Attending the National Retail Federation’s (Washington, D.C.) Retail’s Big Show at the start of the new year has become something of a tradition. As I have for the past eight years, I made the annual trek to New York’s Javits Center to battle the crowds for a glimpse of the future of retail.
With a distinct focus on technology designed specifically for retail operations and logistics, much of the show is only tangentially related to our world. However, the cadre of speakers assembled along with the opportunity to get a sense of the role the physical store plays make the time well-spent.
At last year’s show, it was clear that the conversation around physical retail had moved to the forefront. This year, in a keynote session, Co-President Erik Nordstrom shared that half of Nordstrom’s store sales involve an online experience and a full one-third of e-commerce sales involve a store visit. Separating the two, he advised, becomes an exercise in futility. Better to focus on aligning the brand with its customers’ wants and desires.
Neighborhood Goods CEO Matt Alexander had similar insights regarding the challenges both direct-to-consumer and traditional retail brands face in his session: “For all of us in this industry, at the end of the day we’re all trading in relevancy,” said Alexander.
Whether yours is a heritage brand with an investment in a fleet of stores or a DTC brand beginning to explore the right balance of online and physical presence, it’s clear that consumers don’t shop channels, they want what they want, when and where they want it. Smart retailers are subscribing to a “phygital” strategy, melding the best of online and in-store shopping for a true customer-centric and customer responsive experience.