The BIG Show Countdown (NRF 2018 Must-See Sessions)

New-York-City-Skyline.pngIt’s almost time.

The biggest show of the year for retailers across the globe is finally here.

NRF’s Annual Retail Big Show brings together over 18,000 retailers from 95 countries, with over 600 exhibitors and 35,000 attendees to discuss the latest trends, technologies, and solutions rattling the retail industry. 

It’s a pretty big deal.

Not only that, but this year’s show is focused on an even more appropriate theme following a rollercoaster of a year in retail’s constantly changing market: retail transformation. 

In an effort to uncover the opportunities at hand for retailers to compete and, more importantly, succeed, this show will feature influential speakers covering a range of topics that fall under four key themes:

  • Technology
  • Business Performance and Growth
  • Innovation
  • Partnerships and Collaborations

If you’re planning on attending, there’s a lot of ground to cover. 

For that reason, we pulled together a list of a few noteworthy sessions you must take advantage of while you’re there!

(Note: Some of these sessions may fall under multiple themes!)


Successful use of artificial intelligence (AI)

Where technology is a topic of discussion, so is AI. And with reason. Sessions focused around AI are a must for any retailer looking to step up their game. According to Gartner’s 2017 CIO Agenda: A Retail Perspective, about 88% of retailers believe advanced analytics technology will change their organizations within the next five years.

This technology is revolutionary, even among industries outside retail.

How does this technology present an opportunity for retailers? 

With AI technology, retailers can improve efficiency, speed, and accuracy on so many different levels: 

“Whether a buyer is determining the new line for the fall season, a marketer is crafting digital offer strategies, or a store associate is providing in-store customer service, retail operations are data-driven, and efficiency, speed and accuracy must be improved. Retailers will use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve and automate existing and new business processes and to drive human creativity through deep learning and innovation.” – 2018 CIO Agenda: Retail Industry Insights

Now, back to NRF’s Big Show. Here are a few interesting sessions worth checking out covering the successful use of AI:

Mastering last-mile delivery

Amazon’s disruption impacted the retail industry from a number of different angles, however, fulfillment was definitely a biggie. Today, consumers want delivery options.

When it comes online shopping, almost all consumers expect a two-day delivery option and expectations for one to two-hour delivery is on the rise. Without these fulfillment options, retailers risk losing a potential customer.

In fact, 72% of consumers factor in the two-day delivery option when deciding whether or not to make an online purchase.

For that reason, technology solutions for last-mile delivery is another hot topic grabbing many retailer’s attention, where solutions like AI (once again) or improved store formats can come into play. Here are some worthwhile sessions covering last-mile fulfillment:

All things tech

In addition to these key topics, there will also be a handful of sessions covering other important technology-related issues retailers could check out, such as:

  • New strategies for augmented, virtual and mixed reality (AR, VR, MR respectively)
  • The impact of voice command (the new “contactless” user interface)
  • Best-in-class lessons for chat or conversational commerce
  • Advances in internet of things (IoT)
  • Bringing cutting-edge digital technologies in-store
  • Implications of subscription services on product “ownership” (the “Uberization” of retail)
  • Advantages and challenges of visual search 

In an industry where terms like “innovation” and “cutting-edge” are tossed around by many vendors offering solutions for a number of different retail pain points, it’s extremely crucial to take the time to learn the potential costs/benefits associated with any technology investment.

These sessions will be invaluable for many retailers considering different technologies, like AI or AR/VR, to grasp a clear view of specific use cases and discover how different tech solutions could align with their own initiatives for 2018.    

It’s hard to avoid the topic of tech and its influence in the retail industry over the past year, and, evidently, for many years to come. Here are a few more noteworthy sessions covering this theme: 


While new technologies are the bread and butter for this “retail transformation” consuming the industry, it’s always done with the bottom line in mind.   

