What the Future Holds

The largest show in retail shifts its focus to embrace physical experiences
Posted February 4, 2019

I’ve been attending NRF’s “Retail’s Big Show” at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Center for a number of years. Aptly named, the gigantic trade show and conference draws more than 35,000 attendees from all over the globe and from all facets of retail, from operations to IT and everything in between.

Traditionally, the show has had a distinct technology bent, with seemingly countless p-o-s systems, supply chain management solutions and e-commerce tools on exhibit. But this year, there was a new word bandied about in the deluge of press releases that precede the event: experience.

The focus of retail’s biggest trade show seems to have shifted toward a more holistic view, considering the customer journey in both physical and e-commerce channels.

To those of us in the retail design space, this is hardly a new idea. For the past two years, following the “retail apocalypse,” we’ve seen a renewed focus on customer experience in physical stores. The examples are plentiful, from media darling Pirch, the kitchen and bath retailer that encouraged customers to book a private bath and test its plethora of products hands on, to Nike’s latest New York flagship, NYC House of Innovation 000. 

But considering silos that exist in many (most?) retail organizations, where in-store and e-commerce teams work independently of one another to achieve differing objectives, the fact that the industry is beginning to recognize that their relationship is actually symbiotic cannot be overstated.

Physical retail drives traffic to the e-commerce channel, and vice versa. The future that once seemed so distant and unclear has started to crystallize as consumers make it clear that they want to see the best aspects of each channel blended together for a consistent, convenient and memorable experience.