An Attendee Experience Designed to ‘Surprise and Delight’ at NRF Big Show
By Elizabeth Johnson
The cold January temperatures couldn’t be felt inside New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center last week as the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show sizzled with new technology and solutions for retailers.
The show is held in New York City every year - the mecca of the retail industry and a convenient location for international retailers who make up about 25 percent of the attendees.
“The energy, enthusiasm and passion come together at the Big Show and it makes every January something truly very special,” Matthew Shay, president and CEO, NRF announced.
This year’s Big Show topped last year, with 34,000 attendees, as well as more than 575 exhibitors encompassing 228,800 net square feet, 300 speakers and a keynote address by U.S. statesman and retired four-star general Colin Powell.
The Expo Hall nearly exploded with all of the new technology retailers could need, such as cloud solutions, payments options, POS software, surveillance solutions and much more.
Numerous “celebrity appearances” by the Kool-Aid Man, Mr. Peanut and the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile delighted attendees. Despite the show’s success, NRF staffers set out to go above and beyond the status quo to create the ultimate attendee experience.
“We want to be the Disney of trade shows,” said Susan Newman, NRF senior vice president, conferences and marketing.
Newman detailed some of the changes and additions NRF made to address some of attendees’ biggest concerns around seating and food options:
· Shrunk registration’s footprint at the Javits Center and incentivized attendees to use satellite registration locations at hotels in order to increase lounge seating
· Created ‘Retail Across America’ lounge with seating area and charging stations
· Changed members-only lounge to NRF Clubhouse which was open to everyone and included seating, charging stations, meeting cubes and snacks
· Launched ‘Food Truck Alley’ outside of Javits Center to provide more and different food options
· Added heathy food options to snack breaks
· Placed bins filled with energy bars, fruit and other snacks around the building
· Offered ‘Warm Goodbyes’ with hot chocolate and candy bars and an ‘NYC Apple Cart’ with apple cider and apples
· Filled NRF Rolling Carts with giveaways
· Surprised attendees with $5 Starbucks gift cards when they were on shuttle buses, getting shoe shines or even standing in line at Starbucks
· Kept attendees hydrated by setting up water coolers everywhere.
NRF Big Show organizers also launched two new areas on the show floor - Launchpad and ilab. The Launchpad featured promising start-ups in one space with the goal that these companies will graduate to the main floor next year.
The Launch Pad start-ups received stage time to educate retailers about their products as well. The ilab featured some of the coolest and fun consumer-focues products on the market, including a car seat that buckles itself, 3D printing and robots that were very popular networkers.
The retail industry reinvents itself every six months and relies on NRF to keep up with the trends; to know what unique and different solutions are available.
“There is intense pressure to stay ahead. We bring them all of the solutions for front-of-house and back-of-house,” Newman said. “This is technology that will improve business, customer loyalty, their online presence and revenue.”
The next NRF Big Show will be Jan. 15-17, 2017. The show floor already is 97 percent rebooked.