Hello and welcome to a special NRF 2021 edition of the Retail Rundown Podcast.  Join us as we dive into key takeaways from NRF Chapter One as we chat with retail technology experts about this year’s Big Show. 

In this episode, you’ll hear from thought leaders from Nedap Retail, a global leader in RFID solutions; Oracle, an integrated cloud applications and platform services provider; Quorso, a software company providing retailers with applications to become more agile; and Reality Interactive, an agency specializing in digital retail experiences. 

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Hosted by Julia Raymond Hare; Written and produced by Gabriella Bock; Edited by Trenton Waller; Social media by Natalie Arana

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Julia Raymond Hare:
Hello and welcome to a special NRF 2021 edition of the Retail Rundown Podcast. I’m your host, Julia Raymond Hare. Today we’re going to dive into some of the most buzzed-about topics from this year’s Big Show. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
As most of you already know, the National Retail Federation moved its annual conference to the web this year. We were in attendance live tweeting many of the keynotes and speaker sessions.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
And for those of you who miss the networking opportunities and 1:1 conversations that come with in-person events, we host private, off-the-record discussion calls for our retailer friends. Currently, these calls are reserved for retail and brand executives only, but we are planning to expand our format later this year to open the floor for other key roles in this field. If you’d like to receive an invite to a future call, you can email me directly at julia@rethink.industries.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
In today’s episode, we’ll be hearing from 4 unique tech players and the incredible work they are doing to move the needle forward for retail innovation. But first, I’d like to share with you the insights I found most impactful during this year’s Big Show. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
First, is the learning that “from crisis comes immense opportunity.” The spirit of innovation was alive as retailers shared how their teams quickly went to work executing initiatives to roll out mobile technologies, pick up services and enhance the online shopping experience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
Second, is shifting consumer values and an increased focus on community, authentic conversations, and personalization. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
And that brings us to our final insight, which is the importance sustainability, trust and transparency will play for brands now and in the coming years. Thought leaders from ULTA, IKEA, The Home Depot,  and H&M were featured in panel discussions on their sustainable initiatives and plans for a better, greener and cleaner path forward.

Now that you’ve heard from me, I’d like to turn it over to four leaders in the retail tech space to hear what they believe are the greatest opportunities for retail in the years to come. 

 

Julian Mills:
Hi, I’m Julian Mills, CEO of Quorso, an agile store’s app.

 

Julian Mills:
My two key takeaways from NRF 2021 are, one, omnichannel and, two, agile stores. This was the year that omnichannel really came of age. There was massive growth of BOPUS, curbside, Instacart, social commerce, etc. Essentially, it all was about giving the customer exactly what they want, where they want, when they want it. Now, that shift has clearly been accelerated by all of the physical constraints the pandemic has imposed.

 

Julian Mills:
Second, stores. Stores still represent over 80% of sales, at least in the US; and stores have had to respond very, very quickly to changing conditions this year. They’ve been open, they’ve been shut, they’ve had social distancing measures imposed. There’s been massive demand for certain SKUs. Staff have been off sick. That’s led to a huge interest in how stores can respond quickly and profitably to those changes, i.e., how stores can become more agile and resilient.

 

Julian Mills:
Quorso’s growing very strongly off the back of that agile stores trend. We are an app for managing stores in an agile way. What does that mean? Essentially, Quorso plugs into your POS and other retail data, terabytes of it, and it translates all of that data into a few specific daily next best actions for each of your stores. It then measures, learns, and scales the missions that stores complete and shows how that is improving the performance of the business.

 

Julian Mills:
What’s really exciting about this is, first, that you can drive rapid improvement in a business. So on average, every mission someone completes adds about 19% extra sales or improves performance by 19%. That’s extraordinary. Just think doing one thing can sell 19% more bananas or 19% more cookies.

 

Julian Mills:
The second thing is, it’s a great way to engage your team. One of the things we’ve seen, one of the strong reasons why people have adopted Quorso this year, is it’s showing people on the ground how they are making a difference day in, day out in their stores.

 

Jeremy Brazeal:
Hi, my name is Jeremy Brazeal. I’m the ECD at Reality Interactive. We are a digital agency and retail technology company based in Middletown, Connecticut. We create digital experiences for brick-and-mortar and online solutions such as e-com and app development. So we have a unique vantage point to witness the most massive shift in shopper behaviors over the past year than we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

 

Jeremy Brazeal:
Epic spikes and adoption rates for online ordering of products, food, and groceries.  The barrier of trust that was keeping people from engaging in these experiences has evaporated overnight. It had to. Many of our clients and by many, I mean most, are engaging with us to create a multitude of products, including product customizers, recommendation quizzes, and AR apps that not only have to tie into their e-commerce platforms but also on the backend you can to connect to local retailers for that shopper.

 

Jeremy Brazeal:
And most of this stuff is built from the start with the consideration that it should be able to be available in stores as well. Basically everywhere there is a screen and somebody who wants or needs to use it, they experience has to live there. It really is quite amazing and exciting. To some, it may seem completely overwhelming that we have reached a turning point that only 11 months ago, most of us thought was at least three years out, but the pandemic accelerated everything. There has always been a strange barrier between digital and brick and mortar retail in many companies. Often these areas are run by separate marketing teams or business units. I feel comfortable saying those days are over. And any retailer that thinks things are just going to bounce back to normal is taking a massive risk.

