NRF2016: Three major trends surface at retail's Big Show

Evolution of retail in three areas: the retail store, fulfillment, and inventory visibility are influencing the future of commerce.

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The National Retail Federation's 2016 Big Show conference has wound down, and in its wake three major retail trends are clearly emerging, says Constellation VP and principal analyst Guy-Frederic Courtin. I spoke with Courtin this week for his perspective on these themes; the following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

The Continued Evolution of the Store

"What that entails is how are retailers with both a brick-and-mortar and e-commerce presence rethinking stores--not only the technologies, but the business processes," Courtin says. "It's about how to reinvent the store so it becomes more of an asset than a liability. How do you train employees? How do you look at new business models like order online, pick up in store? There are going to be some new business processes, ones we haven't even thought of yet, that savvy retailers are going to start testing out."

Greater Insight Into Inventory

Going forward, retailers will seek to maximize their awareness around inventory, Courtin says. "Where it is, what's available to promise customers, what's potentially coming back to you in your reverse logistics supply chain? It's about a more robust, detailed understanding. A lot of it will be done with technology, but not necessarily new technology. It's taking your existing stuff and doing a better job of normalizing the data and pulling out the information that's already there."

The Customer 360 'Chicken and Egg' Dilemma

Retailers are going face a bit of a challenge as they juggle the tasks of improving inventory insight and getting to know their customers on a personal level. "There's a continued buzz around the importance of having a full view of the customer: What they want and how they want to interact with you," Courtin says. "But what do you do first? Do you focus on getting more visibility into your orders, or your customers. The two go hand-in-hand."

"Let's say someone wants a new mountain bike--that's the order," Courtin adds. "From an inventory standpoint, can I fulfill that from a store, and can I make sure that not only did I give you the bicycle you want, but I have related inventory to upsell and cross-sell? Now imagine if the bicycle model is really hot? How do I allocate my inventory? How can I, from a customer 360 point-of-view, determine whether you're a priority customer?

You can hear more of Courtin's thoughts on this year's big themes at NRF in the video below.


Constellation Insights is an online news service published daily to advise members of the Insights community on the significance and implications of developments in enterprise technology. Constellation Insights is crafted by leading analysts to go beyond merely reporting on news stories to provide detailed advice to community members on how to evaluate and respond to changes in enterprise technology. Learn more about Constellation Insights.