What to Expect at NRF 2020

Steve Holsinger

Look for architectural decoupling and physical personalization to dominate the conversation.

Thousands of retailers, retail technology vendors, service providers, and systems integrators will descend on the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City yet again this coming January, braving the bitterly cold wind blowing across the Hudson River to share their wares, pick up ideas, and make new connections. From January 11 through January 14, #NRF2020 aims to educate and entertain all those in attendance.

Two major trends are likely to be big topics for the January conference. The first is the decoupling of digital experiences from the platforms that feed them content—known as headless architecture, or headless commerce. The second is the personalization of physical, real-world shopping experiences, both in the form of human interaction and in the products we buy.

Headless Commerce Forges Ahead

Headless commerce is all the rage right now as a topic in the digital commerce space, and for good reason. Retailers are growing tired of the repetitive cycle of redesigns and replatforming every three to four years. Headless commerce helps to release these brands from the shackles of their ecommerce platform so they can freely innovate with fewer boundaries. However, with fewer boundaries comes more responsibility—and headless isn’t necessarily right for everyone.

I predict that headless commerce will be back again in 2020 with a stronger vision. You can expect that front-end-as-a-service (FaaS) offerings will have more-cohesive strategies to offer efficiencies for retailers looking to make the jump to headless architectures. In the meantime, headless content management providers will offer more-flexible use cases that can be applied to headless commerce strategies for seamless content and integrated product experiences.

Ecommerce platforms are increasingly throwing their weight behind this movement, and you should see big news from Salesforce Commerce Cloud related to headless commerce and content management. Adobe is likely to announce further innovations with its Magento and Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) combined offerings, and you can expect to see more maturity from headless natives such as Moltin and commercetools.

Elevating Physical Retail with Technology Solutions

Meanwhile, physical store experiences and the technology that drives them continue to morph and grow. You can look forward to seeing increasingly integrated experiences between the online and offline worlds a brand inhabits. The merger of data intelligence and human-to-human interfaces in physical retail spaces is a growth opportunity for brands looking to distinguish themselves and provide engaging experiences for their consumers.

Retailers and brands alike are seeking ways to provide personalization while retaining profit margins and reining in lead times. Technology vendors are innovating and providing new and interesting products to facilitate these goals—including 3-D printing, which is reaching commoditization and quality levels that can provide bespoke product components in minutes. Printing technologies are advanced to the level where custom skins can be produced and applied to a product in 15 minutes. I expect you’ll see some exciting demos of these innovations at NRF 2020.

All of this is elevating the in-store experience and delighting consumers—and there’s no question that delight is a powerful means for creating passionate brand ambassadors.

Come Share Our Astounding Vision

Over the past two decades, Astound Commerce has helped many retailers in their journey to stay abreast of the latest in digital technologies. We hope to see you at Booth #1407 so we can share our vision for how Astound Commerce can help you blend technology, user experience design, creative design, strategy, and data intelligence to push your brand ahead of the pack.


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