On Sunday, January 12, thousands of retailers, technology vendors, exhibitors and business leaders streamed into the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan to discuss what’s next for retail in 2024 and beyond at the National Retail Federation conference, Retail’s Big Show.
Top retail firms are looking for strategies to help take their brands into the future. NRF’s Big Show highlighted key trends including:
- The intersection of physical stores and digital experiences
- Using internal processes to engage and empower frontline associates
- Incorporating technology at frontline associates' touch points to their work
Physical stores meet digital experiences
Retail is an industry in disruption. In the past two decades, the introduction of online shopping was the major disruptor for many retail stores.
As Bhaskar Mishra, SVP and Chief Product Officer at Michaels said at this year’s show, “You cannot ignore your stores… We need to make sure the customers are getting a high quality experience no matter where they shop.”
Some groundbreaking retailers started out as a digital-only stores. Over the last few years however, brands have learned that physical store locations play a large – and vital – role in the customer buying journey. Now these retailers are investing more into their stores, or even creating physical footprints for the first time.
By focusing on the intersection of digital experiences and physical stores, retailers can better meet customers where they’re at in their buying journey.
The sales process is becoming increasingly an omni-channel one: customers may find a product on social media, research on message boards, go into the store to talk to associates or try the product out, and then finally buy the product online.
And because customers can do their own research online before buying, their expectations of associate knowledge is evolving. This means that store associates need to be even more knowledgeable about the store products to engage and create a memorable customer experience.
But how can retailers help store associates in today’s modern workplace?
Empowering store associates is key to long-term success
Employee retention. Upskilling. Store communication. These are a few of the terms used when retail leaders talked about store associates at this year's show. Why? Because top retailers believe that frontline associates are key to long-term success.
A major sentiment expressed at the show was that retail leaders not only want to create uniformity between customers’ digital and physical buying journeys, but also to create employee environments that foster learning, growth and prosperity.
Coupled with generating a shared purpose across the organization – from the C-suite to a newly hired associate – retailers discussed how the employee experience can affect the customer experience.
A barometer for empowerment is how you inform and engage store associates to help bridge the gap between corporate offices and stores. Store associates have a lot to do throughout their workdays, so helping to keep organizational focuses and goals top of mind is crucial for successful store performance.
Closely related to store performance is continued training and learning. Retail is an industry with a history of high turnover. By investing in store associates, retailers hope to mitigate that trend.
But what are some strategies to help train or communicate with associates?
For many organizations, it’s about providing the right tools to store associates. Tools to help them do their job better, to help simplify work. Increasingly, these tools are digital ones.
Technology’s role in store operations
The NRF show's message was loud and clear: technology will help bring retailers into the future.
As already mentioned, retail is an industry in disruption. Just like how online shopping changed customer behaviors, expectations and buying journeys, technology disrupts how store associates do their jobs. It is essential retailers understand the business to help grow. As Harmit Singh, Chief Financial and Growth Officer at Levi Strauss & Co. said during his presentation, "Knowledge of business is critical, and must start on the ground floor."
To get the most out of technology, it’s important to have internal understanding between the different lines of the business and the goals of technology deployments.
From executives, to store operations and IT leaders, to store managers and the associates themselves, having buy-in for efficient, reliable tech can help improve store performance.
Many retailers at this year’s show mentioned how they want to do more with devices, including:
- Automating processes
- Ensuring device and data security
- Improving the store associate experience
These needs often lead retailers to Apple devices. The use of iPads and iPhones in retail settings can unlock a wide breadth of use cases including point-of-sale, daily operations, learning and communications – often with a shared device model.
This is where Jamf, Apple and strategic partners can help modernize retail stores. Those attendees who visited iOS Avenue this year were able to get a hands-on experience of why retailers choose the Apple ecosystem to optimize their store processes. Apple's intuitive user interface, with expansive use cases applied to each device, means Apple is ripe for retail operators to build upon.
Join us next year for NRF 2025
At Jamf, we are excited to share the possibilities of Apple devices in retail stores. It is an exciting time for the retail industry with discussions around the intersection of digital and brick and mortar, leaning on store associates to strengthen customer experiences and how technology will lead retail into the future.
We’re eager to help retailers succeed with Apple and we could not be more excited to learn what's in store for 2025. Mark your calendar to stop in to see us next year at the NRF 2025 Retail’s Big Show and contact us to learn how we can help you reach your business goals today.
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