As such, many retailers are looking for opportunities to improve business performance and growth, which involves staying ahead of the curve on emerging markets and consumer trends. Sessions touching on this theme will dive into topics about:

  • Driving new customer acquisitions
  • Improving store and online traffic
  • Fostering conversions (consumers buying stuff)
  • Encouraging repeat visits and loyalty
  • Creating advocacy, word-of-mouth and general customer fandom

Here are a couple of related sessions worth stopping by:


“Survival requires constant innovation.”BOF, The State of Fashion 2018 Report

In a space that’s increasingly unpredictable and fast-paced, retailers need to think outside the box to remain competitive. Innovation can take a number of different forms, including new technologies, new collaborations, or even new organizational structures. 

The point is that retailers need to be more nimble and flexible within an industry where traditional players historically thrived off rigid and slow to adapt models.  

It’s of the utmost importance for retailers to bend the rules of the game to succeed. In order to do so, it’s crucial for businesses to keep up with various industry topics and innovative strategies, most of which will be covered by a few sessions at the BIG SHOW. These topics include: 

  • Keeping pace with customer evolution
  • Understanding the total landscape of current and future competitive threats
  • Maintaining an open, constantly learning culture

Some keynote sessions related to innovation and (more importantly) SUCCESS will be shared by a few big players in the today’s retail space: 

Definitely don’t want to miss out on these big-name speakers.


There are tons of collaborations happening in retail today.

From a surge in retail M&A’s to partnerships between innovative startups, cooperative efforts among retailers seems to be the name of the game in today’s environment.

This may sound counterintuitive given the existing ultra-competitiveness within the industry, however, a range of advantages can come from such collaborations. For example, unlikely pairings may uncover hidden opportunities or shared data may provide a more holistic view of the consumer.

The sessions touching on the overarching theme of “partnerships and collaboration” will cover topics like:

  • Exploring emerging relationships between retailers and digital powerhouses who are redefining the overall operating and economic models in the retail environment
  • Showing advantages in broadening consumer touchpoints across an ecosystem of partners and leverage ensuing data for a more complete view of the consumer
  • Illustrating hidden opportunities that exist between unlikely company pairings
  • Providing inspiration and out-of-the-box thinking in search for the best collaborative partnerships

There are many interesting start-ups with solutions to some of retail’s most pressing issues, and the ability to power larger, more established companies: 

“Retailers are discovering that many startups are creating innovative solutions that help drive top-line and bottom-line revenue growth and increase traffic. M&A activity is likely to continue in 2018 as retailers seek to benefit from these startups’ solutions and from synergies with other companies.”Deborah Weinswig, Managing Director at Fung Global Retail & Technology 

This is one of the various ways companies can get innovative to really push the boundaries of traditional retail. Here are a few sessions on collaboration and partnerships worth stopping by: 

See You There!

As you can see, there are so many exciting speakers and topics to cover. 

While the main keynote speakers and exhibitor sessions are a huge draw, the Big Show will also feature some fantastic retail podcasts worth checking out throughout the event.

For example, the Brick & Data podcast will be interviewing a few influential figures in the retail space at Podcast Sudio B (Level 3), including:

  • Jack Kleinhenz (Jan 14. @ 12:30 PM): Chief Economist at NRF with more than 35 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies, banking firms, regulators, planners, universities, airports, manufacturers, chambers of commerce, trade associations, non-profit organizations and state and local government agencies, Kleinhenz is known for translating economics into clear and concise explanations and action. 
  • Pano Anthos (Jan. 16 @ 11:30 AM): Founder and Managing Director for XRC Labs, an innovation accelerator aimed at creating an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors to rapidly design, launch and iterate retail and consumer technologies, products and services, all supported by hugely influential partners and advisors with deep roots in the retail and consumer goods industry.

So MUCH to cover!

We can’t wait to see everyone there. Don’t hesitate to swing by BOOTH #933 to meet the team and learn more about the predictive analytics solution for retail.

Feel free to set a dedicated time with us here.


Topics: retail technology, fulfillment, artificial intelligence, brick-and-mortar retail, consumer insights, NRF2018

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