NRF 2018 Takeaways: 3 Action Steps You Ought to Implement This Year

Whew! We just came back from NRF 2018 (aka Retail’s BIG Show) and boy, do we have a lot to talk about. The show — true to its name — was massive, drawing more than 35,000 attendees, 600+ exhibitors, and 150+ speakers.

Speakers and attendees discussed a wide range of topics covering just about every aspect of running a retail business, from the supply chain all the way to the post-purchase stage of the retail journey.

But across the different sessions, interviews, and discussions, we’ve noticed that certain takeaways and pieces of advice came up again and again throughout the show. And the retailers implementing those actions were reaping tremendous benefits and rewards.

Let’s have a look at what these takeaways are so you can explore how you can apply them to your retail business.

1. Explore partnership opportunities

One idea that came up quite often was the concept of collaboration. Consumers these days want shopping to be faster, more fun, more convenient… or all of the above. It’s a tall order, and many retailers have realized that they can’t do it all on their own.

Enter collaboration. Retailers have realized that teaming up with other merchants and solution providers can help them deliver better experiences to their customers. 

Consider the following.

Team-ups that provide convenience

Many shoppers buying furniture and appliances want their purchases to be delivered and installed in their homes. This can be a challenge for some retailers, especially if home services aren’t core to their business.

The solution? A growing number of homeware retailers are teaming up with home service providers to fulfill the needs of their customers. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and Wayfair, for example, have partnered with Handy, an on-demand home service platform that connects consumers with household professionals.

People who purchase furniture or appliances from these stores can easily book a service provider from Handy to install it in their home.

Collaborations that create unique experiences

In some cases, your customers may be seeking experiences that you can’t easily provide. For example, pizza establishment &pizza recognizes that their customers want stores that have a local and authentic feel.

But instead of trying to create those stores on their own, the &pizza team partnered with local artists to develop shops that are unique to each community. 

The result? Every &pizza store is original, and patrons get experiences that they won’t find anywhere else.

Key takeaways

  • Recognize that consumers want to get more out of shopping. Some are craving for better experiences. Others want shopping to be more convenient. And people are increasingly asking for add-on services.
  • Figure out what your customers want, and if you can’t deliver that efficiently, then consider finding partners who can.
  • For instance, if services aren’t core to your business — but your customers are asking for them — find a company that can handle those needs for you and your customers.

2. Be more transparent

At NRF, retailers large and small have agreed that consumers love transparency and will continue to support companies that are open with their business practices, products, and even marketing and advertising efforts.

Transparency in product development and pricing

“Transparency is the new cool,” says Marcia Kilgore, founder of Beauty Pie, a site that sells “luxury skincare and makeup at straight-off-the-production line prices.” Marcia advises merchants to “Show your customer where you’re getting the products from and what it costs you to make.”

That’s exactly what she does at Beauty Pie. On the site, customers can quickly view the cost that goes into each product, making Beauty Pie’s pricing completely transparent.

Transparency in advertising and marketing

It’s important to note that transparency — which many view as simply “being real” — doesn’t just apply to products and pricing. An increasing number of merchants are starting to be more real and transparent in their advertising and marketing.

Case in point: CVS. At NRF, the pharmacy-slash-heath retailer announced that it will curb the use of touched up ads for its products. In line with this, the retailer will start displaying the “CVS Beauty Mark,” on its imagery to indicate that a photo has not been materially modified.

Transparency in charitable giving

It’s not just retailers that are benefiting from openness. When Scott Harrison, the brains behind charity: water, took the stage at NRF, he talked about how his organization uses transparency to gain the trust and support of donors.

One in three Americans distrust charities, he said, saying that people are uneasy because they don’t always know where their donations are going and if their money is really helping the cause they support.

To resolve this, charity: water vows that 100% of people’s donations will go to developing projects that bring clean water to those in need. (Sponsors and private donors cover the charity’s operating costs).

And to prove it, charity: water tracks every project raised and uses photos and GPS technology to show donors the projects they helped fund.

Key takeaways

  • Shoppers are calling for more transparency so you may want to find ways to provide that.
  • Figure out how you can be real and transparent. Perhaps you can share more about what goes into your products. Or, like CVS, you could be more transparent about your advertising and marketing.

3. Keep using social media in your marketing

Social media marketing isn’t a new trend, but it was still a recurring topic of conversation at NRF this year. Brands and retailers alike are continuing to find success in social media marketing, and some have even started to develop products for social.

Products developed for social media

Case in point: BARK, a dog toys and treats retailer, developed Lights Camera Bark, a collection of photogenic and “Instgrammable” toys that make it easy for people to post great-looking images of their dog on social media  — while still making sure that their furry friends have fun.

Examples of these products include “‘Grammable toys,” props, costumes, and more.

Using social to build a lifestyle brand

&pizza is more than a pizza place. As their website notes, &pizza is “an anti-establishment establishment built on the renown of its creative pies and craft beverages, localized shop design, and the strength, unity and vibe of its living-wage-paid, ampersand-tattooed Tribe.”

&pizza wanted people to see it as a lifestyle brand, not just a pizza business. And it successfully accomplished that through its amazing branding, unique stores, and great social media efforts.

&pizza regularly publishes cutting-edge content on social, enabling them to engage their audience and differentiate themselves from other pizza restaurants.

Consider this: while other pizza places are posting nothing but photos of their food, &pizza mixes things up by posting artistic images and sharing photos of their customers.

Key takeaways

  • Your company may be on social media, but are you really making the most of your platforms?
  • Take a good look at your social accounts. If you look like everyone else in your industry, you may want to find ways to stand out.
  • You may also want to reinvigorate your product line by developing merchandise or campaigns specifically for social media. Remember, your customers love sharing their experiences online. They won’t be able to resist an excellent opportunity to do so.

Your turn

Did you attend NRF 2018? What were some of your biggest takeaways from the event? Comment below and let us know. 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.