Earlier this week, the Invafresh team attended NRF 2023 Retail’s Big Show in New York City. The expo is arguably the industry’s most attended show, with retailers around the globe gathering to experience the latest innovations. After the Omicron variant adversely impacted last year’s show, it was great to see such a vibrant show with more than 175 sessions and 350 speakers, and over 1,000 exhibitors. This year, NRF addressed digital transformation within the industry and how technology enables retailers to meet the expectations of an increasingly digital-first retail environment.
Common recurring themes we noticed at NRF 2023 Retail’s Big Show were:
- NRF is a technology show
- It’s all about the customer
- Digital transformation is leading the way
NRF is a Technology Show
To some it may sound obvious, but NRF 2023 is a technology show. Tech vendors dominated the show floor and tech-centric content made up most of the speaking sessions. The number of technology solutions on display, from foundational ERP solutions to point solutions solving specific use cases, was significant.
The challenge for retailers is to understand what their tech stack needs to look like. How can technology help them increase margins, reduce waste, and provide a memorable shopping experience for their customers? While there were lots of tech options on display, grocery retailers need to avoid the pitfalls of creating data silos that are caused by technology that doesn’t integrate. They need to build from foundational technology, such as an ERP platform, and then ensure their other tech solutions both integrate seamlessly and enable employees to be accessing the same data. Only this approach will enable them with the ability to make right decisions from the right data to deliver the right outcomes.
It’s All About the Customer
Another consistent theme was the necessity to focus on the customer experience. As we enter 2023, we continue to face macroeconomic headwinds, such as labor shortages and inflation. Grocery retailers are also facing changing demographics as customer expectations in an increasingly digital-first retail environment continue to evolve. Coming out of the pandemic, many customers grew accustomed to ordering online and utilizing online delivery services. While many customers have returned to shopping in-store, they still expect to have the option of shopping online, when they choose and to have the same experience. Technology provides retailers the tools and opportunity to deliver a great experience to their customers in-store or online. That experience leaves a mark on the customer, building brand engagement and banner loyalty.
Digital Transformation is Leading the Way
Grocery retail is going through rapid digitization as the last few years have brought waves of unprecedented change. Grocery retailers have had to reassess and adapt nearly every facet of their operations. At NRF, there was much talk about omnichannel, frictionless experience, Web3, AI, e-commerce, RFID, and automation. While they all represent different aspects of technology, they are all about transformation and how grocery retailers must adapt their strategies and operations to stay competitive and relevant as new threats – such as digital-first grocers – emerge. The promise of these technologies is to deliver the best service and value across every channel and allow in-store employees to spend more time on the floor serving customers.
The Future of Grocery Retail
Based on some of the conversations at NRF, it is easy to see how grocery retailers are evolving into technology-centric organizations. One thing is certain, technology will play an increasingly important role in shaping the future of grocery retail. The challenge for retailers is to sort through the myriad of technology solutions available to them, and focus on those that will allow them to provide a holistic view of their data so that they can make the right decisions and deliver a superior experience to their customers.