Peeking into the Future: Retail Trends in 2024 from NRF

Scene at NRF

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Discover the exciting future of retail as we delve into the latest trends and innovations that will shape the industry in 2024, as seen at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show in Manhattan last week. 

Revolutionizing the In-Store Experience

In 2024, expect to see a revolution in the in-store experience. With technological advancements, retailers are finding innovative ways to enhance the customer journey and create immersive shopping environments.

One of the key trends in 2024 is fully integrating augmented reality (AR) into the in-store experience. Customers can virtually try on clothes, visualize furniture in their homes, and even test out products before purchasing. This technology will enhance the shopping experience and provide insights to retailers about customer preferences and behavior as they move through physical stores.

Another trend that will revolutionize the in-store experience is smart shelves that automatically update pricing and RFID technology, which can track any merchandise anywhere. You might remember I covered this trend with Suitsupply last year. These technologies enable retailers to track inventory in real-time, ensuring that products are always in stock. Additionally, smart shelves can provide personalized recommendations to customers based on their preferences and purchase history, creating a more tailored and engaging shopping experience.

In 2024, we can expect retailers to embrace innovative technologies to revolutionize the in-store experience and create a seamless and personalized journey for customers.

Not just looking to make money, looking to make relationships

In 2023, while numerous retailers and home goods outlets faced challenges, Williams-Sonoma (WSM) managed to sustain its growth trajectory, largely because of its strategic approach to maintaining stable pricing.

CEO Laura Alber boldly shifted the company's strategy to "stop the discounting." This move, initially a response to the COVID-19 crisis, has now evolved into a core aspect of Williams-Sonoma's business operations. "It took us a little while to gain our courage, but now it's the way we run the business," Alber remarked in a discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Dan Hodges, founder and CEO of Retail Store Tours, shared this story on his NRF tour of Hudson Yards from Tiffany's about President Lincoln's request for a discount and how that brand looks at a customer.

Lighting Up The Fitting Rooms and Endcaps

Lighting plays a crucial role in creating an immersive and engaging retail experience, and as I looked around Manhattan recently, there is a push to integrate smart lighting technology. Because of this, retailers will be able to enhance the ambiance of their stores, create personalized lighting experiences, and even use lighting as a way to communicate with customers.

Look at the ceiling of the Dior store in Hudson Yards, and you understand how lighting is integral to the intimate and luxurious store.

Dior ceiling

Have you ever seen so many spots? It continues into the fitting room using magnetic track lighting.

Dior fitting room lights

Dynamic lighting is one of the key trends for retail in 2024. With this technology, retailers can adjust the color and intensity of lights to create different moods and atmospheres in their stores.

For example, during a sale or promotion, retailers can use vibrant and energetic lighting to create a sense of excitement and urgency. On the other hand, softer and warmer lighting can create a cozy and inviting atmosphere for a more relaxed shopping experience. By using dynamic lighting, retailers can create a more immersive and tailored environment that enhances the overall shopping experience.

In addition to dynamic lighting, smart lighting systems will also be integrated with other technologies, such as AR and VR. Imagine walking into a clothing store and seeing how a particular outfit looks under different lighting conditions or in different environments. With AR and smart lighting integration, retailers can provide customers with a more realistic and interactive shopping experience, allowing them to make more informed purchasing decisions.

By using lighting as a communication tool, retailers can engage customers in a unique and attention-grabbing way, ultimately increasing sales and customer satisfaction.

A perfect example is how this flagship Whole Foods store lights up the endcaps. Dan told us they even light up the backs of the wine and other bottle fixtures in France. 

WF lit endcap

Embracing Personalization of Products

Personalization has become a key focus for retailers in recent years, and this trend will continue to grow in 2024. With advancements in data analytics and artificial intelligence, retailers will have access to vast amounts of customer data, allowing them to deliver highly personalized marketing campaigns. Which is great for marketing, but how does it work in-store right now?

Coach has found a way to increase the average sale of its goods with affordable in-store personalization for both their new and "pre-loved" items. Watch them explain how it works.

Using users' smartphones, retailers can leverage location data to deliver targeted offers and promotions to customers in a physical store. These options may not get us to the creepy GAP store in Minority Report, but they are much closer.

2024 will see retailers embracing personalized and data-driven marketing to create highly targeted and engaging campaigns, products, and experiences that resonate with each customer.

Local Goes Personal

We see the messages to "Shop Local" on everything from bulletin boards in coffee houses to Shop Small the day after Black Friday. But how to put a face to that? Check out this local New Jersey Shrimp Farmer with his QR code so customers can learn more about the shellfish they purchase. 

WF local pic

What We Don't Have 

There are so many different dietary restrictions these days, and one many people respond to isn't as much what something has in it but what it doesn't. So, they make it a marketing statement, not an asterisk on a sign. 

WF 100

Great Merchandising Still Lives

Shoppers are drawn to light, sure, but the white background on the left makes them all look alike. The black background lets the best cheeses stand out.

