NRF 2024 Recap: The Future Is Today

Explore the standout insights, trends, and technological innovations from NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show. Hear stories from Workday customers on how they’re reimagining the future of retail and delivering extraordinary customer experiences.

The holidays may be over and the decorations taken down from the windows at Macy’s, but that didn’t dampen the festive mood inside the Javits Convention Center in New York City as more than 40,000 retail industry professionals gathered for NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show in January.

And they’re not joking around when they call it the “big show”—the scale of NRF is something to behold. Throughout the immense expo halls, endless booths showcased all the latest retail technology, from RFID to point-of-sale and every kind of tech in between.

On top of all that, it was exciting to hear so many Workday customers share their expertise and experience with other attendees.

The Big Ideas

John Furner, CEO of Walmart, kicked off the event by addressing the challenges retailers face, including inflation and the rise of organized retail crime. But, Furner noted, these challenges haven’t discouraged retailers from innovating and adapting to succeed. Quoting Walmart Founder Sam Walton, Furner reminded attendees: “You can’t just keep doing what works one time; everything around you is changing. To succeed, stay out in front of change.”

Innovation, the power of brands, continued focus on omni-channel, and the importance of being customer-obsessed were key themes throughout the week, as highlighted by NRF President Matt Shay’s conversation with Levi Strauss CEO Michelle Gass.

Gass reminded attendees that consumers gravitate toward brands they trust, so even as retailers look to grow into new areas, they must remain true to their core. For Levi’s, this focus has kept the organization the #1 brand in jeans even as it has expanded its portfolio with other brands including Dockers and Beyond Yoga.

“A one-login, one-platform solution that covers a lot of ground tipped the scales for us to make the decision to come to Workday.”

Art Kilmer COO P.F. Chang’s

Another key theme was retailers’ desire to get more insights from consolidated technology systems. Raj Subramaniam, CEO of FedEx, unveiled FDX, a new comprehensive commerce platform designed to help bridge the gap between physical and digital.

And it’s no surprise that the power of AI and machine learning (ML) was at the forefront of NRF 2024. From screens within the expo floor featuring AI bots that could answer attendees’ questions, to robots making pizza in the Foodservice Innovation area, the positive power of AI took top billing.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff talked about this in a conversation with Furner, where Benioff emphasized that “if AI isn’t making us better, we’ve lost the plot,” and discussed Disney’s use of AI to improve the customer experience as a prime example of AI done right. Benioff pointed out that technology is not good or bad—it’s how we use it—and that if we look around at the pace of AI advancement, we’ll see that the future is closer than we think. 

Hearing More from Our Customers

It’s always a privilege to partner with our retail customers to tell their stories about the value they gain with Workday, and we had several of these opportunities at NRF 2024.

On Monday, Art Kilmer, chief operating officer at restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s, spoke about how the chain uses Workday Enterprise Management Cloud to simplify its operations, unify its data, and drive success. The restaurant’s HR data, learning and development programs, and scheduling systems are all now accessible on one platform. Workday AI also helps P.F. Chang’s build forecasts, and accurately schedule staff based on traffic, weather patterns, and employee performance data. As Kilmer said, “‘A one-login, one-platform solution that covers a lot of ground tipped the scales for us to make the decision to come to Workday.”

And on Tuesday, we were thrilled to gather a crowd of Workday customers and friends from our EMEA delegation for “The Future of Retail with Workday” event at the Workday office in the Empire State Building.

Workday technology and retail leaders talked about the Workday trustworthy and human-centric approach to AI, and how Workday is constantly evolving to the needs of its more than 1,400 global retail and hospitality customers. And attendees were reminded that Workday focuses on simplicity, risk mitigation, and data stewardship to ensure that we deliver the highest possible value for our customers.

The global Workday retail and hospitality community is thriving and growing, with 95% customer satisfaction and the number one mobile app adoption rate across all industries served by Workday. And with the needs of the frontline workforce paramount for retailers, Workday makes it easy to keep them engaged and meet their needs—workers are hired right into the system, and all their HR data is accessible and connected to training and scheduling.

In a customer panel, Julie Muggli, head of talent ops, tech, and analytics at Switzerland-based On Running, Mireia Galofre, global total rewards and people analytics director at Spain-based fashion retailer Mango, and Gherarda Levati, chief human resources officer at Italy-based cosmetics brand Kiko Milano shared their Workday-adoption stories, the benefits they realized, and tips for ensuring adoption.

All of the retailers praised the ability for Workday to bring consistency and clarity to HR data management. Muggli noted that Workday data transparency helped increase ownership and responsibility at On Running, and helped the organization move away from spreadsheets. As an example, before Workday, it was hard for On Running teams to distribute their compensation review across the organization. Now, Workday pulls in performance and benchmark data and rolls up to the organization’s budget automatically.

Galofre praised the positive effects Workday has had on employee experience and equity at Mango, professionalizing the bonus and raise process. As a result, attrition has gone down and managers have access to a broad array of KPIs for their organizations.

And at Kiko, Levati shared that as they become a global beauty brand, they chose Workday Enterprise Management Cloud to enable a unified commerce approach. This also empowers their culture transformation with one common infrastructure and a global set of people processes to guarantee a consistent employee experience worldwide.

Workday at NRF 2024: Retail's Big Show in New York City.

The Final Word

Retail is always changing, and geopolitical events and trends can have a near-instant impact that requires adjustments. But while these challenges—and others—are inevitable, it was obvious at NRF 2024 that the future of the retail industry is bright. As Workday customers shared through their stories, retailers are finding ways to thrive through the right technology and a spirit of innovation.

More Reading