750,000 square feet of the most prominent space in Manhattan hosted NRF 2022: Retail's Big Show, bringing together thousands of retail professionals to gather content, make connections, and discover the tech that will accelerate them into the new era of retail. As the attendees and speakers participated in various sessions, they shared how the retail landscape is evolving, shifting to focus more on customer engagement. From curating experiences and products that appeal to shoppers of different generations to unexpected collaborations, customer experience is at the forefront of retail innovation.
The Speed of Innovation
Customers are demanding new and exciting ways to purchase goods or experiences. Retailers and suppliers are now experimenting with new ways to connect and develop relationships with their clientele that bring fresh and fun products, like flexible apparel subscription offerings and extending sizing, in areas that had not been previously pursued.
"Companies are taking a hard look at the innovation process and determining how to navigate quickly through the barriers, real or perceived, that hinder improvement," noted Peter Edlund, TrueCommerce DiCentral's VP of Product Development. "This year's theme, Accelerate, highlights the silver lining of the pandemic - that creativity and speed of innovation are being embraced, which is ultimately a benefit to the customer."
Social Shopping and the Customer Experience
This innovation leads to digital experiences like live-stream shopping via various social platforms hosted by people with whom buyers feel connected. "These experiences are not as focused on influencers with millions of followers, but people that shoppers view as subject matter experts who genuinely know and understand the products," Edlund pointed out. "It's becoming more about authenticity and engaging with them on a personal level."
The concept of social commerce is also emerging as yet another opportunity for businesses to reach a larger target audience to sell their products. The blending of social media and commerce is a way to streamline the buying process for customers, and there are numerous features and capabilities that social media networks have to offer. In fact, 49% of brands plan to increase their investment in social commerce in 2022.
Rethinking Retail to Meet Sustainability Standards
Sustainability was also a key topic that was brought into focus in the conference discussions. With 68% of U.S. consumers stating that a brand's social responsibility has at least some influence on their decision to buy, many retailers are realigning their products and practices to match their core values. These efforts might take the form of moving toward electric delivery vehicles, sourcing materials from ethically-operated organizations, using more sustainable packaging, or pursuing methods to reduce energy consumption at company facilities.
In a keynote session at NRF 2022, CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer of IKEA U.S., Javier Quiñones, spoke with Kate Hardin, Executive Director of Deloitte's Research Center for ER&I, about the current climate crisis and how to drive tangible climate, economic, and social change across retail. IKEA's commitment to reducing waste and creating a more sustainable future is a stance that many other brands are also beginning to adopt.
Retail responds to customers' demands and desires, transforming the future of commerce as we know it. Throughout the world, retailers are diving deep into the data related to each transaction and embracing the stories they have to tell. Breaking through barriers, collaborating with peers, and expanding innovation continue to be the most exciting features of Retail's Big Show.
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