For the first time ever, the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show kicked off on a Sunday. The idea being that an extra day would give the estimated 35,000 plus attendees more time to walk the EXPO Hall floor and engage with the wide variety of vendors in attendance at the Javits Center in New York. Sunday’s keynote, Game Changer: Loyalty and Performance Lessons from Passionate Sports Fandom, was clearly designed to get people out as representatives of three of four of the major professional sports leagues (NBA, NFL and NHL) were speaking, but the major keynote was held for Monday after NRF CEO and president Matthew Shay’s opening remarks. Keynote speaker Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 2006 - 2014, focused his comments on “macro-economic trends for US, global and emerging economies as well as retail’s impact on the US GDP.”

In Store Personalization

"In store personalization” is a major focus at this year's conference. People view this as the answer to the fast rate of growth in e-commerce sales in comparison with store sales. E-Commerce sales in the US were expected to cross the $300B+ mark in 2014. While this only represents approximately 8 percent of all US retail sales, it's enough to take a bite out of most retailers. And the evidence of this is mounting with both J.C. Penney and Macy’s announcing store closings shortly after the holiday season.

In store personalization aims to tailor the customer experience in a way similar to how it is done online. A major component of this is the ability to make intelligent recommendations to consumers while they are making their buying decision, with the end goal of growing the shopping basket.

Gaining Momentum

Two companies present at the Big Show that focus on this are RichRelevance and Index, each with a unique approach. San Francisco-based RichRelevance has been in business since 2006. The solution's strength lies in its initial development for e-Commerce channels and CEO and co-founder David Selinger's previous experience working on the Amazon recommendation engine.

Another San Francisco-based firm, Index is a newer firm, founded in 2012. Co-founders Jonathan Wall and Marc Freed-Finnegan also have storied pedigrees, having helped develop Google Wallet. Index's focus is more on the in store channel and it is working to integrate with several point of sale (PoS) vendors.  Both organizations are making the effort to provide coverage across all sales channels.

To add another firm into the mix, while Richmond Hill, Ontario-based OrderDynamics doesn't specifically focus on making intelligent recommendations during the consumer’s buying decision, it aims to help retailers make smarter decisions to grow profitability across all sales channels.

Seems like the omnichannel retailing idea is gaining momentum.

Retail Store Design's Future

The Retail Design Institute’s (RDI) 44th Annual Design Awards Gala marked the conclusion of the first two days at the Big Show. While I won’t divulge the winners -- that’s RDI’s job -- let’s just say the future of retail store design has a global tailwind as it heads into 2015. A book is published to accompany the results, so anyone interested in innovative retail design should peruse the book and get involved with RDI.

I'm looking forward to the next few years as in-store technologies and store design come together to both complement and challenge online retail.