever-changing market and can’t wait see where we’ll be this time next year.