Top Retail Lessons Learned from NRF 2024

Barbara Kosko January 30, 2024

The Verint team started the year off strong at NRF 2024. The National Retail Federation’s conference is called “Retail’s Big Show” for a reason. Almost 40,000 retailers, innovators, vendors, and industry leaders from all corners of the globe converged to share the biggest changes and the hottest innovations that fuel the industry.

As our team got back from their remarkable three days in New York City, I asked them about the most memorable moments. Here are the top three takeaways:

1. Customer and Employee Expectations Are Higher Than Ever

In the past few years, consumer demand has been rising rapidly, urging retailers to keep up the pace. In fact, 31% has higher expectations than 12 months ago, according to Verint’s State of Digital Customer Experience. The report also found that 69% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after a bad experience.

Looking at these numbers, it’s easy to see why understanding customers and employees is key to success in retail.

The modern consumer dictates higher standards for fast and accurate service and personalization, as well as a higher pace of change than ever. Customers urge retailers to set and maintain the pace of the industry by constantly revolutionizing their experience.

Think of Amazon that tops the list among the 25 biggest U.S. retailers with its exceptional digital experiences, variety and quality of merchandize, and high level of customer service.

At the same time, the retail workforce is also undergoing a major change with rising employee expectations. Employees require more flexibility, work-life balance, and simpler processes to make tasks easier.

To keep attrition rates low, many retailers are getting more conscientious about empowering and engaging their staff, giving them the tools to do their jobs more effectively.

Yet, there’s more to the dynamism of the retail sector than customer and employee expectations. With so many moving parts, such as distribution, product placement, merchandizing, stock and order systems, logistics, point of sale, workforce management, payments and more, it’s an extremely huge and interconnected machine.

One rusty cog in the wheel can slow down the whole system, so it’s in every player’s best interest to keep innovations at the forefront.

In practice, it means constantly optimizing retail operations, efficiently managing the workforce, and continually learning about customers’ preferences and shopping habits by collecting data across the customer journey.

2. AI Is Everywhere 

No talk about innovation would be complete today without mentioning artificial intelligence (AI). It was no different at NRF. The trade show well-illustrated that AI-enabled solutions pave the way for retailers and suppliers to extend and diversify their services.

AI is generally believed to be a driver of growth, even in this economic climate. In fact, a recent survey by Nvidia revealed that over two-thirds of retailers attributed an increase in revenue and a decrease in operational costs to AI.

Thanks to the advancement of AI, it can now be used tangibly in a wide range of retail areas. Generative and conversational AI can bring about faster self-service, a higher level of optimization, and smarter recommendation models, as well as predicting customer outcomes and tracking customers in-store.

Understanding shopper behavior and learning what happens between the moment the customer steps into the store and checkout is now opening whole new dimensions for brick-and-mortar retailers.

Let’s take a practical example from the fashion retail industry where AI may single-handedly be solving a  pressing issue: carbon footprint. AI models developed by Fashable generate realistic-looking, personalized content about consumer garments without actually producing them.

Such virtual content can help brands gather data on the feasibility and profitability of their future products without generating waste.

Another example is AI-powered bots that are designed to augment employee capabilities by automating a specific task, freeing up employee time for more value-add activities. These bots act as digital co-workers injected directly into your workflows, putting AI at the fingertips of your employees.

3. Unified Customer Experiences Are a Must

Most retailers have realized by now that brick-and-mortar retail is here to stay as over 60% of consumers are still starting or ending their shopping journeys in-store. According to the Verint Experience Index: Retail 2023, “customers are expected to spend over $4 trillion in stores by 2028, accounting for 72% of the whole retail market.”

On the other hand, retailers are also aware that e-commerce is continuously gaining ground, so they’re keeping their online services active and engaging. What many of them haven’t understood yet is that digital and physical retail must be connected to succeed.

Online and in-store offerings don’t exist in a vacuum, just as purchase journeys are not linear. Shoppers have sporadic and unpredictable buying journeys and interact with brands at multiple touchpoints.

Some may start by browsing products online, then going to the store to check it out in person, and if they like it, they find reviews and check it on social media before making the final purchase in-store. Others do it the other way around, adding or leaving out steps as they like.

Consumers expect all these interaction channels to be connected and easy to navigate, or they quickly abandon the purchase – and with it, the brand itself.

Creating these connected customer journeys tailored to their services is without doubt retailers’ biggest goal this year. Those that can best bridge the gap between digital and in-store shopping without escalating operational costs can be the biggest winners of the retail scene in 2024.

Verint Retail Solutions

Verint offers a wide variation of advanced retail solutions that can set your business up for success in 2024 and beyond:

  • Download the 2023 Verint Experience Index: Retail report here.
  • Create seamless customer journeys with Verint’s Retail Choreography solutions.
  • Browse the Verint Specialized bots and find the ones that best fit your workflow here.
  • Learn more about the Verint Da Vinci™ AI platform here.