NRF 2021: Chapter One

Industry Trends February 2, 2021

Retail’s Big Show Addresses the Future of Retail


The National Retail Foundation has hosted an annual convention to unite industry leaders for over 100 years. With a pandemic underway, and the retail industry facing an unknown future, it was more important than ever for Retail’s Big Show to return virtually for its first chapter in 2021.

NRF 2021: Retail’s Big Show – Chapter One was focused entirely on the immediate needs of retailers today. In our new environment. Retail doesn’t stop moving forward, so we all move forward together. 

We had an incredible time hearing from industry experts and participating in conversations with visionary leaders from all over. These are some of the most important takeaways that we explored during NRF. 

  1. Reacting & Adapting to Change

It’s no surprise that the global pandemic shaped the undercurrent of this online gathering. Retail professionals shared countless ways that Covid-19 has forced their business to stretch in new ways.

No retailer was prepared for Covid-19. The “new normal” is still driving retailers to transform to meet customers where they are today.  In 2020 we saw stores react and adapt in agile and innovative ways. We also saw that in some cases, the pandemic exposed existing inefficiencies in organizations, requiring them to pivot and prioritize essential tools. 

Retail leaders who prioritized the strength of their communications infrastructure were more adept at navigating and managing constant change during tumultuous times. By relying on a communications platform, retailers can rely on a single source of truth, deliver services with consistency, and prioritize the health and safety of employees and customers. 

For a deeper dive into how leaders from American Eagle Outfitters, L.L.Bean, and BevMo! have navigated challenging times, we recommend watching this panel moderated by Zipline’s own CEO and Co-founder Melissa Wong

React and adapt- Transformation during COVID-19

  1. Shaping An Impact through Social Responsibility

Another important theme that shaped the foundation for many conversations at NRF was social responsibility. 2020 was marked by some major historical events, from an international pandemic, a highly contentious election, as well as the BLM movement- and each one of these impacted the retail industry. Not only has retail been impacted by these, but retail also has the capacity to affect change that begins from inside. 

At NRF, the message was clear. Change starts from within organizations. This particularly resonates with us here at Zipline. We are proud of the role we play in helping retail leaders navigate initiatives surrounding diversity and inclusion. 

Since the world changes quickly, brands must remain flexible, especially when it comes to social responsibility. With a system in place, your employees will be aligned, and your brand values can be reflected at every level of your organization. You need clear communication and a platform that allows your employees to drive effective change. 

Retailers that use Zipline have an advantage when it comes to rolling out social initiatives because, in addition to broadcasting a message, Zipline provides a space for feedback. Zipline’s Groups is a trusted place for dialogue, discussion, and debate that drives efficiency and boosts engagement.


  1. What’s Ahead?

Retailers have reimagined the way that stores serve customers, leveraging technologies and tools to align organizations and shape the customer journey. 

Even before the pandemic, there were countless predictions about what the future would look like. We’ve heard that the sky is falling with every major change to the industry or as new, online technology is introduced. But now there’s a far more hopeful message about the role of technology in retail moving forward. 

At NRF, we explored the innovations that countless retail companies are embarking on for the future. Every storm has its silver lining, and even amid crisis, we gain perspective that helps us to grow for the better. This past year has magnified opportunities for growth for retailers everywhere. Perhaps the biggest area of growth lies in uniting communication and task management so that aligned teams can accelerate brands into the future. 

Streamlined communication and task management is the missing piece in the puzzle for many retailers. With communication and task management combined in one platform, you can connect what stores need to know (the “why”) with what stores need to do (the “what”) with clarity and context. This enables employees to fully engage with the brand and make better decisions. 

For stories about how retailers are changing the name of the game, here are a few NRF 2021 sessions we recommend you revisit:

Technologies shaping the store of 2025

What shoppers expect to see in stores in 2021?

Retail’s rethink moment: Reimagining business as UNusual with Saks Fifth Avenue and lululemon

And with that, NRF is a wrap! Between learning sessions, powerful thought leadership, and ongoing conversations, it was full of opportunities to virtually meet industry professionals from organizations in different spaces across the industry. 

We love learning about the challenges that brands like yours are facing and we’d love to have a conversation about how we can help you to streamline store communications and task management. Helping organizations mobilize for the future is what we do best at Zipline. We empower retailers to manage the “new normal.”

Inspired to learn more? If you need a better way to communicate changes to the fleet and keep everyone aligned, let’s chat.