It’s getting close to that time of year again… no, not time for making New Year’s resolutions, but the time when more than 800 technology vendors from around the world exhibit their hardware, software and services to more than 38,000 visitors at the world’s largest retail conference and expo. The National Retail Federation (NRF) 2020 Vision, Retail’s Big Show, is scheduled for January 12-14 in New York City. Beyond its stellar session content, the Big Show also lives up to its name as it utilizes every square inch of the Javits convention center to bring together leaders from all retail verticals (specialty, big box, supermarket, apparel, others) and technology vendors offering a wide array of solutions (POS, workforce management, supply chain, mobile devices, and more) for a unique and remarkable event that is stimulating, informative and exhausting.
From my experience attending Retail’s Big Show in the past as a retailer with H-E-B and now as a technology provider with Logile, I could offer a few tech expo tips to retailers who may be considering attending the show for the first time and/or who are looking for guidance to get the most value from their investment in time and money. My tips are organized by timing to include before, during and after the show.
Tips: Before the Show
- Several weeks before the show, identify and select a small cross-section of leaders from your company to attend the event. In addition to IT leaders, I recommend sending business leaders who know your operations extremely well and who are by their nature, the primary users of technology in your stores. The business leaders might be store managers and more junior leaders in supporting roles who have proven themselves savvy with using technology to improve efficiency and customer service.
- Have the IT and business leaders meet to establish or review and categorize your company’s priorities (e.g., strategic, tactical, regulatory and infrastructure.)
- Based on the priorities, have the team study the vendors exhibiting at the show and have them establish which vendors should be visited.
- Let the number of vendors you’re interested in and their location on the show floor help dictate the amount of time and sequence to visit each vendor.
- Connect with your retail peers to see if they will be attending the show. If attending, arrange times to visit with one another as they may have experience with the technology or vendors you are considering.
Tips: During the Show
- Follow the plans you established before the show and pay special attention to sticking with the timeline you outlined, so you are able to visit all of the vendors on your short-list.
- When visiting a vendor, if you determine within a few minutes that they are not a good fit, kindly excuse yourself. There is no need to waste your time or theirs if the fit is missing. The time you gain from cutting a visit short will allow you to invest it with another vendor or retail peer.
- Remember to prioritize time to visit with your peers at the conference.
- If you find a particular vendor very appealing, ask them if any of their customers are at the show and see if they can arrange an impromptu visit.
- Skip the extravagant parties that many vendors will be hosting in the evenings. Instead of the parties, ask the leaders of the vendors that you find to be the best fit if they would like to join you for dinner. These smaller and more intimate dinners can prove to be invaluable as you will learn more about vendors’ solutions—and even more importantly, you will learn more about the leaders with whom in the future, you may be engaging in long-term business relationships.
Tips: After the Show
- Immediately following the show, ask each leader who attended to complete their detailed notes and recommendations and then submit them to the group.
- Have the team meet to combine their notes and recommendations into a presentation that may be shared with your senior leaders.
- Based on feedback and interest from senior leaders, follow-up meetings might be scheduled with key stakeholders to develop RFIs or RFPs that could then be sent to your shortlisted vendors for completion.
I hope these tips are helpful. NRF is always a wonderful opportunity to learn from both vendors and your fellow retailers about exciting technology solutions that solve important retail challenges. If you plan ahead, you’ll make the most of your NRF 2020 Vision experience.
If your company is seeking to improve operational efficiency and customer service by using advanced store planning, execution and workforce management solutions, please add me and Logile to your list of must-see vendors at the show. We will be exhibiting in Booth 3255. Feel free to stop by, or preschedule a meeting in advance.
All the best, and enjoy the Big Show!
Logile continues its rise to #11 on the Top 20 best retail software vendors in the 2020 RIS LeaderBoard.