Blog | NRF 2024 and ISE Europe Recap

By Scala Team

Share on

National Retail Federation’s Big Show (NRF) and Integrated Systems Europe (ISE)—Recap

2024 kicked off in a big way in both the US and EMEA regions with two huge trade shows — National Retail Federation’s Big Show (NRF) and Integrated Systems Europe (ISE). Scala’s global professional services and marketing teams collaborate on ideation and creation of what digital solutions will be featured in each booth.

Staying ahead of global trends with shopper and audience engagement, there are similarities in the booth solutions on display, as well as the conversations on the show floor. But there are important differences and distinctions that ensure what digital signage, digital menu boards, and retail technology solutions are relevant to our audience. This is exactly what digital solutions do in the real world in stores, restaurants, transportation hubs, entertainment venues and more. 

At NRF 2024, the focus is on solving retail challenges and improving the in-store experience. This can include everything from technology to visual merchandising, lighting, automation platforms, backend systems and more. But overall, the buying experience is the name of the game. The online shopping experience is an important part of the full customer journey, and there are aspects of that journey that shoppers expect to see in the store — for instance, convenience, self service, personalization, assistance with product discovery, ease of getting information. Technology is bridging the gap between online and in store, and our booth demonstrated how strategically placed digital signs and sensors throughout the store give shoppers that complete experience as “known” customers of their favorite brands. 

At NRF, there has also been an increased focus on an adjacent sector — quick service restaurants and fast casual restaurants — as these owners/operators are facing similar challenges as retail stores. For example, customers are looking for self service, an extension of the online experience into the restaurant, and restaurant owners are looking for back of the house efficiency improvements, personalization and incrementally increasing sales. 

The audience at ISE has a technology focus that focuses on retail, as well as bringing in other sectors such as corporate communications, hospitality/live events, smart home and education. (In fact, unified communications experts X2O Media, part of the STRATACACHE family of companies, was also at ISE displaying their high tech, hybrid learning environment, X2O OneRoom.) ISE becomes a central hub in Europe for global clients to discuss a wide scope of needs from the world’s biggest tech providers. There is a growing focus on additional retail shows in EMEA — EuroCIS at the end of February and Germany and Retail Technology Show being held in London 24-25 April — where Scala will have retail technology on display.

Across all industries visiting the Scala booth at ISE, there is technology that helps solve challenges circling around communication and efficiencies. How do you get the most accurate, customized information in front of your customers or audience in real time? How do you aid self service and increase convenience? With increasing importance, what infrastructure is needed to optimize the content on display, how do you measure what’s happening in the store, and how do you best adjust in real time? 

At both events, Scala and STRATACACHE’s expertise with in-store retail media networks was on display. Large and small format digital displays demonstrated how the right brand  partnerships can help store incrementally, significantly increase revenue with a largely untapped strategy, introducing in-store retail media networks. Retail media is a $45 billion market in 2023 and will continue to grow by about $10 billion in 2024. This has been the biggest topic in retail in the US and is rapidly taking hold in EMEA. Our discussions at both NRF and ISE focused on three main topics — shopper experience and content; technology, measurement and insights; network monetization and value. 

We asked some of our on-site retail experts about their thoughts on the two shows. Read their response below, and don’t hesitate to reach out to sync up about any of these topics or Scala in-store digital solutions. 

Q&A with Scala Retail Experts 

Which solution or piece of technology resonated most with the retailers who visited the booth? Was there one clear “winner” in the booth?

Alison Rank, Director of Enterprise Account, attended NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show:  How it ALL ties together to bring an ecosystem of omnichannel solutions was key. We had an answer for most anything retailers came to us with AND the data analytics and AI capabilities to deliver actionable value that makes a difference in each solution. That being said, the retail media possibilities and how they can achieve personalization, and deliver targeted and meaningful content where it will benefit most– all leads to monetization of the media network and profitability as a natural result. 

Charli Snackers, Sales Manager Benelux & Eastern Europe, attended Integrated Systems Europe 2024

The ASK lift & learn featuring wine is the solution that most attendees stopped to look at and would want a demo. The look of the fixture is draws most people in to stop for a demonstration, and of course the curiosity of what it can do, which carries over into attracting attention in the store. Most people are impressed at what the solution can accomplish and the fact that this all-in-one solution. It has assisted selling, upsell opportunity, and of course the showstopper being the “ask an expert” feature where the shopper uses peer-to-peer video to have a live chat with a product expert. After the demo they are then even more impressed that above all that we also can collect the analytics, which shows that this solution not only helps the store shoppers but also the shop itself. I also find that this solution can perfectly show what all the possibilities are with Scala, the use of RFID, cameras and being interactive to name just a few. 

