There’s nothing like the energy and excitement of the NRF convention floor, with 35,000 attendees and almost 1,000 exhibitors. The vibe at this year’s NRF was smarter, faster, and more innovative than ever. For the eight-person Syte team on the ground at NRF, it was thrilling to see so many customers face-to-face and to meet with dozens of prospects interested in leveraging visual AI to build their brands. I got the Syte team together after the show to distill our conversations and meetings into four main themes, which reflect what’s top of mind in 2023 for leading retailers.
Theme 1: A Better Customer Experience
From our discussions with experienced retail executives about customer journeys and the future of innovation, we heard a lot of messaging around providing the best customer experience possible. That’s because consumers are demanding more: Everything from finding inspiration and discovering products all the way through checkout must be easy and intuitive. When retailers approach the inspiration and engagement side of the experience, they must take into account the demand of the younger generations’ needs of “I want it now.” Today’s consumers have gotten accustomed to getting what they want right away. If they don’t get it, they lose interest and move on.
What goes around comes around: Most fashion trends are cyclical (surely you’ve noticed all the 90s styles making the rounds!) and consumer behavior is as well. We also heard from several people that they’re seeing the “old school methodology” of how shoppers interact with their favorite brands making a comeback. In-store shopping remains popular — and will remain so. That’s why online/offline integration is top of mind for so many retailers right now.
Theme 2: Product Discovery
We heard it time and again at the show: product discovery is one of the biggest pain points among shoppers, and brands are increasingly moving to deploy AI-powered visual search on their websites. This echoes the growing trend that visual search is becoming a key capability for organizations hoping to improve eCommerce revenues, as Gartner reported in a recent Research Note. With the help of technology such as AI, brands can provide that human touch virtually (which is why so many brands reached out at the show to learn more about Syte).
Another major pain point that we heard from multiple brands and retailers at the show is that shoppers are seeking assurances about product quality. Whether it’s a diamond bracelet or a leather sofa, customers want to know that the products they are being shown will be of high quality, that they consistently exceed expectations, and (maybe most importantly!) offer good value for money. It’s a message that can be reinforced at every marketing touch-point, reassuring shoppers that they’re getting high-quality materials along with the latest designs. Having a product mindset is crucial for understanding customer needs and delivering value that meets or exceeds their expectations.
Theme 3: Multi-channel
We heard from multiple merchants that they’re looking for ways to deliver the compelling customer experience that they’ve created online across all their channels. We also had discussions with retail companies that are looking to expand into new channels, including physical stores and omnichannel, in order to pursue untapped business opportunities. These multi-channel strategies are important for both B2B and customer loyalty. Building connections with customers throughout their lifecycle can be done through partnerships, support, perks, and more.
Live Commerce (or livestream shopping) in the U.S. market is projected to grow from today’s $20 billion revenue to $57 billion in 2025. Retail trends should be analyzed across countries and cultures to learn about their habits and where the industry is heading globally. Social media has played a significant role in breaking down geographical barriers and accelerating the growth of globalization. Livestream shopping has been a major topic in China for over five years. They made more than the current US projection in 2019 alone. Today, China’s livestream revenue surpasses $300 billion.
Theme 4: Personalization
Demand for personalization is on the rise. Retail Brew reported that personalization opportunities, along with loyalty programs, were the top two themes at this year’s NRF convention. They attribute the interest to the “choppy economic waters” facing retailers right now.
Retailers told our team that their shoppers are having higher expectations about personalization than ever before. They want brands to know what will appeal to them at any given moment, what size they’ll be ordering, what colors they prefer, and what language they speak.
There’s no limit to the amount of personalization brands can offer. Research by Google Cloud revealed that most (75%) shoppers prefer companies that tailor their interactions and contact them, while an even higher proportion (86%) seek out brands that understand their interests and needs.
At NRF, we saw how today’s most innovative retailers are dedicated to improving personalization in the shopping journey, which will drive technology adoption across retailers’ business units.
One common theme that constantly came up during our interactions at the NRF convention was that we are in a people business. Our partners, vendors, brands and retailers are interconnected, often having worked together or belonged to the same network. People are each company’s most important product. As the economy has evolved over the years, the unique service that each of us offers becomes more important; whether that’s retail products, software, or consulting. We are grateful to work with so many amazing people. Together, we’ll make 2023 a year full of success, innovation, and happy customers!