A keynote presentation at NRF 2024

Retail’s Big Show: Five key takeaways from NRF 2024

By Kate Fletcher on January 19, 2024 - 5 Minute Read

One of the standout dates in the retail calendar, this week saw the return of NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show in New York City, offering retail C-suite executives, supply chain specialists and demand planners unmissable insights into the future of the retail landscape.

The Peak team were once again on the ground and on hand to offer our view on the AI-enabled future of the industry. We also got stuck into what the rest of the expo had to offer, attending some compelling keynotes and sessions to gain a clearer view of what’s currently happening in the world of retail. Sharing is caring, so we’ve pulled together our five key takeaways from this year’s Big Show 👇

1. AI: from boardrooms to living rooms in 12 months

It’ll come as no surprise to hear that AI dominated the NRF narrative this year after the technology was catapulted into the mainstream in 2023. There was an expectant amount of buzz around the topic, with delegates being turned away from Walmart’s AI presentation due to unprecedented levels of demand.

The general consensus was that the explosion of hype last year around generative AI tools — the likes of ChatGPT and Dall-E — brought AI out of the boardrooms and directly to the consumer, and forced retail companies to act quickly or risk falling behind. AI went from zero to ubiquity in less than 12 months, and this has put pressure on retailers across the globe to take steps to introduce AI capabilities into their strategies before it’s too late. Forward-thinking retailers are already leveraging the technology to deliver best-in-class personalized experiences, improve retention rates, increase their margins and drive bigger returns.

2. Crazy in love (with demand forecasting)

Demand forecasting also stole the headlines, with a number of retailers shining a light on the ways they’ve been enhancing their forecasting efforts. One such example was footwear giant ALDO, which saw a notable spike in demand of black and silver stock as Beyoncé’s Renaissance global tour moved across the USA. The retailer was able to leverage this information to accurately forecast demand in stores in states where the tour was heading to. Later, Estée Lauder’s Frank Massen, VP Global Supply Chain Planning, declared that “manual forecasting is simply not an option,” when talking about the advantages of leveraging AI when forecasting demand.

3. Discounting is dead?

“The best markdown you can take is the one you don’t have to take,” according to one Walmart executive on stage. A common theme at NRF was around leveraging technology to avoid heavy blanket discounting and excessive, margin-eroding promotions. With a right price, first time strategy, retailers can avoid leaving valuable profits on the table and instead focus on clearing stock profitably. We’ll be covering this topic in more detail next month on our AI for B2C pricing live demo.

4. Your data, your rules

Salesforce CEO and co-founder, Marc Benioff, emphasized the importance of retailers looking after — and retaining control — of their number one asset: their data. “Don’t let AI companies use your data as their product,” he declared. While there’s a scramble to be seen to be doing something with AI,  not all AI is built equal — and it’s important to focus on trust, security and privacy when partnering with an AI vendor or solution. We’re firm believers that our customers’ data should remain just that: theirs. That’s why we’ve developed the Peak platform in such a way to ensure we’re connecting directly to your data sources, so there’s no need to hand anything over.

We were using AI already, or perhaps it was using us. But now there’s a more usable version for us all. It’s kind of amazing.

Marc Benioff

CEO and co-founder, Salesforce

5. Sustainability

A topic that only grows in importance year upon year at NRF is sustainability, and the continued expectations of businesses to behave in more sustainable, responsible ways. We heard from countless retailers and consumer brands that are committing to net zero emissions pledges in the next decade or two and the steps they’re taking to do so. Moët Hennessy, for instance, claimed that it now ships everything by land, with zero products shipped by air freight.

CPG giant and Peak customer, PepsiCo, claimed that “the future of business lies on sustainable supply chains,” which emphasizes a long-standing belief of ours that it’s more important than ever that you really nail your forecasting — if you can get the right products, in the right place, at the right time, you can power more efficient, sustainable practices across the entire value chain, avoiding wasted air miles or transporting stock needlessly.

On a similar thread, at our exclusive Retailer’s Dinner with Snowflake, a big topic of discussion was around the rise of the Chief Value Chain Officer in the retail sector, and the future of this role being paramount in powering more optimized business practices.


Wrapping up

A quote that really hits home is from ALDO’s Founder Aldo Bensadoun:“AI should be a really good friend.”

We still see misconceptions of the technology dominating the headlines, with scaremongering and doom and gloom stories around an AI-powered future coming for jobs commonplace in the media.

Senior business leaders don’t believe this.

In every conversation about AI, in every keynote, in every presentation, there was always strong emphasis placed on the fact that businesses still need people — it’s about using this technology to help people do everyday tasks quicker, not replace them. To quote Benioff once more, “if AI isn’t making us better and augmenting us, then we’re losing the plot.”

With many businesses realizing that they’re behind and feeling the need to act quickly with AI, we truly believe that 2024 will be the year of AI adoption. To help, we’ve pulled together the ultimate guide to AI adoption to get you started on your journey 👇

Download the ultimate guide to AI adoption

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