NRF Recap, Day Three: Key Takeaways

Welcome to Day Three of’s NRF Recap: a comprehensive look at all the most important announcements and coolest stories from the NRF’s Retails’ BIG Show in New York City. provided an update of all the NRF doings for Monday, and Tuesday, and we are here to round out the conference for you with a look at Wednesday’s big session. The news from yesterday was a bit sparse, so we’ll also hit you with our three biggest takeaways from Retail’s BIG Show, and you can tell us how you agree or disagree with what resonated most from NRF 2013.

Think we should have covered another big story? Want to share a cool product or feature you saw with us? Let me know in the comments below!

Retail Re-Imagined – Conversations on Storytelling, the Customer Experience and What’s Next

Wednesday’s first keynote was certainly worth sticking around for, as Sarah Friar, CFO of Square, Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of Warby Parker, Bo Fishback, co-founder and CEO of Zaarly, and Rachel Shechtman, founder of STORY, joined moderator Lindsay Campbell to discuss a wide variety of traditional, mobile and online commerce.

Unsurprisingly, some of our biggest takeaways came from Friar, who spoke about how Square envisions checking out in the future, why gift cards are going to become a huge part of mobile retailing, and even gave some background into Square’s deal with Starbucks. According to Friar, Starbucks was at first a little skeptical as to whether Square could handle all of their processing volume, but Friar noted that before the acquisition, Square was already processing far more volume than Starbucks was itself.

Mobile really stole the show for Square – and that’s something we’ll address in a moment – and Square Wallet was clearly a topic Friar was trying to generate interest in.

“Mobile can really change the whole face of commerce,” Friar said.

Some of the other most interesting tidbits during the keynote came from Fishback, who’s company Zaarly is named because he feels it’s “Amazon meets a bizarre.” Zaarly tries to allow people to make a living by offering their services – such as handyman or yoga instructor – online, and Fishback says his goal is to eventually get 10 million people listed on the service. That’s an ambitious goal, but Fishback made interesting points about how it doesn’t matter if you’re going offline to online or vice-versa: what matters is that the two aspects of commerce are intersecting.

Fishback also spoke about how, for the first time, communication, logistics, information, payments and location are all changing thanks to mobile, and how access to cheaper devices is spurring a new commercial and payments revolution.

Overall it was an interesting panel with a pretty candid Q&A session at the end, and it was interesting for me to see a mega-company like Square, a budding brand like Warby Parker and then two smaller businesses share the stage and their perspective.

Three Main Takeaways

3) In-Store Experience Still Counts

One of the more interesting sentiments I heard echoed in seminars and throughout personal conversations was that retailers need to ensure that in-store shopping experiences are still attractive to consumers, and that they offer something unique from eCommerce shopping as well.

I spoke to one company, LightSpeed, which perhaps put this in perspective better than anyone else. They demo’d their iPad mini in-shopping POS platform for me, and Dax Dasilva, the company’s CEO, described to me that in-store personnel need to be just ask knowledgeable as websites in order to attract customers.

This, in Dasilva’s estimation, is why Apple is so popular right now: when you go to an Apple store, you expect to receive, and often do receive, help you couldn’t get elsewhere. Retailers need to adopt that take if they want to continue to see in-store traffic.

It was an interesting take, and something I’ll definitely keep in mind as I review new products and search for new stories in the post-NRF 2013 world.

2) Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

Yes, I expected mobile to be a huge part and central theme at Retail’s BIG Show. But I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be essentially the only thing, yet that’s pretty much all I saw. There were plenty of different aspects within mCommerce covered – NFC, showrooming, loyalty and rewards, mobile wallets, in-store mobile POS systems, etc. – but it was difficult to find a booth or a person focused entirely on a different area of payments.

I suppose NRF 2013 just reinforced to me that there is no bigger or more important trend in payments right now than paying anywhere at any time, and the value-added features that come with that ability. Other aspects of payments are important, sure, but right now, mobile is king.

1) PayPal Stole The Show

There’s really no way around this one: with their Monday announcement of the addition of 23 retailers, their massive NCR news on Tuesday and their Q4 2012 earnings on Wednesday, PayPal dominated Retail’s BIG Show from start to finish. What’s ironic is that PayPal didn’t even have it’s own booth, yet was still the so-called bell of our metaphorical ball.

When I spoke to Mark Scott, a public relations manager for NCR, he said their had been a ton of interest at his booth thanks to the PayPal deal, and his company’s PayPal-integrated POS demos were indeed being visited frequently.

“PayPal has made a lot of noise within the last year or so about getting into the global payments space, and obviously with NCR being the leading POS software and harder vendor in America, and really in the world, makes it a good partnership.”

Give Us Your Take

Did you see something at NRF 2013 that you felt we should’ve covered? What were some of the key trends you took away from the show? What most surprised you and what did you see coming? Let us know in the comments below, or through Twitter at @PYMNTS or @BC_PYMNTS.

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