Skip to content
Microsoft Industry Blogs

We’re counting down the days to Retail’s Big Show! Are you? If you’re headed to the Big Apple to take part in NRF’s annual conference, you’ll want to be prepared. With so much information to absorb and so many connections to make, having a game plan and knowing what to look out for can help you get the most out of your experience. In order to help you, we have put together this list of retail trends to pay attention to at this year’s conference.

Retail Trends to Watch in 2018…and at NRF’s Big Show

Increased Focus on Unified Commerce

Your customers shop via many channels, and they expect the same experience no matter which channel they are using. Unified commerce offers a seamless shopping experience by uniting all channels, from mobile to online to brick-and-mortar. This allows for real-time support and visibility, ultimately resulting in greater customer engagement.
A solid unified commerce platform is critical for handling omni-channel returns. As online shopping continues to grow in popularity, more people are making returns. With a unified commerce solution, shoppers can return items to a brick-and-mortar store or by mail to the ecommerce store, regardless of which channel they used for purchase. With all purchases and returns housed in one centralized system, receipts are easily digitized helping retailers streamline business and provide a better shopping experience for customers.
Too many retailers are still relying on disparate systems with no way of integrating POS, inventory, and ecommerce. Fortunately, there are tools to help, and companies like Microsoft are now offering retail solutions that bundle software and tools into one platform, making it easy to set in place the foundation for a unified commerce strategy.
Ensuring that all processes and programs integrate and work seamlessly together is crucial in achieving a unified commerce strategy. From enterprise ERP and CRM systems to applying advanced analytics and machine learning, a number of connected solutions work together to deliver the innovative customer engagement, workforce empowerment, and operational insights required for successful business transformation.
At NRF 2018
Be sure to catch:
Creating the Supply Chain of the Future. Spencer Fung, CEO of Li & Fung, will share the key to building an effective and successful digital foundation for your company.

Upgrading CRM Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are gaining in popularity as they mature beyond basic points- or purchase-based systems. Today’s loyalty programs feature advanced personalization strategies.
According to the IHL Group survey, How Retail Leaders are Redefining IT and Transforming the Customer Experience, upgrading CRM Loyalty Programs is the top retail IT priority among companies surveyed, with 59 percent of companies listing it as a focus in terms of process and technologies.
In the age of big data, it’s all about personalization, no matter what industry you’re in. By collecting each customer’s purchase data, a complete picture of a shopper’s habits and preferences is captured, making it possible for retailers to offer targeted and personalized offers to each customer. Loyalty programs fit into a unified commerce strategy by enabling retailers to track purchases and points, whether a shopper buys online or in store; offer customized rewards; and implement real-time in store offers to enable guided selling.
At NRF 2018
Be sure to catch:
Learn from Levi’s: How the 150-year-old Startup Continues to Transform its Iconic Brand. James Curleigh, President of Levi’s, will discuss how brands can inject innovation and creativity all while staying true to their heritage.

Embracing Intelligent Retail Solutions

Intelligent retail solutions are transforming how retailers connect with shoppers across channels, and are enabling in-store associates to exceed customer demands. And it’s not just ecommerce stores that are leveraging innovation in tech but brick-and-mortar stores as well. Using cutting-edge tactics such as connected fitting rooms, near field communication, virtual reality and artificial intelligence brick and mortar stores are stepping up their game to deliver a cutting-edge consumer experience.
In order to implement these tactics, however, data is critical. For example, for connected fitting rooms to function they need to be connected to a database that allows customers to explore products—and that database needs to be connected to a system that manages what sizes, styles, colors, etc., are available. This data is collected using artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. Microsoft offers leading innovation in this space, with products such as Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Azure offering key operational insights.
At NRF 2018
Be sure to catch:
Building the Future of Intelligent Retail. Toni Townes-Whitley, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Worldwide Public Sector and Industry, will join leading brands Luxottica and The Schwarz Gruppe to discuss the future of intelligent retail as they share their stories of digital transformation.

Strategizing for Mobile

In order to keep up with shifting shopping habits, including an increase in online shopping and higher expectations for personalized experiences, an updated mobile POS is a necessity. Managers and store associates should also have access to mobile devices to engage with shoppers on the floor. In fact, Forrester forecasts purchases from mobile devices will double by 2020 to reach an impressive $250 billion worth of transactions.
At NRF 2018
Be sure to catch:
Technology and the business: An essential partnership. Mary Campbell, Executive Vice President, Commerce Platforms at QVC Inc., and Todd Sprinkle, CIO of QVC Inc., will outline the importance of IT and Business working together to solve key challenges facing many retailers.
Intelligent retail solutions, unified commerce, and cloud computing are all continuing to interrupt the market and challenge retailers to evolve to meet customer demands. If you would like to talk more about retail trends in 2018 and discuss how you can better compete in the digital age by embracing smart technologies, be sure to reach out to us!
If you are attending the NRF’s Big Show in New York, Hitachi Solutions invites you to Microsoft booth #2803, as we are demonstrating how to identify, attract, delight and retain your shoppers with Microsoft Retail Solutions powered by Hitachi Solutions.  We are showcasing our new and innovative products developed in the Microsoft Cloud. These products are designed specifically for retailers looking to offer a unified commerce experience and create a streamlined business model that leverages big data and simplifies processes.
Contact us to schedule a meeting at NRF or any time before or after the conference. We look forward to seeing you at NRF 2018.