A Product Manager’s Take on NRF16: Retail’s Big Show

By Dann Gardner, Senior Product Manager

I’ve recently returned from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City. As a first-time attendee of the show, I will readily admit the sheer size of the event was impressive. Over 34,000 attendees with more than 4,500 exhibitor booths on two floors and three and a half days packed with content. While I left with many takeaways, I thought I’d share just a few here.

1. So much to do, so little time…

As I alluded to above, both the number and range of exhibitors at The Big Show was staggering. I can’t imagine a merchant or retailer who could walk through the exhibit halls and not see or learn something new. At the same time, I can easily envision one becoming overwhelmed and intimidated when presented with so many opportunities – especially when one’s competitors appear to be readily availing themselves of those same opportunities.

Everyone is trying to do more and move faster, usually with fewer resources. One quickly concludes it’s impossible to do everything… So how does one know what not to do?

2. Just say no… to technology for its own sake

There was undoubtedly a whole lot of “what’s next” being discussed, presented and sold at The Big Show. It’s easy to be seduced by all those shiny new objects – but that doesn’t mean they’re right for your company, brand or, most importantly, customers. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to do it.

Having said that, “just because it’s there” is entirely reasonable justification to test it out. There are myriad ways to conduct small-scale experiments to evaluate new products and technology. It’s well worth a small investment of time to ensure something truly resonates with your customers before making a large investment of money and/or manpower.

I’ve long been a proponent of iterative software development, especially when it comes to changing the user experience. Releasing smaller pieces with a higher frequency establishes credibility with your users because it shows you’re committed to meeting their needs and it has the added benefit of allowing you to adjust and improve in direct response to customer feedback.

In short, the conference left me thinking (yet again) about ways to collaborate with our clients to turn “big bang” initiatives into smaller, yet continual improvements in their customers’ experience.

3. The importance of data

If you’ll pardon a pun on an infamous dot-com era quote, meta content is king. Targeting, personalization, etc., etc. – all the technological opportunities presented at The Big Show rely upon data. Two points on this theme come to mind:

  1. How do you define success? For every project, feature or promotion, it’s critical to not only have a clear definition of precisely what you’re seeking to achieve and how you’ll be able to measure it.
  2. Once you know how to measure success, you need to be able to both store those data points as well as report on them. Hold your vendors (including CashStar!) to that standard.

4. Be where your customers are

As in, how can CashStar help our retail and merchant clients be where their customers are? A recurring theme throughout The Big Show was how retailers have long since had to adapt to meeting their customers as opposed to relying on their customers coming to them.

CashStar has a number of initiatives on our roadmap for 2016, put there with the expressed intent to help our clients accomplish this very goal. I’m excited to think about how they will enable our retailer and merchant clients, as well as other business partners, to better reach their existing customers as well as acquire new ones – whether via social media, email and even print marketing.

Long story short – while I’m very happy to be sleeping in my own bed again, my time in NYC at The Big Show was time well spent. And I’m excited to being back in the office and working with my development team to put these learnings (both new and reinforced) to work.


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