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NRF show celebrates innovation, spots trends

An estimated 33,000 attendees convened at New York’s Jacob Javitz Center for The National Retail Federation’s 104th Annual Convention and Expo, held Jan. 11 through 14, 2015. In his opening comments, NRF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said, “We believe this is the greatest industry in the world, and we’re proud to help you tell that story.”

Payment professionals contributed to the story by demonstrating their products and services and networking in the exhibit hall, evidencing that, while retailers may complain vociferously about the high cost of interchange, they are nevertheless collaborating with the payments industry in innovative ways.

Digital, the great equalizer

While retail’s big show was once considered the province of corporate sales professionals and complex integrated POS systems, retail’s mass adoption of digital technologies has created a new culture of innovation. There is room in this playing field for fresh ideas and bootstrapped startups.

Merchant level salespeople (MLSs) can benefit by attending NRF, even if they only walk through the Expo Hall. The show provides insights into the way retailers think and the problems they are trying to solve. Retailers, according to the 18th annual Global Powers of Retailing report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. and Stores Media, must be nimble, adaptable and innovative in order to compete in 2015 and beyond.

Five trends to watch

The DTTL and Stores study identified five growth categories in retail that are affecting business owners around the globe and noted that while the trends are not new, their increased adoption rate is changing the game for retailers and consumers alike.

Following are five big categories to watch in 2015.

  1. Travel retailing: The growing adoption of mobile technologies is directly attributable to increasingly mobile lifestyles in business and private sectors. Business travel and tourism are on the rise, with half of the growth coming from emerging countries. Many retailers have been focusing on building brand awareness in emerging countries in major cities and airports, which have become “retail destinations … dominated by luxury fashion trends rather than the duty free shops of the past.”
  2. Mobile retailing: Mobile retailing will be following close at the heels of the world’s growing use of mobile devices, with about 65 percent of the world’s population using mobile phones in 2015, and 83 percent using a mobile device to access the Internet. Retailers need to satisfy the growing requirement for “real-time, relevant and personalized information and offers,” while protecting these services with enhanced security.
  3. Faster retailing: Speed is a driving force for large and small retailers, largely driven by millennial consumers who are accustomed to fast response times and immediate gratification. Trends in fast retailing include flash sales, “fast fashion,” event-based marketing and pop-up stores, and self-service kiosks that offer immediate service without wait times.Same-day delivery, currently on offer by Inc. and Google Inc. in select areas, is also impacting retail’s supply-chain. “Retailers will need to optimize their information to provide as much content as shoppers need without the load time, especially over Wi-Fi and cell networks on mobile devices, so shoppers can easily and quickly find the information or product they need.”
  4. Experience retailing: The NRF’s crowded exhibit hall was filled with new products and a heightened level of excitement, as product vendors and acquirers demonstrated solutions designed to enhance the shopping experience. The entertainment value of the products and services was considered equally as important as their features and purpose.Retailers have taken a more active role in sponsoring sports and entertainment venues, and have even produced their own interactive events and social media displays. Gaming has become an integral part of the retail experience, enticing consumers to try their luck or skill to win products and discounts.

    DTTL and Stores noted that these emerging forms of engagement are creating the omnichannel experience, in which consumers can enjoy a consistent experience “whether it’s in-store, online, at home or on the street.”

  5. Innovative retailing: The retail industry expects disruptors to continue invading payments and retail during 2015. Nontraditional retailers, such as those using mobile POS systems inside pop-up stores and mobile kiosks, will continue to blur the line between retailers and producers of goods and services.In some cases, “the middleman will be cut out completely – no physical stores, inventory or warehouses – replaced by made-to-order direct from manufacturer, such as Awl & Sundry and,” the DTTL and Stores study stated.

Looking ahead

While the NRF compiles performance metrics, including attendee and exhibitor demographics, from this year’s conference, payments industry leaders see retail as an exciting space, filled with new ideas and energy.

The speed of innovation is expected to continue to ramp up, requiring all industry stakeholders to react quickly to the changing retail landscape. Like payment professionals, the NRF show make it clear that retailers need to adapt in ways that drive innovation and help them stay ahead of the competition