The second installment of NRF 2021, NRF Converge, came at a time when the new normal has given us a clearer look into the world of post-pandemic retail.

The virtual event served as a mid-year check in for the retail community and featured over 160 different sessions on topics including: customer experience, cybersecurity, ecommerce, data analytics, store operations and supply chain. Despite the wide array of topics, three themes resonated throughout each day of the event.

The role of retail

Retail’s global leadership was the focus of numerous NRF sessions. From the embracing of operational challenges to remain open for customers, to actively participating in an inclusive recovery, to now employing a quarter of all private sector jobs in the United States, retail has played a vital role in the global community during a season of resilience and recovery.

CVS’ keynote session: Purpose in action: How CVS’ role in the pandemic is reshaping it as a community health hub detailed how the retailer played a leading role in the United States pandemic response by administrating over 24 million vaccines at its locations this year and how it has implemented a new strategy to help deliver new health care options across diverse communities.

Retail’s leadership was also on display during Cisco’s Big Ideas Session, Kiva and Cisco: Creating Inclusive, Equitable Opportunities in Retail and Beyond which featured Cisco and Kiva partnering together to drive global social impact to create a world where all people have the power to improve their lives.

Dealing with change

The second prominent theme at NRF Converge centered on how much the industry has changed and how retailers have adapted their approaches to meet new challenges.

As President and CEO of Qurate Retail, Mike George stated in his NRF opening session: “This willingness of our industry to embrace change, to find a better way whatever the obstacles, this has always been a hallmark of our industry and it’s never been more important.”

CEO of UPS, Carol Tomé, continued with a challenge for retailers who find themselves in the midst of such change. She stated: “Retailers should ask themselves, ‘What is the purpose of my store?’ The question needs to be asked and answered. If that doesn’t happen, you’ve got to wonder what the future is.”

Cisco Meraki’s product demo, Activate the Power of Your Retail Location with the Meraki Platform showed that in the changing retail landscape Cisco Meraki can equip retailers with technical agility and cloud networking capabilities that can deliver secure customer and employee experiences. The Meraki platform plays an important role in building businesses that are responsive to change through cloud-managed digital and in-store experiences.

It’s all about customer experience

The third prevalent theme throughout NRF Converge was customer experience. In the multi-channel world of retail, creating frictionless and convenient experiences has become paramount for retailers in both the physical and digital spaces. Numerous sessions touched on how retailers are adapting to meet customer’s expectations with new technologies and proactive approaches.

As Mark Tritton, President and CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond stated:  “We have to integrate this omni-environment to be of service for ultimate ease and convenience.”

imimobile’s product demo, The Future of CX: How imimobile Creates Frictionless Shopping Experiences for Brands detailed how customer expectations and behaviors have shifted and how technologies can be harnessed to solve for today’s retail pain points to improve experiences. imimobile is redefining the customer experience with intelligent automation and contextual promotions.

In addition, the ability to stay ahead and adapt quickly is essential for retailers to provide valuable experiences. As Tractor Supply Company CEO, Hal Lawton, mentioned during his keynote session: “The challenge for all retailers is to stay ahead of the customer need.”

AppDynamics product demo, Compete on User Experience and Win: Application Visibility and Business Insights from AppDynamics showed that when you have clear, real-time insights into business performance you are able to stay ahead and resolve issues before they impact customers.

Continue the conversation

All Cisco content and resources from NRF Converge are now available on demand! Visit our event microsite to see product demos, re-watch our Big Ideas Session and explore Cisco’s solutions for retail where the customer still comes first. 

Be sure to mark your calendars as NRF Retail’s Big Show is scheduled for January 16-18, 2022. We are excited to participate alongside nearly 40,000 retailers, vendors and industry experts at NRF 2022!


Scott Lantis

Marketing Manger Global Industries