MEETING INDUSTRY LEADERS
On Tuesday, January 16th, staff from our Employer and Alumni Relations team attended the National Retail Federation’s annual conference at the Javits Center in New York City. Over 500+ companies spanning the retail space were represented at the conference, including industry leaders such as:
This year’s event highlighted the shifting nature of the retail landscape and the future of the sector, with over 75 lectures and panel discussions on topics such as, “Predicting the future of retail: A VC perspective” and “On the eve of disruption: Meet next-gen retailers on the rise.”
TRENDS IN THE RETAIL LANDSCAPE
THE FRICTIONLESS SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
From automated checkout stations to robots that monitor inventory and restock shelves, the retail experience is changing from traditional brick-and-mortar transactions to a more experience-based, automated shopping experience.
The way Americans shop is also undergoing a fundamental reset. As more and more people shop online, the stores that are drawing in customers are those that emphasize experiences. Customers want to sit on that new sofa, feel the weight of a stainless-steel skillet in their hands, and try out new gadgets.”
— How to Rebuild After the Retail Apocalypse, The Atlantic, December 23, 2017
Beyond the shifting nature of brick-and-mortar retail, the largest and fasting-growing segment of the retail sector are online, digital-first platforms. Influenced by industry leaders like Amazon and Alibaba, smaller digital-first brands like Rent the Runway, Zola, and Glossier represent the future of the growing e-commerce space.
IT’S ALL ABOUT DATA
Technology is making the collection of data across all industries faster and easier, and the same can be said about the retail sector. From airport marketing and design based on travelers’ shopping trends to highly personalized email campaigns driven by individual customer shopping history, data collection and analysis is driving the future of the industry.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR STORES?
They may be down, but do not count them out just yet. Many of the exhibits were targeted to show how companies could leverage their face time with consumers to make informed decisions. Whether it was heat sensors to see where people are spending the most time in your store, or cameras to understand the impact of marketing on the consumer, technology has been increasing the opportunity for new inputs to make more informed decisions.
“Americans’ shopping habits are quickly changing, which means retailers and tech start-ups are racing to make over every part of the industry, from the weekly grocery trip to putting together a weekend outfit. And although many of the new offerings — mobile payments, new methods of delivery — are centered on online shopping, many others are seeking to simplify the way we find and buy products in stores.”
— 5 Ways the Future of Retail is Already Here, The Washington Post, January 16, 2018
THE SHIFTING JOBS LANDSCAPE
So what does this mean for students interested in breaking into the sector? While traditional roles in marketing, sales, and finance still exist within the industry, there is a growing emphasis and need for employees with data analysis and technical skills. This is something that is happening across many industries, but is having a unique integration with retailers. There is also an incredible emphasis in not only making swift decisions but decisions that are backed by data, and the many opportunities for data to be collected.
Interested in learning more about the future of retail? Check out these recent articles on the shifting nature of the industry:
- 5 Ways the Future of Retail is Already Here, The Washington Post, January 16, 2018
- How to Rebuild After the Retail Apocalypse, The Atlantic, December 23, 2017
- Inside Amazon Go, a Store of the Future, The New York Times, January 21, 2018: “The technology that is also inside, mostly tucked away out of sight, enables a shopping experience like no other. There are no cashiers or registers anywhere. Shoppers leave the store through those same gates, without pausing to pull out a credit card. Their Amazon account automatically gets charged for what they take out the door.”
- The Retail Industry Has Come to its Senses on Technology, Forbes, January 24, 2018