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The first full day of the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual BIG Show 2014 was sure not to disappoint. Following an opening keynote by former President George W. Bush, which touched more upon his legacy than retail, thousands of NRF attendees caught a full day’s worth of panels, breakout sessions and one-to-one chats, which roughly revolved around the importance of these five key themes for retailers: innovation, big data, personalization, omnichannel and mobile.

Here are a few of our favorite takeaways from the day:

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1. Leverage innovation to dominate the larger conversation. As online and offline stores continue to merge, and more and more audiences go mobile, retailers need to figure out creative ways to attract new customers without alienating existing ones, while staying true to their brand proposition.

One company that has seen success in solving this puzzle is the shoe brand (and Magento customer), TOMS. In a panel on “Redefining the Customer Experience” Monday afternoon with Ben Pressley, Head of Enterprise Strategy and Business Development at Magento, and John Sheldon, Global Head of Strategy at eBay Enterprise Marketing Solutions, TOMS Digital Business Development Lead Jordan Glassberg described how his company’s recent “shoppable windows” pilot with eBay Inc. not only positioned the company at the forefront of ecommerce, but it also provided an innovation twist in true TOMS spirit. By transporting their Marketplace experience of being able to shop by causes (such as children or education) into a digital storefront, they were able to stay true to their roots while expanding their business.

Electronics giant, Sony had a similar experience with eBay Inc. when they set up a shoppable window in a San Francisco mall. Sony Electronics’ Director of Guest Experiences for Sony Store, Megan Farrell Ragsdale noted that the holiday–only pilot was “a great expression of the brand.” Not only did the company appear technologically advanced and innovative, but they also received a treasure trove of data (such as time spent engaging with the windows) to learn from and enhance future experiences.

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2. Keep mobile and omnichannel top of mind when it comes to online strategy. These two other big retailer themes—mobile and omnichannel—were discussed in a second eBay Inc. panel, “Mobile Innovation as a Roadmap to Customer Success.” During the session, Bernardine Wu, Fred Argir and Healey Cypher, altogether discussed the importance of engaging with customers at multiple touch points. After first clarifying the difference between cross-channel (engaging with a brand in one channel and finishing in another) and omnichannel (seeing one brand experience across multiple touch points), the trio launched into how customers differentiate. Argir noted that while Toys “R” Us now has roughly 80 different ways of providing a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels, the company is still very focused and has an intentional route for all of them. Cypher also encouraged retailers to embrace different uses for different devices, and offered multiple tips for mobilizing one’s website, such as improving the site itself (quick load times, high quality graphics), improving the product (include category and search boxes, include a QR barcode), and improving your checkout process (adding checkout button on the top and bottom of every page, offering guest checkout).

3. Retailers need to figure out their online and offline strategies as they continue to make inroads with customers. As Jon Stine, the Director of Cisco Consulting Services noted in an Expo session early Monday morning, there is $99 billion at stake in the Internet of Everything—and that includes innovation, big data, personalization, omnichannel and mobile.

What did you take away from NRF’s Big Show? Let us know on Twitter! Share your learnings with @Magento using the hashtag #NRF14. For those at the event, be sure to stop by the eBay Inc. booth (4245) to say hi and to check out the awesome Connected Glass, Digital Storefront experience featuring Rebecca Minkoff and TOMS.





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