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NRF is the biggest retail convention in the world and this year’s Big Show did not disappoint.  Over 27,000 attendees from 70+ countries animated the Expo Halls, keynotes and sessions at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.  From beginning to end the energy level was high and the tempo unrelenting, but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.  Here we go!

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Taking Action

Last year at NRF, I heard from many retailers about the pace of growth of social and retail data and adapting to a shopper-centered world. A year later the discussion turned more concrete steps that retailers can take as they face that world.  Now that consumers are turning their mobile devices into shopping weapons of discovery and comparisons, I found a lot more interest in store level technology like mobile devices that tap into inventory availability and offer upsell opportunities. There was also more interest in the technologies and tools available that help companies better understand their shoppers and customers as they face the unrelenting avalanche of data.  And taking this up a notch by looking at how this data can deliver better performance in the core retail activities of promotions, merchandising, and supply chain.  The topic of precision retailing was sizzling hot and full of opportunities. Stores have the power to boost customer convenience and experience by delivering personalized customer content that are context aware.  And some deep insights via social media analysis coming out of the holiday season was captured by Chain Store Age. The good news here is that SAP has available today the innovative technologies as found in the SAP Retail Solution portfolio to help retailers and brands turn these challenges into business opportunities.

New Organizational Dynamics

An interesting implication of the above has to do with how retailers organize in the future, which came up several times during NRF.  It’s about the changing role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and marketing in general.  As a group, marketing folks are increasingly leading technology investment decisions.  This change is making for a different relationship and expectations between marketing and IT organizations.  Marketing and the business are looking for ever faster technology decisions/implementations and, among other things, that is pointing to a growing need for additional quantitative skills (beyond traditional market research) in the marketing organization. Another related organizational topic that came up was whether or not there ought to be a single c-level executive in charge of the customer experience (see my predictions blog).

Conscious Leadership

Shifting gears, I found that throughout the NRF convention there was a growing buzz about the need to be more socially responsible. To give back; to offer a wider definition of business that includes a sense of community at multiple levels.  An example was Walmart’s U.S. CEO Bill Simon speaking of renewal and job creation as well as the Conscious Leadership session by CEOs from Whole Foods Market, Starbucks, and The Container Store which was instructive.  Also Kofi Annan’s much anticipated speech on the contributions business can make in creating a prosperous society in the developing economies. But what really hit home for me was Saturday’s RetailROI (Retail Orphan Initiative). It was especially touching as we dealt concretely with an important issue.  This was a great mix of retail market information sharing and discussions about how we as a retail community can help orphans and other children at risk.  A really moving cause that I hope can grow beyond contributions from events in the U.S.  I challenge every technology vendor to add an activity at your customer events like SAP has to raise funds for this important cause.

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One of my personal highlights at NRF was the opening keynote on Sunday morning.  I had the pleasure to introduce Mel Landis, Chief Retail Sales Officer Coca-Cola Refreshments.  Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and they’ve been at it for 126 years!  They’ve also worked well with retailers to create ‘shared value’ in the market.  It’s incredible how Coca-Cola has transformed the image of a soft drink into “happiness” – an aspirational experience – by understanding the consumers and appealing to their emotional side in their story-telling advertisements. I really liked the Coca-Cola “Happiness Lounge” equipped with their “freestyle” machines to create your own personalized mix of sodas.  It was a very popular and refreshing destination at this NRF!

Customers Rule

Lastly, NRF for me was about the one-on-one interactions I get to have with our customers and partners.  As you’ve read in another post, SAP celebrates passionately and takes seriously our customers’ successes, so I do admire NRF’s recognition of leading retailers such as Crocs – winner of Retail Innovator of the Year. It’s extremely gratifying to have an innovator like Crocs choose SAP software solutions as they did. We celebrated our customers with a transformed NRF booth (wow!) featuring four customer experience zones: Crocs, Chico’s, Hobby Lobby, and STM. Presentations in the SAP Theater were made to standing room only crowds.  They came to hear directly from customers like L’Oreal, Under Armour, Maidenform, MS Mode International, Marisa Lojas, and Indigo Books.

Crocs Runs SAP NRF13.jpgIt’s about contributing to an industry and a community. It’s about collaborating around solutions that deliver break-through innovations to inspire consumers while building loyalty for the retailer.  The NRF’s global pull allows me to rub shoulders with some really smart people in a great venue.  And the best part is that I get to talk with and listen to so many of our retail customers, partners, and colleagues from around the world during those four days.

Ahead of us are exciting times that are full of opportunities. Together we can bring these to life!

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Follow me on Twitter @LoriMitchellkel and also @SAP_Retail (official SAP Retail voice on Twitter)

Don’t forget to check out all the pictures on Facebook.

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