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NRF Tech Takeaways

Tech Takeaways From NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show

Tech Giants: Hear from former execs of technology powerhouses Amazon and Google at the 2023 NHPA Independents Conference. Learn more at YourNHPA.org/conference.

Bringing together players from across the industry, NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show focused on innovation, new ideas and product discovery. The annual event is hosted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association that advocates for the people, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.

During the event, over 30,000 attendees listened to keynote speakers, took part in educational sessions and panel discussions, discovered new products, services and vendors and networked with industry colleagues. Keynote speakers came from inside and outside the industry and included decorated Olympian and gymnast Simone Biles, Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furner, Macy’s chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette, Lowe’s chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison, Nordstrom president and chief brand officer Pete Nordstrom, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen and actor, producer and writer Kal Penn.

Lindsey Thompson, senior editor with the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA), attended this year’s show. She shares her takeaways, key themes and insights from the event that are applicable to the independent home improvement industry.

Key Takeaways

Embracing Shoppertainment
Combining shopping with entertainment, the concept of shoppertainment was a key topic in numerous event sessions and panels. In stores like CAMP, which has locations in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Texas, shoppertainment comes in the form of immersive kids’ activities revolving around themes like movies, sports and crafts.

For Anna Harman, co-founder and CEO of Studs, it’s her staff members who help create a positive store experience.

“It’s our team that brings our customer experience alive while the physical store sets the backdrop for an amazing experience,” she says.

Matt Alexander, co-founder and CEO of Neighborhood Goods, says that the level of shoppertainment should match the operation’s culture and mission.

“At Neighborhood Goods, we try to foster and maintain magnetism and give reasons for people to visit,” Alexander says. “We avoid the gimmicky; it has to be relevant for our customers. Fundamentally, retail is a traditional experience, and while tech is great, you need to stay grounded in what works for you and your customers.”

Creating Convenience
Serving customers is the No. 1 goal for most retailers, and fortunately, technology is making it easier to provide a higher level of customer service.

“In retail, you’re in the convenience business,” says Cassidy Beadle, retail client innovation director for Accenture. “Focus on designing innovative solutions to remove friction and hurdles, creating point-of-sale experiences that encourage purchases and solving moments of waste or frustration through technologies like cashierless checkouts, delivery, product access and seamless payments.”

Choosing the Right Technology
Don’t feel the need to implement the latest and greatest technology just for the sake of adding it. Yevgeni Tsirulnik, senior vice president, innovation and incubation for Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, says technology and innovation should be about what’s best for your customers.

“When implementing any new technology, it’s okay to fail, just fail fast and know when to shut it down,” he says.

Tech to the Next Level
Sharing the latest trends and topics in technology, the Innovation Lab at NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show showcased companies on the forefront of innovation. The companies shared their innovations in artificial intelligence, robotics, Web3, metaverse, virtual reality, autonomous delivery and the Internet of Things. Below, learn about some of the high-tech and forward-thinking companies featured in the Innovation Lab.

  • Pull Logic uses QR codes and other tech that enable retailers to automate the sales process and have the right products in the right locations to maximize product availability.
  • Marpipe provides multivariate testing to measure the performance of every possible combination of creative variables in an ad, including images, headlines, colors, calls to action and more.
  • Shiftsmart helps workers build income, skills and experience to become true micro-entrepreneurs and connect those workers with companies looking for labor solutions.
  • VisionR mines data directly from shoppers as they navigate stores, empowering retailers with real-time insights to maximize their operations.

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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