Wade Neumeister, Executive Creative Director, attended NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show: The Assisted Selling Kiosk™ (ASK) fixture was one of the most immersive solutions in the booth. Customers enjoyed seeing the ‘expert’ live, and it was a gateway conversation into automation across other areas of a ‘store.’ It was easy to carry on the conversation over at the outdoor digital menu board, as well as our beauty/grocery shelf.

Shiju Abraham, Sales Director, attended Integrated Systems Europe 2024

At ISE, I thought it was lift and learn and shelf edge displays that attracted a lot of audience attention.

Bobby Bullen, Manager of Events and Brand Strategy, attended NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show: Beyond the curiosity of our technology attracting nearly everyone who passed by the booth, we were having the most in-depth conversations about in-store retail media networks. Our special program the day before the show opened was focused on how to create, monetize and manage retail media networks in the store, and based on the several hundred retailers we had signed up for the event, we knew our booth had to have a full in-store network of our own on display. We dedicated a full wall to showing all the different formats and locations where you can place digital displays, and also how to measure the success based on factors like dwell and pathing. I’d also add that self service was a big topic, in general. Customers want personalization, they want convenience, and if there isn’t an employee available to help them, they need technology to help them complete the shopping experience themselves. 

What are your main takeaways from this year’s show, the attendees, and the conversations you engaged in?

Wade: It was much easier to weave a fluid narrative with our solutions given that the majority of the ‘backend’ was smoke and mirrors. In years past, our narrative was tightly bound to the exact interactions we were engaging with on the solutions. We made them so real that when a customer would ask a question it could disrupt the whole flow. This year we had much more flexibility to talk about the possibilities. For example, imagine this screen shows branded content, and then when we walk up to the fixture it seamlessly moves over to engaging and possibly more personal content. It even allowed us to ask more questions of our booth visitor, in order to guide the narrative in a custom manner live.

Shiju: I am glad that a lot of attendees from the Middle East region were at our booth and that helped to generate a lot of interest. Some of the customers to whom I had shared the previous year’s booth videos were glad to see a live demonstration of the product. Lots of partners, consultants and end users attended the event. The room scheduling and digital shelf edge solution were the key products that were different in our product showcase.

Charli: As previous years this show is very much integrator focused and a great place to meet new possible partners. However, the conversations used to be very hardware focus whereas this year I noticed that people ask solution questions. This year I also had more conversations from end users looking for integrators.

What were some of the main topics covered in your discussions with booth visitors and retailers? 

Alison: How do retailers and brands make the most of shelf space/real estate within the store? How do they connect with customers in the most meaningful way AND make every experience easy and amazing based on varying customer needs from a self service vs. white glove full service perspective? 

Wade: All topics dovetailed perfectly into our 3 pillars — automation and doing more

with less; the store as a platform for insights; and finally the store as a platform for retail media networks.

Shiju: Majorly integration capabilities of Scala and how we are the global leader over the last so many years. Solution customization and content development capabilities of Scala were among the key topics of discussion.

Charli: After showing the solutions many questions would be about how we could make a solution also work for their needs. What can be adjusted and what can be changed. I was often asked what exactly from our booth “is Scala.” Being able to explain that the booth is all Scala and that we can provide full-solutions and a one shop feel was received with positive feedback.

Bobby: Retailers would often come to our booth with a challenge in mind. They are trying to bring in automation because they have some labor challenges. They are trying to improve pathing in the store. They need to fix their in-store pickup experience across many locations, and they need it to be consistent. I think the solutions showed that, as retail experts, we are aware of these challenges and have been building solutions to solve them, at scale. Seeing that we are a full solution provider was notable. The media players, the displays on the wall, the platform driving the solution, the creative content, all our in-house solutions. We also had representatives from all over the globe attending both shows, so the conversations were specific to regional challenges or store operations, which is a big differentiator for us. 

From your conversations, what were some trends with the challenges retailers and booth visitors are trying to solve?

