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NRF 2014 is over retailers, now what are you going to do?

by Robert Hetu  |  January 16, 2014  |  6 Comments

Fresh after a turbulent holiday sales period where good news was in short supply, record crowds of fresh faced IT leaders mixed with seasoned retail veterans as they searched New York for the holy grail of retail. Technology vendors did their best to show off brightly colored, modern design booths filled with shinny technology objects. While the show floor presented a thrilling but confusing array of choices with messages around mobility, social media, multichannel and analytics I am not sure that anyone found exactly what they were looking for.

The first problem; nearly every vendor claimed to be working with nearly every retailer achieving great success. Okay, so if that’s the case why the intensive searching? The HYPE was palpable however hard and fast results were in short supply. Even more troubling retailers again seem to be making the mistake of looking for the next cool thing from IT vendors rather than coming prepared with a customer driven innovation strategy that can guide their search. Here’s a news flash, cool stuff like virtual dressing rooms are not going to grow sales or improve margins unless they are part of a customer driven innovation strategy.

It’s time to ask a simple question:

Why would a customer want to continue to purchase products from any of your channels?

While it may seem too basic at first, this is in fact the only question that matters. I am not asking you to read the company mission statement that probably says something like “we provide the best prices on the best products to the best customers”. While tempting to simply make yourself feel better by drinking your own cool aid, take a deep breath and look at the question objectively. You must be able to describe your value proposition, explain the existence and purpose for each channel, and determine if these are sustainable. Once you can articulate a sustainable value proposition, only then can you determine the strategies that will assist in building a sustainable future. If you cannot answer the question with any conviction I suggest that you think about a new line of business. Sometimes the answers are simple ones that require nothing more than an honest assessment.

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Tags: consumers  multichannel  omni-channel  retail  showrooming  

Robert Hetu
VP, Analyst Retail
7 years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Bob Hetu is a Research Director with the Gartner Retail Industry Services team. His responsibilities involve tracking the technology markets and trends impacting the broad-based retail merchandising and planning areas. Mr. Hetu is an expert in the areas of brand, vendor and assortment management, merchandise planning, allocation, and replenishment. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on NRF 2014 is over retailers, now what are you going to do?


  1. Kelsie Welch says:

    Great post, Bob. To your point regarding the hype around new technology: Retailers need to ask themselves “Does this support solving a real customer pain point or improve the customer experience in a meaningful way?” For example, ask “Will I be able to eliminate or significantly reduce checkout wait times at my grocery stores?” Customers are better served by retailers who support improvements to core shopping processes within their innovation strategies.

  2. Indeed, retail is much more than moving mice through the maze with the cheese of discounts.

  3. […] in a constant chase for flashy technologies. Gartner’s Robert Hetu, who also attended NRF 2014, summed up the problem that “retailers again seem to be making the mistake of looking for the next cool […]

  4. […] NRF 2014 is over retailers, now what are you going to do?, blogs.gartner.com by Robert Hetu Jan 17 […]

  5. […] Retail’s Research Director, Robert Hetu, put forth a challenge to retailers post-NRF 2014. He challenged them to look past the hype of technology and focus on one burning […]

  6. Providing value through perks or discounts is a way to keep customers happy.



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