The National Retail Federation’s annual show, NRF, has always been a showcase of the latest and greatest trends in the retail sector and the companies that can best help retailers deliver on them. At NRF 2023, we witnessed a spectrum of innovative solutions and approaches that were steering the future of retail. As NRF 2024 approaches, our team took a look back at the prevailing themes of the previous show, and based on current market dynamics, what we expect to see at the upcoming 2024 show.
Some big themes we saw at NRF 2023:
- Microservices: This was once technical jargon reserved for the software community, but microservices became a buzzword at NRF 2023. Microservices and MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless) architecture were a common theme at the show. Retailers have recognized the power of decomposing large applications into smaller, manageable services, enabling them to be more adaptable to the rapidly evolving retail landscape. With the rise of microservices, agility isn’t just a goal; it’s now an actionable strategy.
- Personalization: 2023 was all about offering a curated shopping experience. Leveraging the abundance of data they have about their customers, retailers are looking for ways to ensure that the customer journey is tailored – from product recommendations and targeted promotions to a bespoke customer service interaction.
- Omnichannel Commerce: The traditional boundaries separating online and offline retail are obsolete. Retailers are now converging these spaces to enhance the shopping experience. In 2023, we saw plenty of solutions for retailers offering curbside pickups, in-store returns for online purchases, and integrated mobile apps.
- Sustainability: Consumer voices around sustainability grew even louder in 2023. Retailers are not just being urged but also expected to adopt environmentally conscious practices. A clear reflection of this was seen in the increased spotlight on waste reduction, sustainable sourcing, and the emergence of recycled product lines.
Some of our predictions for NRF 2024:
- AI and Machine Learning: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer the future; it’s the present. Yes, there were companies – including us – leveraging AI in their products in the pre-ChatGPT era, but the number of AI-powered apps in the marketplace has grown exponentially ever since. In 2024, we expect AI’s footprint to extend even further, reshaping retail operations and enhancing customer experiences. From optimizing supply chains to personalizing client interactions and the innovative applications of generative AI, the possibilities are limitless.
- Deepened Commitment to Sustainability, Equity and Inclusivity: Sustainability, equitable business practices and inclusive offerings won’t just be a “theme” but rather a core retail principle. From sourcing to selling, every aspect will be viewed through these lenses, reinforcing the commitment to fostering a retail environment that champions sustainable business practices, diversity and inclusivity.
- Enhanced Personalization: Using sophisticated AI algorithms and a wealth of consumer data, personalization and clienteling services will become even more precise, making shopping not just a transaction but a unique experience. We also expect more discussion of privacy and ethics in this area, and how to get customers to make an enthusiastic opt-in.
- Refined Omnichannel Strategies: Retailers will be enhancing the connections between different shopping channels, ensuring that whether a customer is online or offline, the brand experience remains consistently delightful and seamless. At XY Retail, we like to talk about “phygital” omnichannel retail – seamlessly merging the physical and digital, enabling experiential retail for increased customer engagement.
- AR and VR maturity: Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will step out of their nascent phases, helped by the excitement around Apple’s Vision Pro headset. Retailers will be harnessing these technologies to offer immersive shopping, allowing customers to view and experience products in new ways before making a purchase or to support them post-purchase.
What else do you think we’ll see at NRF 2024?
NRF is always more than just a show; it’s a reflection of an industry that’s constantly evolving, learning, and growing, and that has to stay at the forefront of trends to meet the expectation of the most demanding consumers. With these anticipated themes, the future of retail seems like it will deliver a seamless, innovative, and inclusive experience for everyone. Our team is excited for this year’s show, and can’t wait to meet with you – stop by booth 1335 for a chat or demo of what we’re doing to transform the retail experience. If you’d like to sign up for a meeting, contact us here.