NRF 2018 Recap: Innovation & Smart Retail Shape the Future of Retail

January 24, 2018


There’s a reason NRF is referred to as retail’s “Big Show.”  For more than a century, NRF’s convention and EXPO has been the annual gathering for industry luminaries and leaders, and it remains the place where big things happen in retail.


NRF 2018 was no exception.  This year’s show hit on several key themes for the future of retail: security, speed & agility, digitization, personalization, and artificial intelligence, to name a few. 


In just a few short days, conference attendees got an up-close-and-personal look at the latest retail trends and an unparalleled view into how retail brands are transforming themselves for the digital age.


Along with our app partners, Current, powered by GE was excited to exhibit at NRF and showcase what's possible in retail – both today and into the future.  We came away from the show energized about igniting the customer experience, increasing employee productivity, and ultimately delivering powerful business outcomes for our customers.


Here are our highlights from NRF 2018:


The Future of Retail

Unsurprisingly, technology was a core focus of this year’s show – so much so that NRF 2018 highlighted current and future innovations retailers can utilize in its Innovation Lab.  The area allowed attendees to scope out the latest retail technology and offered a full lineup of speakers highlighting various products and technology to improve the customer experience and business operations.


“The retail market has become more fast-paced thanks to digital technology, which puts stress on businesses to respond,” notes BizTech in an NRF recap.  “Customers’ expectations for retail brands are increasing.”


To meet – and exceed – customer expectations, smart, forward-thinking retailers are driving digital innovation and focusing on customers wherever they are: in-store or online.  In her “Women in Leadership” session, Beth Comstock, former Vice Chair at GE and currently a Director at Nike, highlighted that “volatility is the new normal.”


“In every company, you need to unlock experimentation,” said Comstock.  In addition to fueling innovation, Comstock noted that successful retailers are shifting culture to address the future, moving from a mindset of big product launches to one more aligned with the Silicon Valley methodology of agile testing.


But it’s not all about technology trailblazing.  Doug McMillon, President & CEO, Walmart, spoke in his keynote about the changing face of retail – and the increasing focus on both customers and employees.


“Big picture, what every retailer knows is retail is a people business,” he said.  “The way customers feel when they leave your store, website, or app determines how fast they’re going to come back.  There’s a piece of humanity here that really matters.”


McMillon continued, “As we make investments in technology – and learn how to put artificial intelligence to work at Walmart – we want our people to go through that with us.”


Smart Retail

At the Current by GE booth, our focus was squarely on the business productivity outcomes we are creating for our customers, helping them to better serve their customers.  We spoke about how we build the digital energy and data infrastructure to allow retailers like Walmart, Ahold, and Sainsbury’s to deliver a highly personalized customer experience.  We also discussed how intelligent lighting with cold chain management can increase product quality and reduce operational inefficiencies. 


To that end, Current by GE announced results of an extensive lighting program with Walmart during NRF 2018.


As part of an ongoing commitment to energy efficiency, Walmart has now installed more than 1.5 million LED (light emitting diode) fixtures across more than 6,000 stores, parking lots, distribution centers, and corporate offices in 10 countries.  Walmart is also moving aggressively to complete LED and controls retrofits in 100 percent of its distribution centers in the U.S., along with a new initiative to replace all other forms of overhead lighting with LED.


“Walmart is setting a great example for the retail industry to follow,” said Maryrose Sylvester, President and CEO of Current by GE.  “We believe the global LED and controls transformation is paving the way for the next generation of smart retail, where steady advancement toward new digital solutions will continue improving the shopping experience. Walmart is once again on the leading edge of progress.”


Current by GE partners – Fract and Motionloft – appeared alongside Current by GE during the show, displaying solutions that improve store performance, optimize retail environments, drive decision-making for retail location, layout, and customer experience, and more.


We were energized by the buzz at NRF 2018 and we’re excited to continue innovating and helping our customers revolutionize the customer experience.


For more NRF 2018 coverage, including articles, videos, presentations, and photos, visit the NRF 2018 website.


Want to see how you can make your retail environment intelligent? Contact us to get the conversation started.



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