Reflections of the NRF Big Show a Few Weeks Later

By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle

The rush of the National Retail Federation BIG Show is a real thing. There is an energy unlike any other conference that surrounds this three day event in NYC that took place January 12-14, 2020.

Over 40,000 people experienced this year’s BIG Show, and I was thrilled to be among them. With leaders from Starbucks, Allbirds, Nike, Cartier North America and IBM among those who took the stages of NRF to share a variety of insight about where retail is, where retail is headed and what they’re doing to capture and keep customer attention, there was a lot to learn from… and learning is exactly what I did.


Among my favorite presentations was one presented by leaders from American Girl, Dry Bar and FRCH Nelson who shared the value of delivering micro experiences in stores. As the speakers explained, these experiences help to offer:


  1. Emotional Connection
  2. Experiential Bliss
  3. Revenue Generators
  4. Function x Trial
  5. Personalization
  6. Sensory Surprises
  7. Digital Connections
  8. Stronger Customer Service


As a longtime retail researcher and retail admirer alike, I was thrilled to see the echo of in-store experiences being so valued and yet connectivity to consumers 24/7 equally valued, as well. After all, the path to purchase is not straight. And the 2020 BIG Show truly reminded industry leaders the importance of technology and data as a part of retailers’ collective responsibility to help make this path to purchase as seamless as possible. Additionally, to help bring clarity to my own understanding of this, I explored the extensive BIG Show floor to unravel just how technology continues to support retailers in their comprehensive efforts to support customers.


Stand-out tech companies that I enjoyed included IBM and Samsung, although countless others were among my favorite to explore. Truly – too many to count, and the innovations in retail truly are exciting.


One moment in particular, however, that has stood out to me came from when Erik Nordstrom took the stage. He brought perspective to how customers shop and how industry leaders think.


“More than half of store sales involve online and a third of online sales involve a store. Analysts always want to know about our sales per channel and they have models built out for it, but I have yet to hear a customer ask me about our channels. Our business no longer operates this way,” shared Erik Nordstrom, Co-President at Nordstrom.


Nordstrom’s straight to the point approach here is how I plan to look ahead into 2020. As retail leaders, we need to remember customers are the true leaders in retail because after all, it’s their choices and their actions that truly define the successes and failures of retail. And with that in mind, I look forward to what’s ahead in 2020!



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