Last week, the NRF Big Show in New York brought together over 6,200 brands, unveiling new trends and insights that are set to shape the retail landscape in 2024.

From the three-story expo hall to four full days of educational sessions, presentations, and demonstrations, five key themes arose as the most important takeaways for retail leaders.

5 key insights from NRF 2024 for retailers:

1. The customer = the channel: Breaking down silos in the omnichannel era

In the dynamic landscape of the retail industry, terms like omnichannel, channel-less, and unified are pervasive, emphasizing the pivotal concept that today, there’s no more separate go-to-market channels (desktop, mobile, in-store, online). Today, your customer equals the channel.

To remain competitive and foster customer loyalty, retailers must establish a unified presence everywhere, meeting customers wherever they choose to engage. For many retailers, this is going to require breaking down silos and discarding legacy systems internally so that agility is enhanced and customer responsiveness is improved. Speed becomes paramount in this era where customers themselves define the channel.

2. Composable technology: Defining retail tech stacks of the future

Meeting customers on their terms is not just a preference but a strategic imperative. Businesses are now focusing on tailoring their tech stacks to meet evolving needs and achieve adaptability.

Composable software plays a central role by enabling plug-and-play functionality, offering the freedom to choose and adapt as your customer evolves. This technology ensures flexibility and seamless integration into additional best-of-breed capabilities, allowing businesses to stay agile and responsive to changing market dynamics.

3. AI revolution: Transforming retail in the face of new challenges

Today’s business landscape is marked by many global challenges, such as inflation and disruptions in the supply chain. In addition to this landscape, retailers’ operational reality is generally characterized by disconnected legacy systems they’ve “grown up” with and segmented go-to-market strategies.

Against this backdrop, AI has become almost indispensable, a necessity dictated by the current state of the world and the evolving expectations of a channel-less customer. Unlocking the transformative power of AI is no longer just an option; it is a strategic imperative. These AI capabilities empower retailers to scale the delivery of the channel-less digital experience expectation:

  • Scale the creation of personalized content, providing a tailored experience for each customer
  • Empower store associates through AI-enabled assistants, creating a more efficient and engaging shopping experience
  • Introduce conversational commerce capabilities, elevating the retail landscape and aligning with the evolving demands and expectations of the modern consumer

4. Data synchronization: The backbone of AI in a channel-centric world

In the AI landscape, data takes center stage with the crucial understanding that “AI is only as smart as the data you feed it.”

The urgency to organize and optimize data has arisen as a priority, providing retailers with the foundation needed to harness the full potential of AI for enhanced efficiency in a channel-centric environment.

But retailers are living at the intersection of this channel-less world where composability of technology is required to enable the speed and agility required to keep up with customers. So the challenge and opportunity for retailers to get ahead and truly take advantage of AI is in their ability to utilize their data (across customers, across systems, across experiences) to its fullest potential in a unified fashion.

5. Brand authenticity in the age of AI: A balancing act

As retailers embrace AI, maintaining brand authenticity becomes a critical consideration. Striking the right balance between technological innovation and preserving the unique brand identity is important to preserving trust. In the age of AI, success demands not only technological prowess but also a commitment to delivering authentic, customer-centric experiences.

Finding this delicate balance is key to ensuring that the efficiencies in productivity and elevation of experience that AI will deliver don’t overshadow the core identity and values of your brand.

As retailers prepare for the year ahead, these insights should serve as a guide to success in an ever-evolving retail landscape.

In the pursuit of making the customer “the channel,” the integration of Sitecore OrderCloud and Microsoft Fabric emerges as a catalyst for retailers. Empowering brands to scale content creation, enhance store associate experiences, and elevate shopping journeys, this simplifies the journey toward unlocking the full potential of AI by making it easier to unify your data in a channel-less world. Reach out to learn more.

Kayla Bryant is Marketing Programs Director, Commerce at Sitecore. Connect with her on LinkedIn