Our Key Takeaways From NRF’s Big Virtual Show 2021

Jan 26, 2021 4:16:51 PM

Retail | News & Trends

When we first heard that NRF’s Big Show would be held virtually this year, we weren’t sure what to expect. How would the biggest retail event of the year transfer to the digital space?

But as always, NRF came through like the pioneers they are.

This year’s Big Show was as fabulous as ever, with an impressive lineup of keynote speakers and a wide range of discussions relating to the future of the retail industry. 

Unsurprisingly, the effects the COVID-19 pandemic have had on the industry dominated much of the discussion, but the mood was upbeat and optimistic. We enjoyed every minute, and can’t wait to attend Part 2 in person this summer!

Until then, here are our top takeaways from Part 1 of NRF’s Big Show 2021: 

Tech will be our way out of this crisis 

Not exactly a groundbreaking statement, we know, but it’s true - leveraging technology is the only surefire way to ensure your business thrives in the wake of the pandemic.

AI, machine learning, BYOD (bring your own device), virtual shopper journeys, ecommerce integrations… there are countless ways to play with the technology retailers already have at their disposal to create a shopping experience that meets customers where they are.

It’s also important to remember, however, that the best tech often isn’t flashy - it works behind the scenes to support your frontline employees and amplify what’s already great about retail. As Marvin Ellison, President and CEO of Lowe’s said during his keynote session, “the most effective technology is technology that nobody sees.”

The importance of frontline employees cannot be underestimated

2020 was the year people finally realized how crucial frontline employees are to the retail industry. Without them, nothing could have kept running, so it’s high time retailers made a serious investment in their frontline employee experience.

The role of the store associate is so much more than it was a year ago. Your frontline retail employees are now brand ambassadors, customer service, safety and order fulfilment experts, on top of everything they were already doing pre-COVID-19. 

The pandemic has given us an opportunity to redefine what it means to work in retail. And the general consensus at NRF’s Big Show was that the way to do it is to provide the right tools to train and empower store associates as they navigate their new, expanded role.

Employee welfare needs to be a priority 

Investing in the employee experience isn’t just about supporting them in their daily tasks, however. It’s also about investing in their wellbeing. 

COVID-19 has taken its toll on people’s mental health as well as their physical health. At the very least, this health crisis has given us a greater sense of perspective, helping us realize that businesses have a duty of care to their employees that extends beyond the working day. 

In business titan Indra Nooyi’s fascinating and insightful interview, she stressed the importance of recognizing the fine balance between lives and livelihood - in other words, looking beyond the bottom line and thinking instead about how you can provide your employees with a proper work/life balance. 

Innovation at speed is retail’s silver lining

One of the things that has really given us hope for the future is that COVID-19 has proven that retailers are more agile and adaptable than they ever gave themselves credit for. 

It hasn’t been all good news, of course - the pandemic has caused some major setbacks, and unfortunately some companies weren’t able to survive. But for the ones who have managed to make it through so far, the advancements have been huge. Circumstances have driven them to evolve much quicker than they otherwise would have, and trends that were already going to happen have been accelerated further.

NRF’s Big Show celebrated the resilience that the industry as a whole has shown this past year, and reminded us that the key to that resilience is efficient processes that allow you to turn on a dime when circumstances change unexpectedly.


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