4 Key Themes From #NRF2022

By: Brittany Maroney


#NRF2022 kicked off this week impacted by weather, the newest COVID-19 variant, and travel interruptions but continued to challenge brands to innovate and evolve to match consumer behaviors.

It’s hard not to muse at the fact that even as COVID-19 has transformed the global retail industry, driving more digital and omnichannel growth, so too has the pandemic disrupted the industry’s most sought-after event. Despite the inevitable difficulties, the show must go on and NRF2022 proved to be as informative and innovative in its content.

While many brands were unable to take part in this year’s show, the Punchh team was onsite meeting and greeting with all the great retailers who were able to still safely attend. Over the course of the three days, many brands huddled in the Punchh booth, to ask questions about two hot topics within the retail sector: digital loyalty platforms and contactless payment options. These tactics continue to shift into the spotlight as consumer habits evolve and omnichannel strategies continue to stay top of mind. 

Our own Raju Malhotra, Chief Product & Technology Officer for Par Technology, was also scheduled for a Thought Leadership session that you can watch here. We explore how to create the kind of engagements that result in true loyalty to help you retain customers, drive more interactions and win over the competition.

But those weren’t the only themes of this year’s events. Here’s our summary of the key takeaways for the retail industry’s next chapter:

Retail Reset

Ending 2021, the retail sector saw holiday sales grow 14.1%, reaching a record of 886.7B dollars, easily beating forecasts reported by the National Retail Federation. This despite challenges that the industry faced with inflation, supply chain, and of course, the ongoing pandemic. So while the retail sector remains strong, many brands are finding that sales have shifted to new channels and that their businesses, in turn, also need to continue to be flexible and innovate to match the needs of this new customer base. For many brands, the onset of the pandemic in 2020 led them to redirect resources to online channels, adapt their messaging to be more personalized, and reset their tech stack. It seemed to many as if the retail sector as a whole had to re-invent the way they went to market. The brands that faced these changes head-on were the brands that thrived, and that focus on innovation continues now into 2022. 

The Digital Migration

There was not a single session we attended at NRF2022 that did not compound the idea that digitization and technology would help guide the future of retail. The common theme? Retailers need agile e-commerce platforms and supporting technology that is strong and stable. Today, the idea of “shopping” has become more transactional, hygienic, and sterile, which has been deadly to traditional brick-and-mortar brands. Because customers have adapted their shopping habits to online channels, the experience of shopping has changed, and the way we communicate and target them has also shifted. In 2022, retailers have to shift their focus on creating an online ‘buying’ experience that is more personalized and experiential. One that is based on the zero-party data that customers are willing to give brands, particularly through avenues such as a loyalty program. This transactional data can be used to award, entice and engage consumers in unique ways that feel more personal and rewarding to the customer. At the end of the day, people don’t buy stuff. They buy experiences. 

Advancing Diversity & Inclusion

On Sunday, the keynote discussion included James Fripp, chief equity and inclusion officer, YUM! Brands; Sharon Leite, CEO, The Vitamin Shoppe; and Paige Thomas, president, and CEO, Saks OFF 5TH, all CEO Action advocates. During the session, Fripp shared his experience with racism as a GM of Taco Bell, and Leite joked about appearing on the television show Undercover Boss. Both stories centered around the incidents that staff face as part of the retail industry and the importance of focusing on diversity and inclusion within the businesses we are all building. When it comes to collaboration, development, and building teams, we all must remember the humanity behind it and build brands that empower employees to grow within the organization. At Yum! brands, Fripp said, issues like these are talked about in the context of being “RED” — relevant, easy and distinctive. Those who are not relevant are not connected with today’s cultures. “If you’re not relevant, you won’t be successful,” he said. “In order to be successful, you need to have everybody at the table.” 

Long Term Value vs. Customer Loyalty

On Monday, Chewy CEO Sumit Singh took the stage to discuss the concept of innovation, focusing on a customer-centric business model that proves to grow loyalty. Often, he said, CEOs talk about growth, but they rarely balance their strategy around the speed of innovation and “the loyalty and longevity of customer care that a company can deliver.” He described the success of Chewy as based on cultivating happy team members, which drives the customer experience, ultimately creating customer loyalty. “That (loyalty) has to be the North Star,” he said. Loyalty continued to be a theme through many of the presenter’s commentary, as a goal for the retail sector and as a focus going into 2022. Many sessions reinforced the idea that we need to focus continuously on customer engagement and prioritize loyalty programs heading into 2022. As Singh said in closing the session, “The watchwords for the future should be communication, innovation, and perseverance.” All tactics that can be supported by the right loyalty program.

If you are interested in learning more about evolving your loyalty program, instituting contactless payment, or innovating your digital landscape, we here at Punchh would be happy to have that conversation. Punchh can help you overcome any barriers to loyalty program performance and provide solutions that will help you efficiently scale your retail brand in the future, connect with us today for a free demo.

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