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Formalizing Industry Curiosity

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Author, anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston observed that “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” The team devotes quite a bit of time to “poking and prying” into industry issues — both in formal research and across our many events — to help members run their businesses in an increasingly complex and exciting environment.

Our curiosity this year already has led us into numerous areas. We’ve pondered how retailers are integrating different aspects of “digital” into their businesses to more holistically serve customers who shop and buy wherever and whenever they want, more often than not using multiple devices in the process.

Creating the modern retail organization is hardly just a matter of shuffling desks, titles and/or reporting relationships, of course. As our initial study, “Organizational Structure for the Future of Retail: The Digital Effect,” revealed, changes impact every facet of the organization, including culture, financials, metrics and how teams are integrated to best serve customers. We have developed a workbook-style self-assessment framework to help retailers start to have these conversations internally, and are in the midst of releasing a series of case studies to shed further light.

Both of these resources are available to NRF and members; members can also listen to a webinar on this topic featuring speakers from REI and Okamura Consulting. There are several posts on the blog ( about these resources.

In July and August, we’ll be keeping an eye on back-to-school shopping: According to NRF, last year U.S. consumers anticipated spending more than $30 billion on back-to-school shopping — another $53.5 billion for back-to-college — and almost 40 percent anticipated doing some part of that shopping online. You can check out this consumer outlook information on the site in the Research and Resources area. In the meantime, our “ Planning Guide: Spring & Summer,” released in May, examines lessons learned and ideas for retailers to make the most of this year’s back to school season.

This month, our curiosity focuses particularly on all things marketing and merchandising. The annual Merchandising Workshop, July 15-17 in Huntington Beach, Calif., will delve into everything from product imagery and video to site redesign and optimization, mobile commerce and more. We’ll release “The State of Retailing Online 2013” study, exploring in detail digital marketing and merchandising benchmarks and trends. If you can’t join us for the Workshop in person, we’ll be tweeting and blogging from the show during many sessions.

After the Merchandising Workshop, the next Think Tank article will be released, following their successful inaugural article this spring, “Same-Day Delivery: Should It Be a Priority for Your Business?” Check out the blog for a post and infographic about same-day delivery, not to mention articles that appeared in several industry publications.

It may be getting close to back-to-school season, but in August we’ll release the annual Holiday Strategy and Planning Guide to help retailers get ready for the all-important holiday season. The Annual Summit, scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in Chicago, will include boot camps on mobile and digital selling. With our ongoing webinar series, continued research and tweets and posts around online shopping, mobile and holiday, there is a wealth of information available to stay in the loop on what we’re thinking and talking about on the digital retail front.

As we collectively work to build a strong retail industry that fosters innovation, contributes meaningfully to the national and global economy, creates and supports careers and opportunities for millions of people around the globe and tangibly gives back to the community, the team is excited to provide that “new knowledge” to help your business succeed.