This year’s NRF Chapter 1 event was unique in more than one sense. The transition to a virtual platform, rather than congregating in lively New York City, called for a human touch. And the storytelling that emerged as a result was truly impactful for all of us attendees.

cisco retail

The six pillars that NRF chose to anchor content around for the event this year were: leadership, forward-looking growth, new business models, customer experience, operations, and talent. Reflecting on how we at Cisco are helping retailers to adapt and actually thrive in each of these areas, here are my key takeaways from the event.


  • Retailers who have been able to lead and manage the accelerated change across their organizations, are best positioned for what’s to come.
  • From the great digital disruption that Lowe’s has championed the past year, their CEO Marvin Ellison, spoke in a keynote and used the analogy of building a home to describe their retail transformation. “It starts with a really stable foundation. If you don’t have a robust labor management system, if you don’t have a strong stable IT infrastructure, if you don’t have an ecommerce platform that gives you agility.. it’s difficult to be effective.”
  • Utilizing technology as the platform to more effectively get back to the basics of delivering value for associates and customers amongst changing business operations was a great message.

 Forward-looking growth

  • Consumer preferences that drive revenue streams are critical to evaluate and integrate, and ultimately validate, a multi-year plan. And a robust strategy is only as effective as the infrastructure, connectivity, and connected retail platforms required to execute on it.
  • At Cisco, our vantage point from serving over 34,000 retailers across 116 different countries has allowed us to critically examine what retailers should incorporate into their strategies for 2021 and beyond. We’ve built this into our whitepaper, The Agile Retailer.

3 New business models

  • The value of flexible fulfillment (enabled by accurate inventory management), and unified communications across the value chain cannot be understated when it comes to enhancing retail business models. Giving customers the options to shop, receive products, and engage with a retailer however, wherever and whenever they want ultimately turns a one-time customer into a customer for life
  • To support this set of impactful use cases, we have added a new category to our Portfolio Explorer for Retail, called “distribution and fulfillment.”

4 Customer Experience

  • When asked what is next with regards to improving consumer engagement, Claudia San Pedro, President of Sonic Drive-in, said in a keynote that “eating and dining isn’t transactional for us. Even if it’s in the car, we want it to be an experience, of people being together.” Simply put, consumers look for the best, most impactful experiences that add joy and value to their life. Retailers that constantly look to triage advancing technical capabilities, consumer preferences and safety precautions will most effectively build credibility and brand loyalty.
  • Valued Cisco customer PVH Corp had the mission of delighting their customers with experiences they can count on. They have continued to do this while reducing their time to market, with Cisco as their trusted technology partner. Watch the session on-demand to hear more about PVH Corp’s story in developing a robust ecommerce platform, engaging customers virtually, and securing a remote workforce overnight.

5 Operations

  • Leveraging a reliable network foundation and digital solutions to effectively connect a value chain, oftentimes enables retailers to reach greater business flexibility.
  • One great example of this is The Co-operative Group, a valued Cisco customer. We helped Co-op digitally connect their operations across distribution centers and physical stores, while integrating new delivery methods to get affordable groceries to consumers across the U.K. when it mattered most. Be sure to catch the session about their remarkable transformation and community impact.

6 Talent

  • As the CEO of Chewy, Sumit Singh, mentioned in a keynote, part of his people strategy is to ask “what does the organization today, and the people today, need to meet the customer demands that are going to come 3-5 years out.” His framework in “think(ing) of our team members as our customers as well” is so important for retailers to consider. Enabling secure access for remote workforces and store associates is the first step to leveraging platforms effectively, to ultimately capitalize on demand. Meraki’s powerful dashboard and network management capabilities serve as the perfect tool to harness invaluable talent in this way.
  • We explored the visibility that Meraki’s cloud-based platform provides a retail workforce, which enables them to make informed decisions and improve operational efficiencies. View our Meraki session and featured solutions guide to see network management, people counting, and surveillance monitoring capabilities in action.


Retail agility is underpinned by technology, and propelled by innovation.

As mentioned in one of our Big Idea Sessions, “a little bit of revolution can sometimes be a good thing.” And the innovation doesn’t stop here. We will continue partnering with retailers to deliver greater value for consumers with connected retail stores, optimized flexible fulfillment offerings, and workforces that are fully equipped to work remotely. With integrated security and a vision for what’ll drive industry advancements, at Cisco we love contributing to the compelling storytelling in retail, and I’m thrilled to see what narratives emerge for us at NRF next year.


nrf 2021


Nicki Vereschagin

Global Retail Marketing Content Strategist

Global Industries Marketing