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‘Convenience Has Become Part of the Currency of Consumer Expectations’: Insights from NRF: Retail Converge

At NRF Retail Converge, held June 21-25, hundreds of retail thought leaders and innovators from around the world joined the National Retail Federation (NRF) as it reflected on the past year and explored what’s next for the future of retail.

During the weeklong event, retail leaders shared how the COVID-19 pandemic pushed their companies into launching new capabilities around convenience and service while doubling down on delivering meaningful, relevant and positive brand experiences.

From Walmart to Bed Bath & Beyond to PepsiCo, the world’s most recognized brands were in attendance as they examined the role digitization, convenience, and culture will play in their future success.

During a keynote session titled “Anatomy of growth-driven transformation,” Bed Bath & Beyond’s President and CEO Mark Tritton spoke with Courtney Reagan, CNBC senior retail reporter, about efforts Bed Bath & Beyond is taking to bring itself into “21st century retailing.”

With its primary focus on improving its customer experience, Tritton revealed the retailer is launching six new in-house brands, remodeling hundreds of its stores and doubling down hard on its digital-first strategy.

“Convenience has become part of the currency of consumer expectations,” Tritton said.

Jeff Swearingen, senior vice president of the demand accelerator at PepsiCo, also spoke at the event and to RETHINK Retail about redefining convenience and the role experience will play in an economy that is shifting from sharing to connected.

“[Consumers] are now finding this nice blend of shopping in store for some things and online for other things,” Swearingen said. “ I think it is a change that is driving greater connectivity across the entire economy and I think it’s driving greater connectivity directly with consumers for companies like ours—and I think it’s a change that’s here to stay.”

Also in attendance were scores of the solution providers that helped support the retail industry as it underwent a rapid transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One such solution provider was Nudge,  a communication platform that helps leading retail brands better communicate, engage, and improve the performance of frontline associates.

In an interview with RETHINK Retail, Jordan Ekers, the company’s chief operating officer and co-founder, highlighted the evolving role of the in-store experience and why brands must find ways to better support the associates who deliver that experience.

This idea was also expressed by John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S.,  who spoke about the impact of prioritizing the employee experience to deliver a better customer experience during a fireside chat with NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

“John had noted that frontline workers suddenly became essential workers over the last year,” Ekers said. “There has been a direct correlation between this investment in providing frontline associates the tools they need to deliver a customer experience, and how that has driven better business incomes, lower turnover rate, and ultimately, a better customer experience.”

Matt Zieger, vice president of technology at Adlucent, a marketing agency that helps retailers run performance marketing at scale, spoke with RETHINK Retail about the event’s focus on delivering meaningful brand experiences, stating that he especially enjoyed, “thoughts on industry collaboration and a future-forward vision for how we invest in digital connections with our customers today.”

Over at SimpliField, an integrated mobile platform provider for retail operations, the company’s CEO and Co-Founder Ben Zenou told RETHINK Retail that COVID-19 has demonstrated that the retail industry is “ripe for change.”

“Retailers are getting leaner and more agile and the retail workforce is becoming younger and more diverse,” Zenou revealed. “More than ever, retailers have realized strategy is imperative of investing in and empowering the talent with the right tools they need to succeed.”

“In other terms,” he continued. “The retail renaissance is underway and the digital transformation will be a huge part of that.”

Although the event has ended, those still interested in tuning in can log in to watch sessions on-demand.