NRF’s Big Show Field Report

by David Fish 0

Another year has passed and retailers flushwith holiday-shopping revenue converged on New York City this pastweek for the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show.” Vendorsserving every aspect of the retail space were there in force,demoing products and spreading their brands’ equity with New Years’resolution.

Providers of payment technology and services were there too, ofcourse, and I was lucky enough to meet with several over the courseof two days and 19 prearranged briefings, a dozen informal boothvisits, and countless hallway interactions with familiar faces,Starbucks-line complaining-sessions, and one memorable shuttle-busnote-trading confab. Not bad, but I think I only scratched thesurface of the 25,000 attendees, exhibitors, and miscellaneoushangers-on.

A theme that I always seem to come back to was highlighted again atthe trade show to end all retail commerce-related trade shows (itputs our industry’s core trade shows to shame): Innovation. “Yes,yes,” you say, “there he goes again.” My favorite analyticaltouchstone was once again front-and-center in every interaction, asingenious point-of-sale software was demoed, slick looking hardwaredrop-tested, and business cards traded with an assurance of “I’vegot someone I think you should talk to about that.”

Firms I met with tended to present their own unique flavors ofinnovation by revolving around three immediately identifiablethemes: security, payment acceptance, and analytics. The thirdtheme was everywhere. I seemingly heard the phrase “data is at thecore of everything we do” at least a dozen times, and solutionsthat “leveraged big data analytics” were roughly 87 times asprevalent as last year.

Software development house Chetu was an interesting find, withseveral well known payments industry and e-commerce brandshighlighted on an LCD screen in the company’s booth. In myconversation with the sales representative stationed there, Ilearned the firm’s clients are able to claim creative rights on thesoftware that Chetu develops, since the IP is sold in total to theclient once the program is built. This lets firms in the paymentspace identify new and innovative solutions they bring to market as”built and developed in-house,” “proprietary technology,” orotherwise wholly theirs. I have a few ideas about some of theprojects they may have worked on for firms in our space(specifically on the card-acceptance side), but the booth guy keptmum.

Another discovery was analytics platform vendor 1010 Data, whichhosts over a trillion rows of data for the NYSE, and whose productoffers an “Excel-like” user interface that enables data analysts tofully manipulate data sets far more vast than a traditionalspreadsheet could reasonably manage. Through a partnership withEquifax, 1010 Data’s analytics platform comes to the creditbureau’s customers packaged with Equifax Marketing Data Suites. Theproduct consists of individual and household marketing data thatcan be examined through the analytics platform in five dimensions:financials, demographics, purchases, lifestyles, and life events.As account acquisition in the credit card space continues to gainsteam, these types of analytics solutions are playing a larger rolethan in years past.

The third running theme of the show (for me, at least)-security-washighlighted in several briefings, but one that stood out involvedthe Center for Internet Security (CIS), a non-profit organizationheadquartered in New York’s Capital District. CIS provides securitybenchmarks for computing device configurations. In other words, ifyou need to know the most secure way to configure devices in yourIT network (see PCI DSS Requirement 2.2), CIS are the guys to ask.The folks I spoke with from CIS said I wasn’t the first one theyran into at the show to ask about POS devices and whether they wereincluded in the firm’s benchmarks, but that my inquiry made it allthe more apparent that they should seriously consider benchmarkingthem. That could be a welcome development for acquirers saddledwith training a level 4 merchant population that befuddled by thecomplexity of PCI.

Thank you, New York, you are always a wonderful crowd.