NRF attendees feeling really good about 2015
The mood of exhibitors and attendees at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York was decidedly upbeat with many pointing to an improving jobs picture, lower gas prices and the recently completed holiday sales season as sources for optimism at the start of 2015.
As in years past, RetailWire was at the Javits Center to gauge, in our own anecdotal and unscientific fashion, the mood of the industry compared to previous years. We discovered a strong sense of optimism, with 2015 marking the fourth consecutive year that the mood of those we spoke with showed improvement. More than half (56 percent) were much more optimistic about the prospects for the year ahead.
Several key themes also developed in our discussions at NRF including the customer journey, collaboration, predictive analytics and getting real about omnichannel.
The use of data is seen as critical for retailers to continue improving. Many vendors echoed the theme that merchants need to look beyond the customer experience in stores or online. The gist of the position is simple: better serving the needs of customers means developing a deeper understanding of individual shoppers and not just insights based on one aspect of their journey.
In line with the need to understand the customer journey comes collaboration. Retailers, it was argued, have access to their own sales data, but that is not enough to fully understand the consumer. Gaining access to data and insights about a retailer’s customers can be obtained in a variety of ways including from product suppliers, third-party tech vendors, etc.
Excellence in retailing has always been determined by being able to anticipate the needs of customers. That, of course, has been taken to a whole new level in the age of big data with predictive analytics. Vendors said the ability to use data and predict patterns of behavior is advancing at a rapid rate and will go a long way in determining who wins the competition for consumer dollars.
The final note is the acknowledgement that despite all the talk about omnichannel initiatives, most retailers are a long way off from creating a system that is both seamless to the consumer and their own organization. The reason the reality lags the rhetoric is pretty simple: the existing legacy systems of retailers. Chains have invested millions of dollars in their existing systems and most are not able financially to just blow them up and start for scratch.
While some companies, RetailWire was told, are looking at scrapping their systems, most are trying to cobble together add-on solutions to help them address the most immediate needs. Vendors have gotten the message and are working with retailers to achieve their smaller step gains.
Are you more or less optimistic about the prospects for the retail industry in 2015? What key themes do you think will be most prominent within the industry this year?