On the floor at NRF: Retailers must personalize their product and service offerings


Retailers need to get even closer to shoppers, both digitally and in-store, declared attendees, presenters and exhibitors at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show in New York last week.

Tools they should consider using include artificial intelligence, machine learning and wearable devices for virtual reality “to craft shopping experiences like never before and make dramatic changes in the consumer experience," Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF, said during his opening remarks.

On Tuesday's Big Ideas session, Stephen Brobst of data and analytics solution provider Teradata said customer shopping transaction data details are no longer sufficient when it comes to understanding consumers. Today, a shopper’s buying behavior and preferences must be tracked, analyzed and understood. This includes pathing (or path analysis) and data discovery to understand what the shopper searches for and all behaviours and clicks and visits across channels.

Personalization means retailers need to move beyond their infatuation with millennials and apply resources to attract all consumers, including the “Digitally Native” generation who were born in 1995 or later. This generation doesn’t remember what it’s like to live without the internet or smartphones. Lee Peterson of global retail design firm WD Partners said during a talk on Monday that Digital Natives will spend $200-billion this year, so retailers need to start providing more features like buy online and pick-up in-store, mobile checkout, self-service lockers and AI-based innovations.

Omnichannel remains a buzzword, but retailers have a long way to go in creating good customer experiences across the points of customer interaction. Omnichannel has grown considerably during the past few years, but retailers now need to focus on people and process, several presenters said. Jason Goldberg of ecommerce solutions provider Razorfish predicted this year will see retailers get more serious about measuring the impact of omnichannel. “They’ve been thinking about it and doing pilots for a few years and I’m hopeful some of those pilots will become standard operating features this year,” he said.

In addition to the focus on shoppers, this year’s NRF targeted store associates as a key to the future success of the retail industry. The thinking is that as shopper behavior changes, well-trained store associates will be even more important. In line with this logic, NRF announced a new retail training and credentialing initiative called RISE (Retail Industry Skills & Education) Up. The effort brings together several merchants, including Wal-

Mart, Target and Neiman Marcus, that pledged to help individuals secure the skills and training they need to get jobs in retail.

“Talent is a significant challenge in retail at all levels,” said Ellen Davis, executive director of the NRF Foundation.

The Rise Up program offers 30 to 40 hours of classroom training or 15 hours of online training, and will be administered through nonprofit groups and public education partners. The retailers involved are encouraging local nonprofits and high schools to start using it. Some might fund groups in areas where they’re having a hard time hiring skilled workers. Some may use it to replace or supplement their own training.

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