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By: RETHINK Retail

NRF 2023: Top Retail Influencers’ Key Takeaways (Part One)

The RETHINK Retail team ventured to NYC from January 14-17th for NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show. While there, we had the opportunity to speak with attendees from our Top Retail Influencer community and learn about their event experience. #TRI members- April Sabral, Andrew Smith, Carl Boutet, Alberto Serrentino, Charles Haseman, Christine Russo, Guy Courtin, and Hitha Herzog- all shared their thoughts on the must-see sessions, technologies, and insights from across the show in part one of this article.

April Sabral: CEO & Founder of retailu

I’m most excited to see and learn about at the NRF this year more employee engagement platforms. Not just task management and communication, because that’s really important, especially as a seasoned operator, right? Being able to get information out to the frontline employees.

But more around engagement training, leadership development. And I actually just came from one of the stages where I heard Ron Thurston from Retail Pride, another fellow influencer, have a conversation with three senior leaders about what’s making it exciting to work for their companies. And I was really pleased to hear all of their stories about how they started off on the shop floor, grew, their retail career, and how they’re really talking about that in their companies.

Andrew Smith: Co-Founder at ThinkUncommon, Co-founder & CEO of Sproutly

Here at NRF, I’m excited that there’s more than just me here. Last year I felt like I was the only one here. But it’s exciting to see everyone come back together and the energy is here and it’s positive, which is great news. Walking the expo floor, sitting in the sessions, there’s definitely a nervousness around what’s coming. 

The numbers have been really good for us. It’s gonna change in 2023, especially in this first quarter. So how people are reacting to it and you know, what they’re actually going to do. Everyone’s pretty tight lipped about it, which I’m hoping is because they’ve got a plan and they’re just working on the execution as opposed to having absolutely no idea.

But having really rich conversations in a lot of the sessions about how people are gonna lean into a bit of a tougher financial year is good and smart, and that will be helpful for the retailers that are here. Walking the expo floor, though, I’m loving seeing technology that’s invisible—loving seeing technology that isn’t big, bright and shiny, and is instead all about improving the customer experience in stores.

Carl Boutet: Founder, Chief Strategist & Executive Advisor at Studio Rx

I have a favorite story from NRF. Many years ago, when I walked up to this table, basically this fold out table with two guys behind a computer screen and asked what they were doing.

And they were starting off doing data visualization. Like, yeah, we’re two graduates. We have this new software that we wanna launch to help people better understand their data, something that I’m passionate about. And going lo and behold, became Tableau, a company that Salesforce acquired for 10 billion a couple years back and I discovered them here at NRF on a fold out table basically, you know, probably 10 years ago or more.

So yeah, I love looking for those sort of needles in a haystack, those sort of unpolished gyms and finding what they’re working on. Because it often leads the way of what’s coming next.

Alberto Serrentino: Founder of Varese Retail

I moderated a session at the big show this year talking about the future of the store, and it was all about rethinking the relevance and the perspective of the physical stores for digitally transformed retail business models. And from my perspective, when we talk and think about the future of the store, we need to talk about the future of the retail business model itself.

The store will be a key component of something that is completely focused and oriented to the customers and driven by data. So we need the stores to become hubs. We need the stores to become hubs that can attract, retain, and engage customers. We need stores that will be service hubs, logistics hubs, and experience hubs that will unleash the power of personal connections, relationships, and interactions. 

Charles Haseman: Professor & Director, Center for Retail Innovation and Strategic Excellence (RISE) at Naveen Jindal School of Management, UT Dallas

I’ve been coming to the show for many, many, many years. These are not highlights, but what I’m seeing is a real heavy focus on technology, which we’ve had. Innovation is huge, but you’re starting to see that it’s separate from retailers—It’s what all the retailers are interested in.

Technology is retail today. And to be successful in retail, you have to understand technology. And that’s why we’re pulling in so many young adults coming outta college that have the data skills. Fashion is nice, merchandising is nice, but if you don’t have the data to drive, It’s not gonna happen.

So I would say that the exciting part of the show is how much technology there is and that everybody is aware of the technology. There was a day when, well, why do we have technology? We don’t. Those days are long gone and I think this show tells that, and hopefully we can learn from that.

Christine Russo: Principal of Retail Creative and Consulting Agency

During these turbulent times, it’s still important to focus on innovation. NRF brings together the top talent and technology for retailers. I hope to see a lot of retailers embracing innovation and continuing to expand their technology adoption. 

I’m excited to host a discussion at NRF with Reddit and RGA about Web three. What does that mean for omnichannel and how does it affect loyalty and growth for retailers? 

Guy Courtin: Vice President of Industry and Advanced Technology at Tecsys Inc.

NRF first and foremost, what’s been fantastic is seeing all the people again, right? I came last year and it was a ghost town.

Seeing the people has been really great. But what I’m really enjoying is seeing some new vendors and new faces out. Showing what they’re doing, talking about what they’re doing for retailers, and I think that’s really exciting for the industry as a whole, as opposed to always seeing sort of the usual players.

Hitha Herzog: Chief Retail Analyst & Head of Retail Research at DONEGER | TOBE

There’s so many things here at the big show that I want to see and really be a part of. But I think the number one thing that I’m so excited to see are my old friends that I haven’t seen in person for a really long time. It’s so great to see everyone.

And of course, there are so many new technologies that are also dealing with supply chain and returns, and so that new technology that’s coming out, I really wanna delve into that and talk to a lot of companies about logistics. Really fun, sexy stuff like logistics.

I’m excited to hear more about and talk to these companies that are coming up with amazing solutions to try to figure that out. 

Check back for part two of this article coming later this week, featuring the rest of the Top Retail Influencers at NRF 2023!