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NRF 2023: 4 trends +1 game-changer from the world’s largest trade fair

15 Feb 2023

After missing last year’s NRF, it was a great pleasure to be back in New York City for NRF 2023 and personally meet customers, partners and colleagues at the world’s largest trade show.

In addition to these many happy moments (in our Capgemini Executive Lounge and in front of the iconic billboards in Times Square), it was particularly exciting to discover the latest and most important trends in the industry. What’s moving the retail trade at the moment?

Here are my observations from NRF 2023:

1. Operational efficiency

It is not surprising that the macroeconomic crises – supply chain disruptions, inflation and consumer concerns about their financial health – are leading retailers to streamline their operations out of sheer necessity. Solutions that increase efficiency throughout the value chain are particularly in demand these days – especially AI-based tools for demand forecasting and management. I came to NRF 2023 with the expectation that the current crisis will be a crucial time for new, high-value loyalty programs. To see if I was right, I engaged in many on-site discussions with customers and partners. Short answer: my thesis was not wrong, but it was misleading. Instead, the general stance was, “Before we launch large-scale customer retention programs, we need to do our homework: getting products on shelves on time and keeping prices as low as possible – meeting expectations is the essence of loyalty.”

2. The check-out question

Scan & Go and seamless checkout options aren’t new anymore, but it seems the market has reached a new level of maturity. Every retailer I talked to plans to introduce an initial check-out solution or replace or enhance their existing solutions. Technology in this space varies from high-tech options like Amazon and Starbucks’ seamless checkout  (or UNIQLO’s even more impressive RFID-based checkout), to less sophisticated but very scalable and inexpensive self-checkout solutions that can even be found at low-tech wholesaler Costco.

NRF 2023: A pop-up version of our CornerShop at the Capgemini Lounge

3. Pause for flagship innovations

Many of the most prominent innovations that have dominated the conversation in the industry over the last two years, such as omnichannel or digital twins, are still relevant – but have lost priority. In times of crisis, when the focus is shifting back to operational efficiencies (see #1), some of these solutions are being put on the back burner, albeit temporarily. As soon as the crisis is over we can expect a certain upswing.

4. “Proto-verse” instead of “Metaverse”

The hype surrounding the metaverse seems to be coming to an end for the time being – a textbook “hype cycle” running its course. So where does the technology stand today? It’s clear that there will not be one, singular solution. Consider also that we’re still in the testing phase. To put it simply: so far there is no “metaverse” but many “proto-verses”.

Before the metaverse can become a real game changer, a few key elements are still needed, such as an interoperable identity wallet, very light and comfortable AR/VR glasses, and a lot more. In the meantime, the new technology is already being used in a number of use cases, ranging from marketing with NFTs to expanding online shops, to VR. Maybe less spectacular than previously expected, but impressively solid solutions.

5. Last but not least: ChatGPT is stirring up the industry

Beyond all the concrete retail-specific content, the whole scene has been overlaid by a potential game-changer: ChatGPT and its potential competitor, Google‘s LaMDA. So far there are many unanswered questions, both for retail and for business and society in general: Is ChatGPT a threat to Google’s search engine-based business model? What are the consequences for marketing and CRM? Nobody knows for sure at the moment. But everyone at NRF 2023 agreed: this technology will fundamentally change many things in the industry.

Our booth at the NRF 2023

Final thoughts

We’d all like to avoid crises. But as long as the retail industry faces such stiff headwinds, it’s worth taking a step back to look at the big picture and seek out chances to outperform. Capgemini’s theme for NRF 2023 was Unprecedented disruption – unparalleled opportunity. Retailers with a comfortable mastery of today’s technologies stand a good chance of coming out on top by leading with purpose, unlocking new channel growth, and adapting to compete with operational improvement.


2023 consumer behavior tracker for the consumer products and retail industries

About Author

Achim Himmelreich

Global Head Consumer Engagement, Consumer Products and Retail
I advise my clients on how to deal with the digital transformation and adapt or even develop new digital business models. I have already supported clients in developing their own new, digital business models that were successful in the market.

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