NRF 2024 Recap: Looking Back at Retail’s Big Show

NRF 24, Retail’s Big Show, truly lived up to its hype. A melange of technology with traditions, AI meeting mom-and-pop stores, ML and analytics saying hi to retail media, personalization meeting globalization, and a magical Magic Johnson talk – it was a remarkable experience to soak in. 

Now that I look back, beyond the 40,000+ footfall, the stardust has settled down, and some genuinely remarkable tech is still glimmering in the light. Here are some of the highlights that might have gotten hidden behind the glimmer and glamour but are worth betting for in the future of retail.

Old Wins Gold – Customer Experience

Whether you use technology to fuel it, AI to hyper-personalize experiences, computer vision for cart reading and auto-checkout, or good old sharing smiles with customers walking into your stores – almost all the ideas and exhibits NRF had were centered around improving customer experience. 

We saw: 
1. Technology for reinventing the in-store experience by connecting in-store walk-ins to omnichannel commerce

2. Indoor navigation, discovery, barcode reading, and image search

3. Frontline employee engagement that marries into customer’s in-store experience

4. Tech fueling unified customer experiences

AI, ML, and Data Beyond the GPT Highs

All right, there was some obvious piggybacking of LLMs for communication, content, and scaling retail media – all in good faith. But one thing NRF made clear was AI is here to stay. 

Some interesting and value-driven applications of AI we saw: 

1. LLMs and ML models trained on very specific retail data

2. Retail has always banked big on Computer Vision. Now, Computer Vision is marrying Generative AI to provide in-store, real-time predictive analytics on consumer behavior and shopper insights. What consumers picked up and didn’t buy, and can we win them back via omni-commerce? A lot of these questions were answered at the Big Show.

3. Text to Speech, Tech to Image, Text to Video – you name it. Generative AI has its prints all over them.

4. Video analytics and emotion detection for real-time good and bad behavior tracking.

5. The role of AI and Data in faster time to market


Hello Robotics, TARS 101


Robots are nothing new in the retail world. Retail, manufacturing, CPG, and warehousing might be among the early adopters of robotics. 

With advanced vision, touch, and speech – powered by AI – smarter sidekicks were aplenty at NRF. We noticed: 

1. Smart vending machines, gesture-based ordering

2. Warehousing, inventory replenishment, and other robots

3. Tell me what you want to eat, and my automated, mean machines will prepare that for you.

AR, VR and Holograms 


Elevating the shopping experience beyond product and media was centered around using Augmented, Virtual, and Holographic displays.

Again, these technologies are familiar to retail, but their consistent evolution saw better utilization and applications of AR, VR, and Holographic shopping experiences.

Loss Prevention, Supply Chain Optimization ft. Data and RFID

Data, RFID, supply chain – not the new kids on the block by any chance. We saw:

1. RFID-powered movement tracking from warehouse to store, to shelf, and to consumers

2. End-to-end visibility of product movement to prevent inventory loss

3. Optimizing the entire supply chain with RFID, AI, and Big Data Analytics

Sustainability and Accessibility

Often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of their cooler counterpart, sustainability and accessibility made significant inroads and attractive in retailers’ minds. 

1. Real-time shopping sign language-based assistance to specially-abled consumers

2. Eco-friendly practices from supply chain to wastage management and beyond

3. High demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products and practices


NRF 24, Retail’s Big Show, was an illuminating showcase blending traditional retail with cutting-edge technologies. It highlighted innovations that are shaping the future of retail, emphasizing customer experience, AI, robotics, AR/VR, and sustainability. 

The show revealed that retail is rapidly evolving, integrating technology to enhance consumer engagement and operational efficiency, pointing towards an exciting and transformative future for the industry. It was good seeing you, NRF. We’ll be back next year.

Parth Shrivastava
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