I made two new friends at NRF 2014 today; Loyalty and Mobile – The Power Couple. NRF 2014 certainly didn’t disappoint today as it stepped up a gear with the 1st of two days of the best and biggest retail Expo you will find anywhere.
So what is the significance of Loyalty and Mobile? The main themes of the 103rd National Retail Federation emerged today and although they might be seen as expected the emphasis, evolution and maturing nature of them is the stand out aspect this year.
Just walking the floors of the huge Expo today, it was striking how strongly the overriding theme for me was such a stand-out: customer experience. It seemed as if everything led to this and was just fascinating to see how many offerings are now directed towards either understanding and measuring the customer experience or to enhancing, improving and downright revolutionising it. A walk down 5th Avenue demonstrated just how imaginative retailers now are in the ever present battle to win a share of our wallets. Elegant, stylish simplicity, sprinkled with a touch of fairy dust seems to be the norm now and it can make for an engaging, stimulating experience. Plenty more to be seen and heard tomorrow at Retails BIG Show so look out for more on this tomorrow.
So what of our friends Loyalty and Mobile? The former is fast becoming the Holy Grail of retail and the latter is a key way in which to achieve this. Indeed, mobile is another fundamental theme of this years’s Show. And it is also clear that for many retailers they are having to play catch-up with their customers who have long since expected that retailers will not only be always-on and readily available but that any and all touchpoints will be consistent and seamless. Generation Y and in particular their successors are primarily driving this. Those retailers who do not employ 18 and 19 year olds as part of their strategic planning for the present and the future are losing out. To the extent that it is interesting to observe that grey haired retail professionals are still using the term “omni-channel” whereas many of their customers, even if they were aware of this concept, have long since moved on.
Always-on brand immersion to drive loyalty and therefore sales has never before been so critical to retail success. But here’s the challenge: even once a retailer recognises the need, legacy IT presents perhaps the biggest challenge of all. Seamless, holistic customer experience and more importantly, single customer and business views are not easy to achieve. But all the while the consumer expectation is running far ahead and in some cases is little more than a rapidly disappearing dust cloud on the horizon.
Never before has retail been more exciting, never before has it been more challenging.