In just a few short days, from January 16th through the 18th, the National Retail Federation will launch Retail’s Big Show in the shopping capital of the world, New York City. As retail professionals know, NRF is a nonprofit and the world’s largest retail association intending to “connect people to an industry that’s a great place to start and a great place to grow.” But beyond its impact and resources for industry professionals, NRF’s annual trade show is also the singular place to get an accurate pulse on retail’s biggest challenges and opportunities. So what will this year’s show have to offer? There will be a plethora of big wig speakers, content on almost every topic imaginable, and session themes including how to work smarter, expediting experiences, how to stand out, investing in a team, and creating businesses of tomorrow.
To get prepared before the show, we sourced five retail experts from across various niche markets to clue us into what they see as the leading trends for this year’s event.
Elevating the Omnichannel Experience
One major industry change to watch out for at the show, which has been both a gradual change and one accelerated by the pandemic, is the shift from the traditional retail environment to the omnichannel experience, according to Daniel Binder, Managing Partner for Retail Strategy at Columbus Consulting.
“The shift to omnichannel has been swift and the industry has evolved from a traditional brick and mortar environment to ecommerce, then to multichannel, where shoppers shopped in distinct, but disconnected channels, to an omnichannel experience, which is now a fully integrated environment,” said Binder.
How have businesses like Columbus Consulting begun to integrate this omnichannel experience thoughtfully to the entire customer and B2B experience?
“We’re focused on what we call the LIST, which is the core foundation of what pulls together the omni experience and what we believe to be the most critical investments to build on that foundation,” said Binder. “It’s our acronym for logistics and supply chain, inventory, organizational structure, and smart technology,”
Binder added that these core components are examined cohesively by viewing the customer journey from an end-to-end scenario.
3D Product Models
3D product models should also be a sellout topic at the show. Ashley Crowder, Co-Founder & CEO of VNTANA, believes this is due to the changing nature of consumer shopping habits and the push toward experiential retail both online and in-store. Crowder explains that the amount of research people do before purchasing a product is only growing, and that increasing a business presence on Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram with 3D products will help significantly increase conversion rates. She says that 3D products have increased average cart size by 60 percent and have reduced returns by 40 percent.
“Study after study shows that people not only do research on social media, but also discover new products, and so you really want to make sure you have the best possible content across all of our social channels as well as your ecommerce site,” said Crowder. “3D is one of the best types of assets you can have because it gives people such an understanding of your product.”
What’s even more powerful about 3D product models is how they can shape the entire customer journey and integrate with other cutting edge tech. Naturally, Crowder explains, the more images and videos available on your brand’s site, the better.
“And of course, taking that one step further and actually having a 3D model on your website is huge, because it lets people see it from every angle. And then, you can have augmented reality built in so they can actually hold up their phone and see that product in their living room. Does that couch fit, or how big is that bag,” she said.
Al, Al, and More Al
Artificial intelligence will also run the ranks in retail trends this year. According to Pini Mandel, AI is something more retailers should explore and expand their usage of, considering its use cases have only scratched the surface of utility in the industry.
“We at Quicklizard have seen a massive shift in conversation toward algorithmic and AI machine learning. AI machine learning has been used in other areas of retail but is now changing the world of pricing,” said Mandel, CEO & Co-Founder of Quicklizard. “I feel like we’re just at the beginning of the journey,”
Yogesh Kulkarni, Co-CEO and Head of Merchandising and Marketing at antuit.ai, added that retailers already consider things like product recommendations on websites to fall under AI.
“But those are use cases that actually are at the beginning of the journey of AI adoption,” said Kulkarni.
Pini sees smart shelf labels as another AI trend that will dominate the Retails Big Show.
“Brick and mortar retailers are required to be more agile and competitive which accelerates adoption of technologies both for improving our why by integrating with price optimization platforms and to overcome staffing challenges,” said Pini.
AI adoption can be tough for retailers, not because there is lack of trust, but because AI is data-hungry, according to Mandel. Last year’s data is not as useful to retailers today, because in today’s world, volatility dominates.
“There are so many other factors—local events, demand destructions because of closures due to COVID—that all are driving demand very differently than they used to,” said Mandel.
Integrating Tech Thoughtfully for the Consumer Journey
So, it’s clear that 3D product models and AI will need to integrate within the omnichannel experience for retailers to keep up with industry trends in 2022. But how should they go about doing this? Melissa Gonzalez, Host of Retail Refined, vouches for capitalizing on flagship experiences.
“Consumers responded that they are 2.5 times more likely to purchase after visiting an experiential flagship, and that they find themselves having a deeper relationship with the brands that create those environments,” said Gonzalez.
Crowder believes augmented reality use in social media is another way for retailers to go.
“It’s not just for ecommerce sites and online, but social media platforms have now enabled features for you to leverage it across Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram,” said Crowder. “And even in store, you can only have so much inventory, it’s impossible to have every single color and every single version, but using augmented reality, you can actually display an infinite number because it’s digital.”
There’s clearly quite a bit in the cart for National Retail Federation’s 2022 Retails Big Show. So, how will attendees choose what to prioritize? Unfortunately, 3D models and AI won’t help “shop” for sessions and events in this case, but for now, visit NRF.com and marketscale.com for the latest updates.