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NRF 2015: It’s All About the Consumer Experience – and the Retailer

NRF 2015: It’s All About the Consumer Experience – and the Retailer

I just spent the last 5 days listening to, networking with and learning from some of the best and brightest in the retailing industry. Most of my focus and discussions were centered around the themes of the security of payment transactions, EMV and the omni-channel consumer experience (more on this in a bit), but certainly there were a lot of retailing topics covered.

NFC 2015 

They don’t call it the BIG Show for nothing. An estimated 34,000 people took the annual pilgrimage to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Big Show in New York City. As a newbie (first year attendee), I was struck by the magnitude of the event. There were countless retailers, vendors, and industry movers and shakers talking about their innovative solutions for the retailer market and often promoting the retail gospel…it’s all about the consumer.  

In an effort to take advantage of the growth in digital channels – estimates put the eCommerce market to grow to US $2 trillion by 2019 – retailers need to ensure a consistent consumer experience to meet the demands of today’s “I want it now and I want it this way” consumer.  Today, consumers have as much, if not more, product information in their hands than the in-store salesperson has.  In a matter of seconds, consumers can get product ratings, specs and competitive pricing to ensure they are getting the best deal possible. And they’re not afraid to take their business elsewhere if they can’t find what they need at the right price.

Retailers at NRF appear to be embracing the changing dynamic of the retailing environment and the importance of getting the customer experience right. While many of the session presenters waxed poetic about eliminating the silos of the retailer channels to better streamline servicing the customer, I was glad to hear someone call out the importance of omni-channel and its impact on the retailer.  Empowering the retailer teams with new tools (think kiosks, tablets and mobile POS devices) certainly will elevate the customer experience with fast access to product info and purchasing.

But the general dialogue in those sessions stopped a bit short for me. What was lacking was a formal discussion on the seamless payments infrastructure required to support the consumers’ on-demand nature of purchasing and ordering.  While this may be relegated to the follow-up technical conversations of a retailer’s IT team once they agree on their omni-channel approach, it’s worth calling out the security requirements which must follow the payment experience in all purchase channels. (For what it’s worth, those discussions went deep during meetings held at the ACI booth at the conference).  Putting trust at the forefront of the consumer purchasing experience is a critical step in the retailer’s omni-channel strategy and this component should not be underestimated.

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