What retailers have been able to accomplish over this last year has been tremendous to experience. In the face of uncertainty across nearly every area of their business, retailers have continued to embrace digital solutions that help them to better serve both their own workforce and their customers in new, safer ways.

This year, I had the unique privilege of serving as Cisco’s Industry Champion for the second year in a row for the 2021 Virtual National Retail Federation (NRF), the largest retail event of the year. While this year’s event was spent from the comfort of my own home-office, I was blown away by the innovation shared and the continued transformation and growth to come across the industry.

A few key takeaways from what is shaping up to be a virtual event for the books:

It is with the right digital solutions and networking foundation that

we are seeing what I can only describe as remarkable resilience.

This is particularly true for grocery, quick service restaurants (QSR), and home improvement retail organizations. The non-essential retailers who have fully made the pivot to digital-first have also thrived. PVH Corp, a valued Cisco retail customer, is a perfect example of this.

95% of PVH Corp’s business was happening in brick-and-mortar stores prior to the pandemic. According to their CIO Eileen Mahoney, “we had to transform overnight and supercharge our e-commerce business. We were able to do that seamlessly, and really allow the consumer to get our products, and much of that was based on the investments we had made in infrastructure.”

What we once knew as static brick-and-mortar stores is a continually

evolving environment that’s redefining the way we all shop.

Physical retail locations are being repurposed as fulfillment centers, experience hubs, and intelligent data-gathering platforms for customer engagement. According to an article from RIS, 74% of retailers consider it important to equip store associates with real-time product and inventory information to help them serve shoppers better, but only 30% are able to do so effectively.

And that has been the beauty of partnering with so many retailers and equipping stores with reliable, efficient networks. The intelligent store and enterprise-wide networks support real-time data for associates to make informed and timely decisions. The ability to quickly stand up and secure new capabilities such as curbside pickup and in-aisle assistance has also brought greater revenue while continuing to build brand loyalty with customers.

The ability to adapt and improve both physical and digital shopping

will remain vital for retailers to thrive today and tomorrow.

Execution of these efforts has the benefit of frictionless, premium experiences, brand affinity and, therefore, greater revenue streams. The additional benefit of a highly connected retail environment means better positioning to meet ongoing compliance standards. Protecting consumer data (PCI compliance here in the U.S.) and physical security solutions >with intelligent cameras positions retailers well for whatever in-store regulations come over time.

They say that with transformation comes growth and opportunity – this has never been more accurate for the retail industry at large today. Personally, I am excited to see Cisco at the forefront of innovation as the industry makes this shift, and I look forward to the opportunities ahead alongside our retail partners and customers.

nrf 2021 cisco

Make sure to subscribe to the retail channel so you don’t miss our post-show Key Takeaways blog at the close of NRF virtual 2021. Visit our microsite to see Cisco’s presence this year from big idea sessions to our virtual booth and more.



Bill Kohut

Senior Vice President

U.S. Commercial