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Key Takeaways from NRF 2023: A Year of Customer and Employee Centered Optimization

Companies refocus on customers and employees in response to economic uncertainty. 

The retail industry’s most influential leaders recently gathered for National Retail Federation (NRF) 2023: Retail’s Big Show in New York City. Offering more than 175 sessions, this year’s event highlighted emerging trends and innovative technologies setting industry priorities for the year ahead. If you missed the event, our retail experts zeroed in on highlights and common themes of the show.

A Year of Optimization

In 2023, retail prepares for a year of economic uncertainty. Because of this, retailers are looking for ways to optimize their existing processes and technologies. Speed of implementation was a strong theme that grew out of the pandemic. When retailers initially developed services such as curbside pickup and contactless shopping, they weren’t thinking about how those functions connect to other operations such as inventory and workforce management. 

Retailers are learning that operations and technology costs are growing beyond projections. To offer the now-expected customer-facing services that also build profits and margins, companies need to find ways of making these systems work seamlessly together. Rather than revolutionizing tech, retailers need to layer new tech on top of existing frameworks to effectively meet customers’ needs, optimize processes, and — somehow — reduce costs. 

Focus on the Fundamentals 

Moving into 2023, retailers will focus on the fundamentals of business operations. While there is buzz about the metaverse and assisted selling, many retailers are zeroing in on aspects core to the industry that can be improved — how to become more sound, profitable, and efficient. Prioritizing the workforce was a key issue that came to the forefront and one often discussed in most sessions. Not everything can be self-serviced by the customer, and retailers don’t want it to be that way. 

In-store and online engagement are essential for companies to build relationships with customers and increase customer lifetime value. However, good employees are hard to find and retain, especially when much of the workforce views retail as a steppingstone for their careers. Many retailers and solution providers seek to empower their frontline associates to better serve customers, increase productivity, and decrease turnover. Workforce-specific solutions, including task management and optimization technology, were prevalent themes throughout the event.

Focusing on fundamentals also means getting to the heart of what a company offers and understanding how to drive value for customers. In-store employees should deliver experiences that are worthwhile to customers now experiencing tightened budgets. Over the next year, companies will drill down into how they can provide better value for customers — whether through customer data platforms that enable tailored solutions for individual shopping trends or new transaction management solutions that minimize return rates. 

Keeping the Customer Top of Mind

One overarching message of Retail’s Big Event was that to succeed, retailers must develop strategies before investing in new technology — and all agree that this starts with putting customers first. Businesses must align their business transformation strategies with consumer expectations and preferences.

If you’re not sure how to win in this new retail environment, technology partners like Concord will meet you where you're at and help you to develop sustainable solutions that give you a competitive advantage in this evolving marketplace.

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