The Top 8 Takeaways From NRF’s Big Show 2023

If you’re still digesting everything you learned at NRF’s Big Show, you’re not alone—here at Narvar, we’re still reeling (in the best possible way!) from all the incredible insights, factoids, and revelations shared last week. 

In talking with members of our team, there are lots of “favorite moments” and key takeaways to reflect on (we’ve shared a few of our favorites below).

If you’re short on time and can’t make it through all the thoughts of our Narvarians, here are the abbreviated highlights from #NRF2023…

Abbreviated Highlights From NRF 2023

  • Retention and returns

Two topics that kept coming up time and again were retention and returns. Retailers big and small were hyper-focused on keeping existing customers happy and keeping earned revenue on the books. Look for continued investment in conveniences—such as home pickup for returns and BOPIS—from retailers across the board in 2023.  

  • Sustainability is the next “big thing”

More and more retailers are thinking about sustainability across the board—from initial manufacturing to last-mile fulfillment. Expect to see a lot of technology vendors (both new and established) cater to retailers increasing demand for more sustainable practices.

  • Automation continues to be a focus

In an effort to lower operating costs and improve overall efficiency, retailers are striving to incorporate automation into more parts of their business—look for the biggest gains to come in inventory management, reverse logistics, and customer experience management. 

  • Omnichannel is back

Five or six years ago, “omnichannel” was the omnipresent buzzword in retail—then it faded into the background. Now it appears to be back and back with a vengeance. In 2023, look for retailers to resume aggressive investment in the provision of a seamless customer experience that permeates both online and offline channels.  

  • Personalization will remain prominent

More and more, consumers are looking for personalization and customization in their shopping experience. That means retailers will focus on tailoring each customer's individual experience—be it pre-purchase or post-purchase—to provide the strongest brand interaction possible, and strengthen long-term loyalty. This will, of course, require brands to capture and capitalize on large amounts of customer data.

Narvar’s Thoughts on NRF 2023

Morgan Thomas — Director of Mid Market 

“NRF was amazing to be a part of! To see more than 40,000 people coming together to experience the latest and greatest in retail was eye opening. There were so many thoughtful questions, innovative ideas, and aspirational goals for 2023 that I don’t know where to begin. 

“I received a lot of questions about reducing return fraud, recapturing revenue through exchanges, and expanding drop-off networks. However, my biggest takeaway from the event was this: all retailers are striving to bring more automation to the return process in 2023. 

“The good news is, these are all things that Narvar helps retailers accomplish, which brings a smile to my face.” 

Claire Johnson — Product Marketing Manager

Retention is a key focus—that much is clear. Retailers are VERY aware of dark clouds on the economic horizon and aren’t shy about discussing the likelihood of a more ‘official’ recession than the one Americans experienced in mid-2022. 

“Therefore, keeping customers loyal and protecting earned revenue on the books will be all the more important in 2023. Whether stronger retention is achieved through a smoother return process, the provision of lucrative loyalty perks, or some other strategy, retailers are moving their focus from acquisition to driving incremental revenue from existing customers. 

“It’s also worth noting that returns and exchanges felt very top of mind across all the retailers I spoke with. Specifically, retailers want to make the returns experience more seamless for their shoppers and themselves, whether that’s eliminating the need for return labels or plugging exchange-related software directly into an existing ERP solution.”

Ryan Lerone — Vice President of Enterprise Sales

In this economy, revenue retention is something that’s on every retailer’s mind. Additionally, driving down operational costs seemed to be a burning topic—specifically, how can retailers lower call center and fulfillment-related costs?

“One other point that’s worth mentioning is that retailers are really looking to add a singular ‘source of truth’ when it comes to shipment data. Something that’s fast, reliable, consistent, and allows them to surface data at the right moment for customers and employees alike.”

Joyce Lee — Sr. Director of Platform and Ecosystem Partnerships

“NRF 2023 was the reification of our partner ecosystem. 

It was inspiring to engage in extemporaneous ideation with our incredible partners—including Bazaarvoice, Vibes, and Zendesk—all at once in Narvar’s spacious lounge

“My favorite part of the experience was working with our partners to uncover new ways to improve operational efficiency for retail brands.”

Jeff Wood — Enterprise Customer Success Manager

“Retailers are showing an increased appetite for personalization and customizable experiences (based on customer's preferences) this year.

As there’s no good one-size-fits-all approach to the customer experience, personalization is a competitive differentiator, especially when that personalization is coupled with convenience. 

“A lot of my conversations at NRF this year were around tailoring each customer's post-purchase experience (particularly returns) to maximize the value of their interaction with brands.

“Marketing assets, communication preferences, and return/delivery options can all be fine tuned once you have access to the data to make informed business decisions.”

Chi Park — Director of Sales Engineering

“Sustainability will be the next big ‘thing’ for retail—an increasing number of vendors and retailers have this on the top of their mind. 

“Solutions that improve sustainability are needed all across retail, from manufacturing and processing to packaging and logistics. 

“Don’t be surprised if there’s a flood of new tech vendors in 2023 that try to cater to this growing retail need.” 

Frank Somich — Senior Product Manager

“Selfishly, it was great to hear how many merchants really want Narvar—well over 100 retailers mentioned they’re rethinking their post-purchase experiences across all channels and Narvar is the number 1 partner they want to talk to. 

“More generally, merchants are starting to think more holistically about the post-purchase experience and all channels that are involved.”

David Morin — Head of Customer and Retail Strategy

“Heading into The Big Show, one of the most prominent industry talking points was returns. In our conversations with retailers, solving the ‘returns problem’ was a top priority. 

“While it’s a fool’s errand to try and eliminate returns altogether, there are many strategies a retailer can employ to quickly and seamlessly retain revenue in the returns process, including offering consumer- and retailer-friendly solutions such as easy exchanges, advanced refunds, and instant credit. 

“It's clear heading into 2023 that revenue retention is also one of the hottest topics, with Narvar well-positioned to help our partners achieve best-in-class customer experiences while also positively impacting P&L.

“I’d also say that what’s old is new again. A few years ago, ‘omnichannel’ was THE buzzword in retail…but it faded over time, especially with the onset of the pandemic in 2020. While I've never been a fan of the word ‘omni’ (I believe consumers view a retailer as a single, ‘uni’ channel) it’s clear that ‘omnichannel’ is BACK as both a mindset and a strategic initiative. 

“Therefore, providing a seamless customer experience in both the online and offline journeys is front-and-center for many retailers this year.”

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