The National Retail Federation (NRF) 2023 Retail’s Big Show starting Sunday (Jan. 15) is hyper-focused on in-store experiences.
That’s not to say that eCommerce won’t feature prominently, but this year’s show at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is zeroing in on the digital transformation of physical retail, with customer experience the big buzzword of the big show.
The show was virtual in 2021 but went back to in-person attendance in 2022, and NRF President and CEO Matt Shay said last year’s show attracted 20,000 attendees. This year’s crowd is estimated at 35,000 which seems in keeping with a theme of elevating physical experiences.
Between keynote addresses by Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner and Saks OFF 5TH President and CEO Paige Thomas, among other major retail keynoters, and with Lowe’s Chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison receiving NRF’s 2023 Visionary award, the store focus is clear.
While the official theme of this year’s expo is “Break Through,” it comes in a few flavors, payments and payments-related issues being among them.
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“Payments orchestration is an important tool, but all of the technology regarding payments methods won’t actually solve any problems until we have more solutions rather than just the two major networks, which refuse to compete,” NRF General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer Stephanie Martz said in an email to PYMNTS, referring to Visa and Mastercard.
“Retailers’ top payments priority this year is getting Congress to address credit card swipe fees,” Martz said. “These fees are out of control because of lack of competition, and we need to get the Credit Card Competition Act passed to fix that. This issue is particularly important this year as policymakers try to get inflation under control. As a percentage of the transaction, swipe fees automatically go up as prices go up and act as a multiplier for inflation.”
“The biggest goal with debit cards would be for the Fed to finally recalculate its cap on debit card swipe fees to the ‘reasonable and proportional’ level that Congress intended,” she added. “The current cap isn’t reasonable or proportional and is giving banks a huge unearned windfall.”
Swipe fees are the top policy issue the NRF is tackling for 2023, as was the case last year as well.
Read also: NRF: Mastercard, Visa Should Cancel Credit Card Swipe Fee Increases
In a separate conversation with PYMNTS, an NRF spokesperson said at this year’s event, “We’re talking about experiences in the store that will drive sales. We know that the customer experience has changed. We’re finding that customers want to go back into the stores, but when they go back into the stores, they’re expecting to experience product differently.”
Digital transformation is at the heart of that. For example, physical retail’s use of robotics is being spotlighted from restaurants to retail merchandise.
“Is this widespread? No,” the NRF spokesperson told PYMNTS. “But if you’re not trying it out now, and you’re not seeing how it’s going to affect your business and change the customer journey, you’re not going to be ready for the future. So certainly, digital transformation is rippling throughout the show.”
See also: How the World Does Digital: Different Paths to Digital Transformation
Unattended retail is also getting the limelight at the show. For example, Amazon is showcasing its Just Walk Out cashierless payments tech for physical locations.
“We’re seeing that once the consumer experiences Just Walk Out technology, they wonder why it isn’t available everywhere,” the spokesperson said. “Seamless and frictionless are the two words that we at NRF always link to payments.”
The NRF is projecting eCommerce receipts to come in at roughly 20% of all retail transactions in 2023, up from 14.8% as of Q3 2022, per the Department of Commerce tally.
Advances in voice and visual product search will dominate NRF eCommerce programming this year.
“Natural language search is almost table stakes now, and yet there are a whole lot of retail companies who are still trying to learn the ropes of natural language search,” the NRF spokesperson said.
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