Alison: Balancing the personalization and advanced solutions with time/budget constraints that seem to be condensing.

Wade: Education. We had a fruitful convo with a major tire brand, and they loved hearing about our work with Discount Tire. Helping their customers to feel good about spending hundreds of dollars on tires, when they only expected to have a nail pulled from a tire. Why is it so important to stay safe on the road and what are the risks should you not make that purchase?

Shiju: A lot of people were keen to see AI in signage but not very sure of what they wanted. We are able to have discovery conversations about their goals. 

Charli: Many visitors would mention that they are currently using other software platforms, or even their own, however they have outgrown their current digital signage software and hardware. They are looking for something that could do as much as Scala. They liked the fact that with our variety of software and hardware, growth is possible, and they can start small but go bigger and fancier without having to find a whole new platform. The visitors liked that with Scala they have options and choices and are not limited.

Bobby: AI was a huge topic at NRF, not only with the breakout sessions, but also with conversations with retail innovation teams. We talk about how our solution uses three main components — digital display, AI and sensors — to deliver a personalized shopping experience. As AI becomes more available and used outside of the store, retailers have a growing interest in using AI to their advantage for customization. What does that intelligence look like on the backend, and how are we applying it? How realistic and mature is the technology? Those are questions that we were able to address with our booth solutions. 

 Are retailers prioritizing personalizing or customizing the shopping experience? 

Alison: They say they are in the booth, but when it comes down to implementation there seem to still be some blocks. Conversations at NRF tell me this will be a big growth year – the consumer is demanding it! 

Wade: It seems we are in a gray area where everyone is waiting to see how personal we can get in the store. They are still learning all the ways we can tastefully track and measure customers in store.

Bobby: Their interest is piqued. Shoppers have so many choices starting with the brand or store they choose, but also if they shop online, in the store, how they return items, how they learn about products. Personalization in the store has to be genuine in order for it to feel valuable. 

Food service/hospitality technology is one area where Scala solutions are strong, beyond just digital menu boards. What are some areas where you’re hearing food-focused brands looking to improve with technology?

Alison: Inspiring and guiding consumers to fully use products/take advantage of complimentary products. Drive brand loyalty through really great experiences that feel like “this brand/store really gets me!” 

Wade: Offering the best customer experience regardless of which path a customer took to order or engage with the brand (e.g. website, in line, drive thru, app). Especially for the loyal customer that has agreed to trading a little bit of their data for the experience of having the store know them well enough to make recommendations, as well as present them with trusted recommendations in other areas in order to drive regiment, and basket building.

What technology is resonating with QSRs and grocery brands who are looking to improve customer experience?

Alison: Retail media networks, heat mapping and analytics driven solutions, AI and sensor driven content presented at the right time in the right location.

Wade: Shelf edge was a constant hot topic. Less about the experience we can deliver on screen but more about how easy they are to install and run power to.

Bobby: In EMEA, our new booth design takes an immersive grocery experience where you can see all the points where technology can improve CX. This includes retail media networks. Grocery stores are a great example of a location where digital solutions can do it all — greet and inform visitors, speed up order pickup, suggest upsell, help with back of the house efficiency, increase brand awareness and engagement, measure customer satisfaction. 

For retailers who haven’t attended NRF before, would you recommend the 2025 show? Why? 

Alison: ABSOLUTELY – innovation is a constant. Spending intentional time to think about this and talk about it in a place we are set up to really focus on it, and to discuss/review a full suite of solutions is a huge advantage and opportunity. 

Wade: Absolutely. The cutting edge conversations are all happening here, in some cases a little ahead of their time. This can be seen in the very nature of our solutions that have been a part of NRF for in some cases up to 5 years (retail media networks,, lockers, automation). The best thing brands can do to prepare for the conversations at NRF is to know their customers, their pain points, hangups, and also what excites them in store. We can tailor our narrative to cater to the exact pain points we’re hearing about from clients.

Bobby: 100% yes. NRF is the premier event in the US to learn about and discuss ALL things retail. The show is massive, but with a little planning it is easy to navigate around to have the right conversations and attend the right sessions. I’d recommend that retailers plan to not only attend the 2025 show, but they should also look into the special programs offered around the event. 

Ready to have a conversation with our digital signage experts? 




Contact us

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.