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Takeaways from the National Retail Federation’s big show

Shelley Bransten speaking during NRF keynote

It’s always exciting to go to an event like NRF! But there was something in the air that made NRF 2020 bigger and better than ever before. There were over 38,000 attendees who experienced three days of inspiring discussions and get a perspective on improving customer engagement.

This year we highlighted how retailers can gain a competitive edge with intelligent retailby delighting customers, empowering first-line workers, optimizing operations and anticipating future market shifts and disruptions.

I had many interesting moments and conversations at the event, there’s so much innovation and momentum for positive change in the industry that it’s hard not to feel excited for the future. In the opening keynote, Satya Nadella spoke about tech intensity and how it will define the future of retail. Those retailers who can use data to get an omnichannel view of their customer can gain share, customers, and loyalty.

I was thrilled to be with Satya on stage to discuss IKEA and how they are using Microsoft Teams to drive cultural transformation. Moving from paper and outdated systems to Microsoft Teams have empowered employees to easily manage shift changes, tasks and help balance their work and their life.

I’ve rounded up a few interesting takeaways from the event in case you missed these moments.

Sustainability takes center stage

For me, one of the most memorable things about NRF 2020 was the opportunity I had to lead a Big Ideas session around the increasing importance of sustainability in retail and how technology can help the industry drive a more environmentally-focused agenda. Together with Arti Zeighami, Head of AI and Analytics at H&M, we presented a bold vision for the future of the industry that puts sustainability front and center by using AI and other tech-forward solutions as a catalyst. It was enlightening, fun, and —hopefully—inspiring for all who attended. For those of you who want to learn more and stay connected on our initiative, I would like to invite you to join our Retail and Consumer Goods sustainability forum which is a community for networking, sharing best practices, and collaborating with others who are as committed as you are to driving sustainable change in our industry.

A roadmap for the future: how we enable intelligent retail

NRF also brought Microsoft’s specific vision for the future of our industry to the fore. Here are a few highlights of how we are creating innovative and dynamic tech solutions to help solve real-world problems our industry faces:

  • Know your customers: The new consumer responds to a 1-to-1 approach. With Dynamics 365 Commerce, Fraud Protection, and Dynamics 365 Connected Store retailers can bridge the gap with connected solutions, AI, and real-time observational data to deliver insightful, safe, and efficient shopping experiences.
  • Empower your employees: It is now mission-critical to enable all of your employees with the right technology and tools. Connected solutions like Walkie Talkie in Microsoft Teams gives us a unique opportunity to help companies of all sizes and industries can help their employees do their best work, without sacrificing the security of their customer’s data.
  • Deliver an intelligent supply chain: So much of customer satisfaction rests in ensuring that you have the right products in the right place at the right time. To help tackle this problem, brands like Mars, Inc. are using partners like Footmarks, which designed its beacon-and gateway- based display tracking solution with Azure IoT Central to deliver secure, simple and scalable insights into what happens once displays begin transit.
  • Reimagine retail: Revenue from digital commerce is growing five times faster than in-store sources. With our Microsoft PromoteIQ commerce marketing program, retailers can now dramatically increase revenue from their digital vendor marketing programs, while remaining fully in control of monetization and engaging brand partners.

It’s a pivotal time to be working in retail and NRF 2020 proved it. If you did attend or weren’t able to this year, I’d encourage you to try to make it for the 2021 event, where we are sure to gain a whole new set of insights and inspirations for a bold path forward.

I also encourage you to read this white paper where you can gain new insights into what consumers expect in today’s digital world.

To learn more about intelligent retail, visit Microsoft’s retail site.