The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show kicked off yesterday in New York City at the Javits Convention Center with a series of great First Look sessions by Shop.org on the state of the economy, a 2013 holiday outlook (didn’t we just wrap up the 2012 holiday shopping season!?), and a look at all of the trends to watch out for in the coming year. Much like last year, a major focus of this show is of course the digital and mobile revolution, its impact on our industry, and how retailers can harness the power of new technologies and learn how to combat the apparent negative aspects that come with it, such as showrooming.
The general consensus among retailers and leaders in the industry is that consumers want what they want, when they want it, and for a fair price. They don’t care about the channel anymore so whether they buy in-store, on their mobile device, or online, the channel is irrelevant. Retailers have to create experiences versus transactions and build brand loyalty.
One hot topic of discussion during the breakout sessions yesterday was the continued debate on mobile payment methods. Panelists from PayPal, MasterCard, Isis, and Merchant Consumer Exchange discussed their solutions for retailers to navigate the landscape of mobile payments. From barcode payment methods like the ones used in Starbucks, to NFC technologies on your cell phone, to PayPal options at the registers, retailers are inundated with sometimes confusing options about which method is the right choice. While there were disagreements among the panelists on which technology will win out over time, they all agreed that you can’t wait to find out. The consumer is either already using the technology or anxiously awaiting it. With technology changing every day, I imagine a year from now we will be having the same discussions with different panelists talking about some new, improved payment option that hasn’t even been invented yet.
Today’s inspiring keynote speaker, former Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan spoke about current global social and economic uncertainty and provided a world view of how small and medium businesses have the potential to help drive prosperity. He believes that new stable, dynamic and democratic societies have to be built on three pillars: peace and stability, development, and rule of law / respect for human rights. He predicts that six out of the ten fastest growing economies in the next decade will be in Africa and that focus on infrastructure and energy will be drivers of the global economy in the next decade. With all of his experiences around the world fighting AIDS, developing healthy and prosperous societies, and lobbying for more human rights, I found two of his shared stories to be particularly interesting. First, and perhaps most relevant to the technological revolution, he gave an account of a small agricultural community where they’ve implemented mobile payment technologies in which he saw a farm selling produce with the prices written on a chalk board, taking payments from people who until this option existed had never even kept their money in a bank. Second, he gave an account of a community with a rent-a-cow program in which people can rent their milk producing livestock and sell the milk, sharing the profits with the cow owner. Both of these examples of innovation, he believes, are helping contribute substantially to the growth and stability of that local economy.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the the show this week, packed with more great speakers and innovators of the industry. I hope to get a chance to visit the expo halls and experience some of the latest and greatest technologies helping to move our industry forward in this dynamic and exciting retail environment.
For more information on the NRF conference please visit www.nrf.com/annual13
Digital Marketing Manager