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NRF Singapore: Takeaways from Retail’s Big Show in APAC

June 24, 2024

NRF 2024 was an inaugural event for the Asia Pacific region. Spanning three days, featuring 100 speakers in 60 sessions and taking place at Marina Bay Sands, the event gathered 7000 registrations and 238 exhibitors from all over the world to tackle retail’s challenges.

Retail experience: The major shift needed by retailers

Whether they are considering automation, personalization of the customer journey or AI-powered content generation, retailers are re-thinking their full customer experience.

From CPG to real estate, all sectors have recognized the need to revamp their operations and an important topic of discussion is the adoption of omnichannel retailing.

Prominent speakers from leading brands such as AEON Group, Amazon, Coca-Cola, Capitaland, Hermès, Mastercard and many others lent their expertise on the topic. Capitaland Investment CEO of Retail & Workspace (Singapore and Malaysia) Chris Chong voiced the brand’s intentions to upgrade their malls from shopping destinations to lifestyle hubs through integrating new features that aim to excite and attract consumers.

Taking inspiration from trends of customers being engaged with short-term events that are specifically tailored to their interests, Chong noted that for shopping malls to have a strong point of difference, they will need to tailor their experiences for specific target audiences at different touchpoints.

Each of them have different ideas of what retail is about, but at the end of the day, for a shopping mall to really thrive it must have a very vibrant ecosystem.

~ Chris Chong, CEO of Retail & Workspace at Capitaland Investment

Image of the conference NRF APAC with the view of the booth for Google

The experience-driven era of retail

Consumers are looking for convenience, proximity and unique experiences. Several sessions illustrated how tech-driven innovation could accelerate consumer satisfaction on those fronts.

Retailers face the challenging task of not only meeting customer expectations but also ensuring business profitability. A case in point is Decathlon Hong Kong, where Kent Lam, the Head of Technology, shared their approach. They manage a fine balance between innovation, meeting customer needs and efficiency to ensure profitability. Their focus on optimizing operations has resulted in a sustainable and profitable business model. This highlights the importance for retailers to continually innovate while maintaining operational efficiency.

To demonstrate this breakthrough in innovation, attendees were treated to a hands-on experience at the NRF Innovation Lab, where cutting-edge retail technologies including AI, augmented reality, data analytics and Web3 were showcased — a visual indication of what the new digital age of retail will evolve to and what they can do to integrate these technologies seamlessly into their systems.

Additionally, we were invited by Google to present our composable Integrated Commerce accelerator at their booth over the duration of the conference. Our accelerator allows clients to integrate and unify their disparate commerce data on Google Cloud BigQuery with a goal of enabling even more personalized consumer experiences with AI.

Last but not least, luxury retailers are gearing up for what they perceive as the next era in the industry. Each sub-segment is trying to reinvent itself by applying new norms and ceremonials to distinguish itself from the competition, create novel experiences, and foster meaningful connections with their customers.

In an era where customer loyalty is dwindling, these retailers are forced to reassess their positions to stay relevant and appealing. This is a challenging time that calls for innovation and a deep understanding of changing consumer behavior, market trends, and the impact of digital transformation on luxury retail.


Image of a group of people, including Valtech colleagues, at NRF APAC conference

Growing fast & furious: Mastering composable commerce in APAC

On the second evening, at Maison Boulud, Valtech co-hosted our own intimate event: Mastering Composable Commerce in APAC.

Aaron Teo and Nick Hills, respectively Retail Portfolio Director and Technical Director Composable Technologies, helped the audience to navigate through the noise and brought us the current context of retail in APAC and the crucial need for global retailers to anticipate growth in this region.

Key numbers to keep in mind:

Aaron and Nick spotlighted several trends in APAC deeply integrated into local commerce practices, providing a glimpse of the future for attendees from other regions:

70% of all ecommerce transactions in APAC are conducted via mobile devices.

55% of APAC consumers anticipate interacting with brands across multiple channels and devices.

Through various client cases, Aaron and Nick demonstrated how composable technology’s flexibility and adaptability provides ideal solutions for quick evolution and go to market. Indeed, retailers are faced with higher expectations and higher maintenance consumers, the need to increase their promotions capabilities, as well as needing fluid order and fulfillment flexibilities. These changes are not an option but mandatory:

  • 74% of APAC consumers are willing to switch to brands that provide a better customer experience

  • 75% will go elsewhere following a bad experience

Consumer behaviors are rapidly changing, and the common trend worldwide is convenience. This has become the new mantra for consumers. The following data is extracted from Euromonitor International's Voice of the Customer 2023, highlighting the top shopping motivations in APAC:

  • 34% of shoppers prioritize the best price

  • 32% value the ability to order anytime from anywhere

  • 30% consider free shipping as a top shopping motivation

Image of a presentation at the NRF APAC conference

The scent of innovation

Afterward, Prem Varatharajan, strategy head at Valtech APAC, hosted a panel discussion around the key innovations that are leading the industry and how composable solutions can drive growth for retail this year in APAC. Panel Members included:

  • Aaron Teo, Director at Valtech

  • Ben Chad, Sales Lead APAC at Algolia

  • Jerry Nott, Regional Director APAC at ContentStack

  • Veronika Birnkammer, Marketing Director APAC at FluentCommerce

After discussing composable commerce, the attendees were invited to an aroma station, where they took a quick personality survey to identify their preferred fragrance and create their signature scent.

Trying and testing different components while selecting what we liked and didn't like was a very fun experience. It was an amazing idea to demonstrate composable architecture. – May Sakong, IT Digital Specialist at Tiffany

Thank you Valtech for organizing this beautiful event and starting a discussion around composable. It is definitely much needed a something that we need more in the APAC region.

– Joash Wee, Assistant Director at Thomson Medical

Retailers in Asia Pacific have been leading in technology adoption when it comes to their counterparts in the west. Even the consumers in APAC are much more tech savvy, but hence it is important for the Asian retailers to visualize the benefits of composable architecture and drive adoption.

With smiles and “fragrance” all around, Valtech was honored to provide this experience to its guests, hoping it was memorable and looking forward to stirring more such thought-provoking conversations around composable architecture for the Asian companies.

Key takeaways from NRF 2024 APAC

After years of successful NRF events in New York, it was exciting and insightful for the event to come to APAC.

As the first in what will hopefully be an annual series, NRF APAC marks the beginning of a new era where Retail in the region is being taken seriously and placed on the same level as Retail throughout the world.

Key takeaways from NRF:

  • The changing behaviors of Asian consumers, who are focusing on convenience.

  • More and more brands are focusing on improving their in-store experience with innovation and technology.

  • Omnichannel retailing is not an ask but a need for all retail brands to thrive in the region.

  • Data is the key to improving customer experience. Converting every in-store customer into a digital customer and vice versa will enable brands to collect data about their customers, shopping habits, preferences, etc.

The APAC NRF featured insightful speakers, advanced technologies and valuable networking opportunities for the pan-Asia retail community.

The idea of a standalone event to experience firsthand what technology has to offer is one matter, but an exchange of innovation and leveraging the potential of technology to create a new way of retail in the Asia Pacific region is another. Valtech will certainly be marking its calendar to attend the event again next year when it is hosted in Singapore.

Contact us today for additional information or insights on the topics covered here.

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