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NRF 2024: The Future Looks Bright and 3 Other Takeaways from Retail’s Biggest Show

NRF 2024: The Future Looks Bright and 3 Other Takeaways from Retail’s Biggest Show

compucom - troy baldwinTroy Baldwin •  Director, Offering Management 

The days were brisk for NRF 2024, the National Retail Federation's annual convention. However, the 40,000 attendees in New York City were warmed by sunny news: the holiday season was a success, with reported sales growth of 3 to 4%, and the outlook for 2024 is positive.

During the three-day show, our Compucom events team met with our customers, partners, and other retailers, took in the Big Ideas sessions, and interacted with some of the latest retail innovations, such as the bitHuman digital helpers, an interactive AI platform tasked with answering questions for attendees about navigating the event.

Here are our three main takeaways from NRF 2024.  

Constant Innovation for the Win

While retailers often realize that investment in innovation must be ongoing, knowing where to place your bets can be hard.  

In our one-day spot survey asking attendees their primary concern for the technology aspect of their business, the largest number (40%) selected “Navigating technological trends to get digital transformation right”.  

This is where having an experienced retail technology partner can help. Combining their expertise with your knowledge of your customers provides the best guidance for where to put your innovation efforts — because it’s not always the commonly advised path forward that will work best for your company.

Ed Stack, executive chairman of DICK’S Sporting Goods, related the story of how his company went against prevailing advice that brick-and-mortar stores were over, trusting themselves and their customers and instead expanding the size of their stores.  

Winner of the 2024 Innovator award, Stack got it right. By shifting the role of physical stores to fit with their digital transformation, they created innovative customer experiences such as batting cages, rock-climbing walls, and the ability to scan a shoe and see all sizes in stock, helping them become the largest omnichannel sporting goods retailer in the United States.

Customers’ Expectations Have Risen Sky-High

A common theme was talk of the high expectations of consumers and the need for retailers to be highly customer-centric. This was reflected in our poll, with 22% selecting “elevating the customer experience by sourcing, optimizing, and supporting technology that helps you focus on the customer” as their main concern.  

Innovations from a few of our longstanding OEM partners focused on this need:

  • Microsoft had a prominent booth showcasing the value of AI for unlocking, among other things, new shopping experiences and store associates’ potential by using generative and conversational AI to build meaningful in-store and online experiences (phygital experiences).
  • Intel showcased RealSense, a technology that gives devices depth perception capabilities and is transforming retail applications by creating better customer experiences. 
  • Lenovo showed off their AI-powered end-to-end retail solutions designed to enhance safety, security, and intelligence for retailers and shoppers across various categories, including Smart Promotion, Smart Shelf, and Smart Checkout.

“AI” was the Buzzword on Everyone’s Lips

AI has been a buzzword in many industries for a while now. At NRF 2024, it was clear that AI is not just a trend but a game-changing tool for retailers. Most exhibitors focused on its ability to analyze customer behavior, predict trends, manage inventory, and provide personalized experiences, but as we discussed with attendees, AI can also help retailers:

  • Solve networking challenges and operational inefficiencies through AIOps (Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations).
  • Improve the digital employee experience for their sales associates by providing insights on how your IT team can improve users’ interactions with digital touchpoints.  

Implementing AI is not a simple task. MSPs can provide the necessary expertise and resources to implement AI solutions, allowing retailers to reap the benefits without having to build their own teams.

Another Great NRF Show Under Our Belt

Compucom’s team enjoyed seeing the excitement around retail innovation at this year’s big show. We know helping our customers innovate with the right technology is crucial for driving their success. Contact us today to learn how to advance your retail workplace with the right managed service provider.