5 things we learned at NRF 2020 Vision

Jan 15, 2020

As the biggest names in retail converged on New York, we pick out the five things that jumped out at us at this year’s NRF 2020 Vision conference.

The NRF once again held Retail’s Big Show in New York this week and once again the conference was full of retail’s biggest names, delivering some fascinating insights. Our CEO Kate Ancketill had the privilege of speaking to the conference about some of the world’s most innovative global brands, and while we were there we listened to lots of amazing speakers talking about retail and the future.

Here are five of the most important nuggets of insight we gleaned in New York this year:


1 – Consumers have a different mindset when shopping with voice

Among the stellar line-up was Amazon Pay VP Patrick Gauthier, who spoke about how customers are often in a different need state when shopping via Alexa or other voice platforms than when they are shopping on other channels. Whereas you might be looking for something that catches your eye at physical stores or online, or looking for something specific, oftentimes consumers are in a ‘how to’ mode when they are shopping on voice. This means that they are seeking a product to address a need without necessarily knowing what that product is. In the UK, Diageo has identified this and addressed it through an Alexa skill that allows consumers to say how they feel, before being recommended a cocktail to match that feeling.


2 – Microsoft wants to help retailers achieve ‘tech independence’

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also addressed the conference and set out his stall for 2020. He claimed that rather than attempting to make retailers dependent on Microsoft’s technology (92% of the world’s top 100 retailers are using Microsoft’s cloud platform already), 2020 would be about empowering retailers to become more technologically independent by helping them to build their own proprietary technology. If you got a sense in Satya’s statement of intent above that it contained a veiled dig about the business practices of Microsoft’s rivals, you’d be right. The Microsoft CEO went on to decry the current state of online advertising, in which retailers are facing ever increasing ad spends at the hands of digital monopolies. Nadella pointed to Microsoft’s Promote IQ as a solution for retailers to build their own digital ads and reclaim control, firmly positioning Microsoft as a conscientious alternative to the likes of Google and Facebook.


3 – People are more likely to shop in a store if it also sells second-hand items

According to Charles Gorra, founder and CEO of Rebag, recent research shows this to be the case and 9 out of 10 fashion retailers are looking into this model to see if it works for them. Rebag is a second hand marketplace that exclusively sells luxury handbags. It has recently launched a piece of software called Clair by Rebag that makes it easier for consumers to estimate the resale value of their luxury goods.


4 – Gwyneth Paltrow believes in ‘contextual commerce’

The announcement of Gwyneth Paltrow as a speaker at the Big Show this year sent ripples of excitement around the retail industry. The actress and founder of GOOP has built up her company from scratch to a current value of over a quarter of a billion dollars. She revealed that the Goop brand existed for five or six years before it was monetised at all (Goop began life as a newsletter in 2008). What has made Goop so successful, according to Paltrow, is its model of what she calls ‘contextual commerce’. Goop always led with content, focused on women’s ‘optimisation of self’, and it is from this content that Goop has been able to introduce products in an authentic way rooted in the context of Goop’s overarching message. Paltrow pointed to both Disney and Glossier as two other brands that have done the same thing successfully.


5 – And she thinks it’s best to address controversy head on

Far from shy away from the criticism levelled at the brand over the course of its ascendance, Paltrow faced it head on. She acknowledged that Goop had made mistakes in its early years of monetisation, particularly around regulatory issues, but have become much more sophisticated. She also claimed that because of her previous career, she had become a target for criticism because she had stepped out of the box that the public were comfortable seeing her in. On the subject of the outrage caused by Goop’s approaches to alternative healing and female sexuality (outrage that has in fact, turned into litigation), Paltrow argued that outrage is good because it helps women to have a conversation about these subjects. The Goop founder even went as far as to point out that this controversy is no bad but thing given the amount of traffic it’s driven to its website, but she qualified that statement quickly by stating that Goop doesn’t court controversy on purpose.

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