 

Jeremy Brazeal:
A high percentage of the adopters I mentioned earlier will not approach physical retail in the same way ever again. The technology they have been forced to adopt has made their lives easier, more efficient. The time they are now saving, they’re filling with things they like to do, the things they enjoy. Family time, maybe remodeling their house, recreational activities, finding the fun in all the craziness that is going on right now. Sitting in a car, going to the mall. Can’t compete with that. So the odds are, many of them are not going to go back. What is happening now in retail is an example of natural selection. The companies who embrace this reality and see the opportunities here are doing extremely well. We are seeing it with our own clients. At Reality, we are taking more of a retail everywhere approach to what we build.

 

Jeremy Brazeal:
For example, if we have a client who is hyper-focused on retail alone. We remind them of the 30 or so percent of their usual shopper base they now will have to connect to through devices instead of store entrances. Then we build an experience that can live in both places, but still have that personalized, local feel to it. Stores can now find in market a special reason for a shopper to visit their physical location without alienating, or even worse, losing the people who now prefer to stay home. I find all these changes we are witnessing and what companies like ourselves are building extremely inspiring. In an instant, the future we have been looking for has suddenly appeared right now before our eyes, and it is quite amazing.

 

Madalynn Lauria:
Hi. Thank you for listening. My name is Madalynn Lauria, an account executive and RFID expert at Nedap Retail. We enable retailers to achieve complete inventory visibility and unlock their full omnichannel potential using RFID technology.

 

Madalynn Lauria:
My key takeaways from the show are the NRF speaker sessions. In my opinion, these are the best part of the show, and it’s always inspiring to hear other people’s opinions and vision on the future of retail. This has been a weird year for everyone and we’ve had to do many things virtually, but a virtual trade show was a first for me. I do feel however that it gave us the chance to have many discussions with retailers on the impact this climate has had on their business, and further learned what’s going to be important in 2021. At Nedap, we love showcasing our customers who are doing amazing things and really setting the pace for other global brands.

 

Madalynn Lauria:
Last year at NRF 2020, we hosted a successful panel discussion featuring Under Armour, Outdoor Voices, and Celio. They discussed how RFID enabled them to unlock omnichannel and increase sales. This year, we wanted to replicate that success through a virtual session. We hosted that together with PVH, one of the largest global apparel companies, and Superdry, an exciting contemporary brand with a significant and growing presence around the world. The key takeaway from this session was the importance of stock accuracy for increased digital availability of their merchandise, which enables PVH and Superdry to successfully offer omnichannel services. These services like Ship From Store and BOPIS have become crucial during the COVID pandemic, with retailers and brands utilizing their physical stores as fulfillment hubs.

 

Madalynn Lauria:
Nedap is the global leader in RFID-based retail solutions, and we enable retailers to better serve their customers. Using RFID technology, we allow for perfect inventory visibility, full control, no waste, and no losses. Today, established retailers have limited knowledge on where their items are. Providing an omnichannel experience without this knowledge leads to heavy overstocking, resulting in waste and eroding margins. Solving this, though, requires a fundamental change in the retailer supply chain and information systems.

 

Madalynn Lauria:
Our mission is to make it simple for retailers to always have the right products available at the right place and at the right time. In this way retailers can meet the changing consumer needs while remaining profitable.

 

Rose Spicer:
This is Rose Spicer, head of global retail marketing here at Oracle. Oracle’s the platform for modern retail. We provide retailers with a complete and open integrated platform that includes retail solutions, cloud services, and hardware that are engineered to work together. Our customers leverage the solutions to really drive agility across their business. Our customers also are able to create authentic customer experiences while protecting their people, process, brand, and customers.

 

Rose Spicer:
My key takeaway from the NRF 2021 chapter one experience is that people are coming up with creative solutions in order to really meet the customer at the point of intent. I’ve seen some impressive stories about the adjustment that retailers have made, whether it be adopting technology or just changing their process or rethinking how they leverage the investments. The investments may be in their people, in the way that they leverage their stores and how those stores evolve, as well as some of the more capital investments like inventory.

 

Rose Spicer:
We have noticed that retailers are engaged in chapter one. They’re reaching out through the new network technology called Grip. The platform for the event has been a really nice way to connect one-to-one with retailers who are interested in really taking that next step. I think the platform has done a nice job of protecting the retailers from being approached when they’re not ready to have a conversation. They’ve done a really nice job of ensuring mutual agreement. On the willingness to meet during NRF chapter one, I think one of the biggest challenges as a marketer in this space is just the digital fatigue. We spend our days on Zoom and we don’t have the opportunity to meet in person right now. I think the NRF has done a really nice job of trying to make the best of the situation. We’re looking forward to chapter two in June, which looks like it’s going to be digital as well.

Julia Raymond Hare:
And there you have it: in 2021, Agility is the name of the game. With that, I’d like to thank today’s guest for taking the time out of their busy schedules to chat with us – I’d also like to thank the National Retail Federation for pressing forward with this year’s Big Show. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
Although the virtual format was different from what we’re used to, the event brought forward many great insights and learnings about the ways this industry has transformed over the last 10 months. 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:

I’d like to wrap today’s show by sharing a quote taken from Saks Fifth Avenue President and CEO Marc Metrick during his Thursday session on rethinking the retail moment. He said, “There has been a call to change, and what motivates and excites people the most is that we now have the opportunity to change the industry completely.” 

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
Well said. And thanks to all of our listeners for tuning in. See you next week.

 

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