5 Digital Retail Innovation Takeaways from NRF 2020

An exciting NRF 2020 just wrapped up in New York on the 15th January. The show is of course the world’s biggest and best showcase for the latest retail technology. This years show attracted over 40,000 attendees, 18,000 retailers from 99 different countries.

Re-hub CEO, Max Peiro was there on the ground looking for the latest trends in digital retail innovation. Here are his 5 key digital retail innovation takeaways from the show:

  1. Tradeoff between personalization and data privacy: In 2020, nothing is more important than the personalization of the consumer experience and this is the key trend that will dominate retail this year. The customer is king and they have all the power, so it is all about creating unique personal experiences that attract their attention. Brands need to now be able to competently speak to the consumers on a one-to-one level.

    However, creating this level of personalized retail experiences involves the consumer sacrificing their data, which many are not particularly happy about. Data privacy scandals like the Cambridge Analytica scandal have changed the importance that consumers put on the data privacy.What this means, is that retailers are having to find a balance between giving consumers unique tailored experiences and respecting their concerns via content privacy. This push and pull has been called the “Data Privacy/Personalization Dichotomy” by WBR Insights Research Analyst Lily Johnson and retailers will need to create trust by actually showing consumers tangible benefits.
  2. Context and relevance: giving consumers what they want and at the right time: Leading on from the discussions on personalization, NRF 2020 sessions also all stressed the importance of context and relevance. This means not only giving the customers what they want but also at the right time. Shoppers want retailers to supply them with inspiration and offers when they are shopping for an item and to basically not be there when they are not

    To create these types of experiences, retailers need to have a grasp of a number of factors including environment, mindset, location and the limitations of the device they are using. At NRF 2020 we witnessed a number of AR/VR and big data startups who were focused on helping retailers create this type of contextual experiences.
  3. “Nobody got fired for buying IBM”: Maybe not anymore: Brands should not only rely on legacy tech companies to drive transformation. We have been quite disappointed at the lack of exciting innovations coming from these tech giants (no need to point fingers at).

    At NRF 2020 startups were the superstars as big name brands fawned over their offerings in an effort to stay on top. Facing a possible slowdown, nobody can take their eye off the ball and let their competitors to get ahead. You have to know your customers and know what changes are happening in retail technology. This will be your key way of maintaining a competitive advantage and I think brands are now understanding that cooperation with startups is a must to drive change in their organizations
  4. We are in a retail cold war:  Retail and consumer-facing ecosystems are somehow being polarized with 2 clear poles: US and China. The Chinese ecosystem has been driven by 2 players so the touchpoints are more consolidated compared to the US .This has obvious advantages for brands in terms of influencing customers’ behavior but also creates challenges when trying to get away from the influence of these players
  5. China is lagging in SaaS : The enterprise SaaS category in the US is way ahead of that in China. In China most of the market disruption have been driven by the likes of Alibaba and Tencent, and brands relied on their innovations to drive growth. In the US the growth opportunities are more scarce and less consolidated, so there’s been plenty of room and opportunities for B2B SaaS companies to build relevant value. This is rapidly changing in China (we work with several incredible local SaaS startups), but the gap is still large

More than ever before, brands are realizing that it is crucial to understand their customers, to build meaningful relationship with them, to deliver relevant and consistent experiences while understanding how the market and consumers evolve to stay relevant: this a lot to put on anyone’s plate! Luckily technology is evolving at such fast pace providing brands plenty of tools to keep up with this constant market evolution.

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