Wearable Tech is Here

While I was exploring the Ray-Ban store, Justin showed me Generation Two of their Meta glasses, which feature a 12 MP camera and five microphones that record audio and video and can go directly to Facebook and Instagram live. I had to get a pair and try them. The first attempt is below. 

Store Design

NHL hockey puck TiffanyI have worked with the NHL on their retail stores and, in fact, received Tiffany's silver puck from them, which sits proudly with my other awards.

So when I saw their new store built during the shutdown, I had to explore. It even has a seasonal skating rink in front of the store. It offers an exclusive assortment of apparel, merchandise, and on-site jersey and t-shirt customization for every NHL team.

On the second floor is a display of hockey history with a one-of-a-kind Hockey Hall of Fame and memorabilia display; interact with your favorite players in an augmented-reality photobooth.  

Take a look at this live video I shot. 

Not far away was Globe -Trotter, a lifestyle retailer that, since 1897, has made travel cases synonymous with the Golden Age of travel. Yet they've updated the entire store to look fresh, curated, and modern. The picture at the top of this post is from them, too. I particularly liked their glass water bottles on the table inviting you to come and sit awhile - and even have that piece of real cake. 

globe-trotter chairs

Near Union Station, I caught this Crave Chicken Fingers design detail of five real Disco Balls. 

The Power of Positivity

Adidas stores are bright and colorful, and this location had its purpose right out there, signaling shoppers and associates the pride in making a difference. 

Addidas sign

Connecting Communities Through Omnichannel Retailing

Himanshu Shrivastava, CTO of Al-Futtain Group in India, gave an IBM fireside chat. They keep loyalty with their customers by being the resource for pretty much anything. They have about 4-5 million of their 9 million customers as registered users on their app, and they are finding that people can use the app to start their own businesses and have access to those same groups of customers. Their goal is to be their community's one-stop for everything. Watch out Siri, Alexa, and Google.

IBM client india


Omnichannel retailing has been a buzzword in the industry for several years, but in 2024, it is just a standard practice for retailers. You want to be anywhere, anytime, a shopper wants to buy something. Yet it's hard to provide a seamless and consistent experience across all those channels, whether in-store, online, or through mobile devices.

In 2024, customers want to browse products online, make a purchase in-store, and have their items delivered to their doorstep. Retailers are getting better technology to enable features such as click-and-collect not to result in long pickup wait times.

Retailers will prioritize inventory visibility across all channels so customers can check product availability in real-time, whether online or in-store. This will reduce the risk of out-of-stock situations and improve customer satisfaction.

And part of all of that is driving social commerce. Whether that is a live video on Facebook for older folks like me - below or in Whatsapp, Instagram, or TikTok for younger ones - everyone is trying to connect the physical to the social.

I think Advanced Propulsion Labs, a southern California footwear manufacturer, did this brilliantly with their high-end vanity rooms. Each is fitted out with high-end rose quartz and other natural materials, a backlit mirror, and a seat for you to share your latest purchase - just like I did.

How To Keep The Merchandise From Thieves

There were plenty of displays at NRF on how to lock up more merchandise from thieves. If you watched my podcast with Nolan Wheeler at Synq, you'd remember they are replacing old analog infrastructure with digital solutions that make it easier and reduce customer friction. It was great to see him and Tom Meehan, president at CONTROLTEK, discussing loss control. Watch for our spirited discussion soon.

Synq with Nolan and Tom

Automation and Artificial Intelligence in Retail Operations

Let's face it: AI is such a big topic that I couldn't do it justice, so watch for a new blog about IBM and Generative AI. If your eyes glaze over at the thought of it, relax. I'll demystify it for you and help you get your sites set on what to beware of and what to get excited about. 

That's because artificial intelligence (AI) will play a significant role in shaping the future of retail operations in 2024. With technological advancements, retailers will automate various aspects of their operations to improve efficiency and customer service.

One area where automation will have a significant impact is inventory management. NRF was full of stories of how retailers will use AI-powered systems to forecast demand, optimize inventory levels, and automate replenishment processes. This will help retailers reduce costs, minimize out-of-stock situations, and ensure that popular products are always available to customers.

Chatbots and virtual assistants will become more sophisticated, providing customers with instant support and personalized recommendations. To round it out, automated systems will handle tasks such as picking and packing, reducing the need for manual labor and improving efficiency. Yes - smart robots are here.

That about does it for this wrap-up of future and current retail trends in 2024. Tony Drockton, CEO of Hammitt handbags, and I celebrated the end of the NRF Big Show with a fabulous dinner at Peak at Hudson Yards in New York City. I highly recommend you treat yourself. 

Tony + Bob Peak

In summary, 2024 will see retailers embracing automation and artificial intelligence to streamline operations, enhance customer service, and improve overall efficiency. Check out my Shopper Magnet playbook to see how you can market your business and increase sales in 2024.