Live From New York: The National Retail Federation’s Big Show!!!

Each year I come to New York for the NRF – Retail’s Big Show! It’s a huge conference where more than 30,000 people assemble to see what’s new in the technologies that are impacting on our industry.

There’s also a great amount of fun and excitement in the surround events that companies plan to host their customers. They do this as a way to entertain and engage their clients, but they also serve to keep clients busy and less available to spend time with their competition.

That’s all well and good if you’re thinking from a self-serving perspective. To me, that seems less about helping your customer and more about boxing out your competition.

I take a different approach to the surround events I create. Working with the Retail Council of Canada, we develop a tour of stores in New York. It’s great to walk through the big conference center and see all the new, bright and shiny technologies, but that’s not the same as seeing how innovative Retailers are doing business. Over the last several years, our tour has become a reason that many Canadian retailers join us during their participation in NRF.

You’d think that a company like Microsoft would focus only on technology, (primarily our own technology), but that’s not what we do. Our goal is to create value for the Retail industry in general, and the members of the Retail Council of Canada specifically.

A month before NRF I travel to New York to scout out stores that have some cool technologies, but I also look for an equal number of locations that have unique design elements or an engaging customer experience.

This year the trip will include the Adidas store in Soho. It focuses on the community and fashion forward designs including some from Pharrell Williams.

When we start out on the tour we offer some advice on how our guests can get the most from our event. The first idea is to have a look at the concepts being presented in the stores we visit, and consider how they might have an application in their own locations. Of even more importance, is the opportunity we create for our guests to network with one another, talk about what they they’ve seen, and learn from one another.

It takes a lot of planning to manage a tour of 50 people from more than 20 companies but there’s a lot of value that comes from this. It’s certainly fun to explore stores in New York, but it’s even better when you watch these people start coming together as they compare notes and ideas. This is the type of thing that helps to grow an industry and make us all more successful.

Of course, I also encourage you to visit the Microsoft booth where we have some very interesting stories to share. Here’s just a taste –

  • How an autonomous retail robot helped customers quickly find products in a giant store
  • How an AI algorithm – originally developed for fundamental research in particle physics – helped retailers reduce out-of-stock rates by 80%
  • Using image recognition to identify what your customers are wearing and recommend new clothes based on their personal style

I look forward to seeing you at NRF.

For more information on how Microsoft is helping retailers transform their business, download our whitepaper.