Retail’s Big Show: What we learned at NRF 2018

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Another NRF show has gone by, and thousands of retailers descended on New York to see what’s new in retail. And as always, daVinci was in the middle of it. Here’s what we learned at Retail’s Big Show 2018.

BI is BI-G

The name of the game is data, and business intelligence was the buzz of the show. From wall to wall, vendors were proud to show off how their technology helps retailers capture more data about their customers. And in every aisle, retailers were looking for ways to advance their business intelligence.

On the vendor side we saw lots of solutions for data gathering. We saw everything from people-counting tools, to systems that measure store traffic, and even tools for gathering intelligence on competitors. We saw companies that help you analyze your data and visualize it in new ways. And of course, we saw the latest and greatest in data storage and cloud technology.

But what we wanted to see more of is applications that allow retailers to use their data. It’s one thing to be able to collect information and graph it – it’s another to turn it into action that improves your business. At daVinci, we’ve spent years helping retailers turn their data into action to help them buy better. We want to see more retailers thinking not only about how to gather data, but how to put it to good use, too.

Everybody wants individualization and localization

Most retailers have figured out by this point that their competitors are just a click away, and customers are abandoning technologies and brands just as quickly as they’re adopting them. That’s why the buzz is all about customer experience- it’s one of the few areas where retailers can truly compete in the great equalizer that is the digital space.

But customer experience alone isn’t enough. The trend is toward individualization and localization. Each customer needs to have the experience that’s made just for them, from marketing through to product selection and purchase. Every step in the customer’s journey needs to be tailored specifically to the individual, making use of all available data.

Of course this is important in the online space, but it’s relevant to physical stores as well. Customers have become used to having an individualized experience online, and they expect to have the same experience with your brand no matter what channel they use to engage.

Where we disagree with the conventional wisdom on store individualization is how it needs to be done. Many brands are using loyalty applications and location-based push notifications to reach in-store customers with individualized offers, but the stores themselves all look the same. In order to make stores feel more personal, retailers need to do a better job of crafting assortments that are tailored just to those stores’ customers.

In our perfect world, no two stores have the exact same assortment, because no two stores have exactly the same customers. It’s time for retailers to think about individualization and localization not just as a requirement of e-commerce, but as a requirement for every customer touchpoint.

Retail is far from dead

Despite a year of news surrounding the “retail apocalypse,” the industry is anything but ready to give up the ghost.

At NRF 2018, we saw new innovations from all corners of the industry. There were new partnerships, new technologies, and lots of optimism. The “future of retail” was a hot topic. We saw everything from wearables to apps, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and more. (And a couple of real-life robots, too). And while some of the new tech might be more sizzle than steak,  all of this is a sign that retailers are making every effort to adapt.

We also were reminded about good news in the economy. Many retailers performed better than they were expected to in 2017. Consumer confidence is up. And holiday spending was its strongest since 2010. There’s lots to be upbeat about.


There’s lots of promise for retailers in 2018, and the ones who make the most gains are the ones who can take their data a step further and turn it into meaningful action.

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