One of the most interesting parts of NRF 2018 was the diverse set of opinions surrounding the question, “What do you think is the biggest challenge facing retailers this year?”

Nearly every expert we interviewed on the ground seemed to have a different answer. Here’s a breakdown of those responses.


“The biggest challenge facing retailers is the lack of data,” said Diane Ashby, senior enterprise business development manager at Samsung Electronics America. Ashby believes retailers don’t currently have the information they need to meet customers where they are.


David Krebs, EVP of enterprise mobility and connected devices at VDC Research believes the biggest problem in retail lies in visibility — referring to the retailer’s awareness of how a company operates and fulfills product.

“Customers want flexibility in the way that they order and receive products,” said Krebs. “Retailers are starting to offer that, but unless they have a good understanding of what product is where and how much of the product is available, the end result will probably be a very dissatisfied customer.”


For Steffen Schenk, business unit director at Barrows, the challenge is in the technology. “Everyone knows AI, computer vision and other technologies are on the rise and will impact retail in a big way, but we really need to understand how retailers can leverage [them],” said Schenk.


Ian Hutchinson, the lead for pop-up store solutions at Samsung Electronics America, believes that the real culprit is change. “It’s not the technology. It’s just absorbing it,” said Hutchinson. He advises retailers to view managing emerging technology as a management of change project to make implementing new solutions easier.


Cristina Ceresoli, SVP of retail strategy at the National Retail Foundation, believes opportunity is as much of a challenge as it is a strength to businesses. “Where do we start? Where do we put our money? How do we get into something fast, test and learn — and move on if it’s not right?” she asked.

If these interviews reveal anything, it’s that navigating retail in an age of innovation is a complex task. While emerging tech will inevitably present a lot of obstacles, learning to leverage it will also help businesses resolve a multitude of existing pain points.

Technology is helping retailers change how consumers interact with businesses on a daily basis. Get a deeper look at innovations influencing this change.