NRF 2024: AI AI Everywhere

Data Management Has Never Mattered More

Last Published: Dec 15, 2023 |
Scott Jennings
Scott Jennings

Chief Strategist for Retail & CPG

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) exploded onto the scene in 2023. The fuse was lit by the release of ChatGPT in November 2022. Every January at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show, high tech vendors showcase their latest technology innovations for the retail industry. Curiously discussion around ChatGPT, Large Language Models and generative AI was quite subdued at the NRF Big Show in 2023. This was primarily because of the timing – most technology vendors have their NRF showcase set well in advance of the event, which was prior to the release of ChatGPT. I take dozens of pictures at the Big Show each year; the picture below is the only instance of ChatGPT or generative AI that I captured last year.

2024 will be dramatically different. Generative AI will completely dominate the show floor. It will be splashed across every vendor booth, embedded in vendor demonstrations, included in the keynote, discussed in the Big Ideas breakout sessions and in the halls. The advantage of the 2023 NRF Big Show’s subdued focus on generative AI is that we have all learned quite a bit about AI and generative AI over the past year. These insights will provide helpful context to evaluate the efficacy of AI-driven solutions going forward. 

What Have Retailers Learned About Generative AI in 2023?

  1. AI is not new; it’s been around for decades. NRF and IDC estimate that 87% of retailers are already using AI in some form, typically in back-of-the-house supply chain use cases, such as demand forecasting, route optimization and predictive maintenance.    
  2. Generative AI is new and has huge potential for front-of-the-house customer experience use cases, such as virtual selling assistants, intelligent call routing and conversational shopping
  3. Getting AI wrong has consequences. Customer experience use cases have a razor-thin margin for error because unintended negative experiences (caused by bots with bias, privacy risks, incorrect recommendations) could have disastrous consequences resulting in lost sales, brand damage and customer churn.
  4. Robust AI-enabled data management is the vital ingredient for retailers. It ensures the data used to build AI applications is trustworthy and will produce desirable results, which in turn will drive top-line sales growth and safeguard valuable relationships with customers, employees and suppliers. 

Where Are Retailers Investing in Data Management and AI?

Retailers are investing in data management to improve business outcomes and remove risk from AI investments. In a recent survey from Worldwide Business Research (WBR), eTail and Informatica, “Future Priorities of Global Retailers and CPG Brands,” 200 retail and CPG brands outlined their top data management and AI priorities over the next two years. These results indicate that Responsible AI and foundational data management remain paramount for the future of Retail.

Leveraging lessons learned over the last 12 months, we anticipate retailers heading to the 2024 NRF Big Show will be less enamored with clever chatbots and more focused on how AI can improve their customer experience and create supply chain agility while maintaining governance and compliance. If there is one lesson we have all learned in 2023, it’s that you cannot have AI without data management.

The Informatica booth (3965) will be the best spot in the NRF Big Show 2024 to learn how to bring data and AI to life with enterprise data management. Stop by to see live retail data management demonstrations and view the Informatica and PetMate Big Ideas Speaking Session. The session will feature PetMate CIO Justin Gatz, who will discuss the company’s transformation and modernization journey. We look forward to seeing you in New York!

First Published: Dec 15, 2023