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Author's profile photo Paula Rosenblum

A Retail Tech Maven’s Guide to the NRF Big Show

Hi everybody, and a belated Happy New Year!

I know a lot has been written about NRF’s annual Big Show this past January, but I thought I’d add a little more color and flavor.  First of all, did you know that the term “The Big Show” was coined by none other than SAP’s own Tom Redd?  When asked by NRF execs what the heck they should call this event that had grown larger and larger, he simply replied “It’s The Big Show.”  And so it has become, a ‘Really Big Show’.

As Lori Mitchell-Keller reported, over 27,000 attendees went to visit more than 500 booths on three different level of the Javits Convention Center in New York City.  There was some strong content as well, featuring a session on Conscious Capitalism (something I am really interested in, and am equally sorry to have missed), and a speech by Kofi Annan.

First of all, if you get the chance, RetailROI SuperSaturday, right before the Big Show itself, is a must attend event, with analysts and retailers donating their time (and presentations) to support a really great charity.  We may donate our time, but tech vendors like SAP donate the money to support this important work.  For more info, don’t hesitate to check out

Now, back to the Big Show…and a few über-themes I saw in walking the show floor.

  • The Supply Chain is morphing into the “commerce chain”.  There’s a strong recognition that stores are not always ends in themselves…they can also be nodes in the Supply Chain. Important technologies: Distributed Order Management (DOM) and Distributed Fulfillment Management (DFM). These apps have to be really simple to use (store employee turnover remains high and intractable), but pretty sophisticated under the hood.  Using inventory as a shared asset across selling channels requires a fair amount of thought.
  • Same day delivery actually makes sense in certain cases.  I had an epiphany around eBay local when the ebay rep mentioned they could have things delivered direct to my hotel.  Business traveler forgets cable, tie or shoes. Orders product(s), goes about workday business, and items awaiting him at his hotel room.  It’s a niche play, but a real one. That means we have to code for it!
  • Price remains a hot item.  There’s no chance to rest on any laurels as new vendors are popping up every day, sure they’ve built a better mousetrap for lifecycle pricing. There are new algorithms and approaches, the use of new demand signals (think “social”).  Let it be known here.  Paula (that’s me) hates hyper-promotional pricing.  It’s a really bad habit retailers have, and it’s one we MUST break, science or no science.
  • Payments and POS Proliferate.  It seems that everyone’s got some kind of mobile payment technology or a new mobile POS system.  And while there’s lots of talk about NFC, MCX and other types of alphabet soup, I’m thinking “Hasn’t anyone asked the customer what SHE’D like?”  My opinion?  It isn’t going to be NFC (near field communications).  More likely it will be software only, like PayPal in store. I’ve used it at Home Depot and love it.
  • Making the complex simple. I know you’ve heard this before, but even if your application is really, really smart you need to make it look really simple.  Otherwise, the intended user might just ignore your stuff. This is a BIG deal.  Go visual or go home.
  • The Cloud emerges from the fog. I’ve commented many times that the Cloud is whatever anyone wants it to be.  That’s changing. There are real applications being delivered into the marketplace, and reducing time and cost to value significantly.  It’s something to watch very closely.
  • Making it real. Finally, it’s important for me to say that these innovations are more than just amusement and amazement.  My partner Nikki Baird points out that along with the innovations we saw, the overarching theme was “operationalize them.”

This is a really quick flyover.  If you want to hear the webinar my company produced after the event, you can find it here:

If not, I’m always open to your astute comments.

By the way, the Big Show is not the only show. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) also holds a mid-winter event.  This year it was in Phoenix, AZ.  I had the opportunity to speak there, and you can read my take on the event here:

See you soon, I hope!

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      Author's profile photo Mohamed Amer
      Mohamed Amer


      Great to get your perspective in this forum.  Between your blog, Lori's and the many others from the show, it feels like this year's Big Show was a lot less about deer-in-the-headlight moments regarding social, mobile, and big data and a lot more about making it REAL and keeping it SIMPLE.  Love your observation: "go visual or go home."

      Thanks for the links!!!