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With 40,000 attendees, 6,200 brands, and more than 1,000 other exhibitors, NRF 2024 – Retail’s Big Show took the industry by storm, and the dust has all but settled. Offering a glimpse into the future of retail and showcasing the latest trends, innovations, and predictions, the event created a heap of buzz and anticipation for the retail industry in 2024. Here are some highlights from the groundbreaking event.

Significant Trends and Takeaways

Connecting the Dots with Omnichannel Retail Experiences

Speakers emphasized the importance of providing a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels. Omnichannel retail was a key theme, with discussions on how retailers can bridge the gap between online and offline channels to enhance customer satisfaction and drive sales.

Why has omnichannel retail grown in relevance? As emphasized in one of the sessions, up until 2020, we were in the “old normal” of eCommerce when companies looked at digital channels as a side project. Enter 2020, and the pandemic disrupted the digital landscape for the better. Almost every category saw exponential growth, and eCommerce was looked at as a key driver. This, in turn, brought the significance of the omnichannel experience to the forefront as customers started expecting connected buying journeys.

“Companies are now looking to expand their omnichannel capabilities with select investments in eCommerce being looked at as essential for any kind of growth.” – Joel Farquhar, VP of Engineering, Commerce, Pivotree

AI and ML: Beyond Buzzwords

Another key talking point through the event was innovation, with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) being at the tip of the spear. These cutting-edge technologies are revolutionizing, both, the customer experience and store operations, enabling personalized recommendations, efficient inventory management, reduction in returns, and immersive shopping experiences.

One of the more significant applications of AI emerged in the context of accelerating time-to-market. The struggle of juggling data from multiple suppliers and distributing it down to multiple channels is exacerbated by the ever-growing volume of data. Not only does this slow things down tremendously, but the amount of resources required to get products onboarded also drives up costs. With generative AI, companies can automate a number of touchpoints of the data lifecycle to drive down costs and accelerate time-to-market.  

“As AI and ML redefine retail innovation, the synergy of generative AI not only automates the complexities of data management but becomes the strategic compass navigating businesses toward efficiency, cost reduction, and an agile leap into the future of commerce.”- Sam Russo, Practice Director, Pivotree 

Sustainability as a Win-Win

As conscious consumerism continues to rise, sustainability was another major focal point at the event. Panel discussions shed light on eco-friendly practices and strategies for reducing environmental impact. The retail industry is waking up to the necessity of adopting green practices to meet the demands of environmentally conscious consumers. Then again, equally significant is the role of cultivating sustainable and reliable supply chains for profitability. Through collective endeavors and strategic partnerships, companies will take on the sustainability challenge to meet the growing demand for sustainable practices.

“The future of retail is green. Sustainability isn’t an option anymore, it’s a necessity.” – Elizabeth Scott, Vice President of Operations, Supply Chain, Pivotree

A Data Culture Driven by Stewardship

The conversation around data being an asset took an introspective turn at NRF 2024. Industry leaders spoke about the importance of a data-driven culture coming from the top down and emerging as a company-wide focal point. Data cannot be one person holding the torch; it must emerge from a collective culture of the right people who help maximize the value of data. Then, whether it’s AI, sustainability, or personalization, no retail initiative can succeed without the right data. 

“The true value of data doesn’t just come from technology; it’s also a product of the right people driving the right processes.” – Chantal Schweizer, Practice Director, Data Services, Pivotree

Future Predictions: What Lies Ahead

The discussions at NRF2024 revealed exciting predictions for the future of retail:

  • The integration of AI and ML will continue to shape the industry, enabling retailers to deliver hyper-personalized experiences and streamline store operations.
  • The concept of omnichannel retail will evolve, with a stronger emphasis on seamless integration between online and offline channels. Customers will expect a cohesive journey across various touchpoints.
  • Sustainability will gain even more importance, with brands embracing eco-friendly practices and catering to the growing segment of environmentally conscious consumers.
  • Augmented reality and virtual reality will play a bigger role in enhancing the shopping experience, blurring the lines between the digital and physical realms. Customers will immerse themselves in interactive and immersive brand experiences.

As innovation continues to reshape the landscape, retailers must adapt and embrace these trends to thrive in an ever-evolving market. Equally central to NRF 2024 was its theme – “Make it Matter.” Most, if not all, conversations resonated with this theme, encouraging participants to foster a culture of partnership and collaboration and making it all about what matters the most – the customer. 

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About Pivotree: Pivotree designs, builds, and manages frictionless commerce experiences for brands and their customers around the world. We provide end-to-end solutions and services in Commerce, Data Management, and Supply Chain for hundreds of brands globally.