We recap NRF 2018 in a way that only Future Commerce can - LIVE from the show floor at The Big Show! Plus: is retail real estate in trouble? Have we left Omni Channel behind?

We're live from NRF 2018

Probably (definitely) exactly 3.619 times bigger than IRCE

  • This year feels livelier than last year. Definitely better than shop.org this year.
  • Brian was here all week. Flew in all the way from Seattle.
  • Shoutout to Branden Moskwa here from eCommerce Allstars with the IBM social influencer team.
  • Shoutout to Jason Del Rey from recode. "he's quite a voice."

Tantric Commerce (you heard it here first):

  • Social proof: you want to hear about other experiences before you make the purchase yourself. Example: thewirecutter.com
  • Example from comedians in cars getting coffee. Jimmy Fallon jokes about how a commercial promises the product is going to change your life.
  • You get excited about the product being a life changing experience.
  • So you're happy when you buy it, you're happy when it arrives, and you're happy when you open it. The whole experience, you're happy.
  • The product at the end of the day could be terrible, because you're satisfied all along the way.
  • Platforms like Wish have capitalized on this where the actual thing you're buying is happiness in purchasing.
  • That's what we call tantric commerce: the anticipation is so enjoyable that the product is almost unnecessary.
  • Yes, you have to have a good product at the end of the day,
  • But if 50% of the enjoyment of the product is engagement with the platform, then the product that you have is not just the thing you sell, you're in fact selling the whole experience.
  • The things in the NRF innovation lab aren't going to save your company if your business doesn't know how to give it's voice to those things. They're assistive, not the holistic.

Brand Voice Segue:

  • You have to be able to put a voice behind the brand.
  • For example, when you're product ships, make sure your client knows about it.
  • Allbirds is a great example of consistent and satisfying brand voice that adds credibility to the product.


  • Experience was the center of the conversation at NRF 2018.
  • The ones who are truly innovating are the ones making strides in experiential retail, not necessarily the ones presenting on stage.

Interesting Doug McMillon Interview Part 1:

  • Matthew Shay, NRF president, interviewed of Doug McMillon of Walmart.
  • McMillon talked a lot about how they care for their employees and their employment culture.
  • They've increased benefits and increased pay.
  • But of note, Shay did not ask McMillon about Sam's Club closings and the weird way it was executed. People showed up to work with doors chained.  That seems a poor way of treating your employees and customers.
  • It communicates more to not ask about it than to have a canned answer.
  • Walmart's huge and knows what it's doing. They obviously assume it will pay off for them, but it sure looks bad.
  • And it's an inconsistent move considering how they talk about treating their employees and customers.
  • This sullies a good two year run of positive Walmart developments.

Interesting Doug McMillon Interview Part 2:

  • McMillon talked about learning from other countries. He said they're learning more about retail from China than any other place in the world.
  • Shout out to Phillip's prediction in episode 55 of retail dominance leaving America.
  • Retailers: consider putting Alipay on your 2018 roadmap. It's a first step to position your brand for a global audience.

Global Commerce

  • Impact of international commerce law and activity having a large impact on US brands.
  • CVS in Europe bans photo manipulation on all products. Anyone doing business in Europe and France will have to comply with changes.
  • Those things will shape and guide retail and commerce. The US used to be guiding the world in this, whereas we're now complying with global trends.
  • Something from the comments of episode 57: calling us out on our take on bitcoin as a commodity. We made a distinctly US take on commoditized cryptocurrency. There are nations that are actually using it as currency, not as a commodity. Our point of view is very Ameri-centric.
  • US leading the way is not always going to be the case anymore. Not just tech, but retail too.

NRF Gala

  • The elite of retail gathering together to celebrate each other.
  • They had an award ceremony with all the trappings including a red carpet and honored guests.
  • Emily Weiss from glossier won an award.
  • Jeff Barnett, CEO of Salesforce Commerce Cloud won an award. (Brian may be biased)
  • Omar Miller Emceed. Brian said "what's up" to him. Pic or it didn't happen, Brian.
  • Five years ago this gala wouldn't have even been a thing.
  • Retail is getting the royal treatment. It drives industry.
  • Yes, the people who are driving this forward should get recognized, but maybe not a red carpet.

Notable absences:

  • Shopify (they're probably out in the Bronx somewhere)
  • Amazon (guest coming soon!). 4% of all retail in US: you're a stakeholder. Where you at?
  • Omnichannel: that word disappeared
  • Diminished footprint: Google.
  • Our whole approach to thinking about retail is pragmatic futurism. If you wanted to think about omnichannel, you'd probably want to talk with Amazon. Guess what, you can't; they're not here.
  • 3 years ago NRF was way more brick and mortar focused. Starting last year you could see the shift.

Salty Phillip statement of the day: what's going through your mind when you name your company chargebacks 911?

The Innovation Lab: The Bomb.

  • Phillip's vision of store of the future: 7-Eleven in 2090: a drone hovers in front of you and reads you an in user license agreement that you have to verbally commit to before buying your Slurpee reminding you that, hey, if you enter this place, you're going to be tracked by cameras.

4 Shoutouts

  • We're going to have short mini interviews with these folks on our FC Insiders. Sign up for exclusive content like this in the future.
  • June 20: a next generation kiosk platform for in-store product comparison.
  • It provides a window into products and reviews through a tablet platform right in the store.
  • They've created a tablet system on a rail that allows you to slide the tablet along the product display.
  • It uses a camera and sensor to identify products to show you more detail: you can see videos, see reviews, see product features. You can even send yourself a text message through it and buy it online.
  • It's a next level platform experience for a natural left to right timeline walkthrough for in-store experiences. Just like you would online, you can do a convenient personalized walkthrough in store.
  • Focal systems: are an actual camera and machine vision in store system.
  • They have cameras on shopping carts that do 2 things: they have an in cart presence for in stock items and out of stock items. They sense and read the images with machine vision (not beacons) of products that should be on the shelves and notifies staff to restock.
  • They also utilize real time cart analysis. The system shows you real time tracking of the shopping cart that's doing the shopping for you.
  • Lastly they have a tablet that's affixed to the shopping cart for wayfinding: for finding sales and products in store.
  • Today, a camera fixed to a cart may be the most elegant way to track products.
  • Optoro shout out. Sign up to FC Insiders for the mini interview.
  • Fit3D: is an in-store body data scanner. They store the data, the retailer stores the data, and you have complete control over the data. They use a device in store to scan, as opposed to a 2D model to convert to 3D.

The Vast NRF Burroughs Roundup

  • There's so much here and it's impossible to cover it all.
  • Come out one year to NRF.
  • 50% of innovation lab were either brands I'd seen earlier at an innovation lab. The news ones took me by surprise.
  • Another shout out: Authentic Media. They demoed an HTC Vive Cadillac showroom. It had a really cool feeling of presence.
  • The modeling is tricky and representing real life material like paint and leather are challenging, so any old retailer isn't going to have a VR showroom, you're going to need a big budget.
  • Same is true for AR. You need 3D models. But there are more companies popping up that are doing retail AR. In the enxt couple of years it will be easier to do it.

Upcoming events to see us at:

  • Shoptalk in March in Vegas.
  • Etail West: Brian's at the LA one in February.
  • Shoptalk in mid March. Brian has a  session March 19th at 5pm hosting a panel with Greg Jones, head of AR and VR at Google, Brian Kavanagh, head of retail evolution at the Hershey Company, and Mike Festa, head of Wayfair Next.

NRF is the big show. Get here next year. If you're a retailer, it's practically free. Don't forget to sign up for FC Insiders for exclusive content.

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