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Recap of the NRF Big Show 2022 (w/ Video)

NRF 2022 wrapped up last week at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. National Retail Federation happens to be the world’s largest retail trade association representing the largest private-sector industry in the US, with over $2.6 Trillion contributions to the GDP. NRF Annual Convention & EXPO, also known as the “Retail’s Big Show,” is the flagship event of NRF. Now a world-leading annual retail event, it brings thousands of retailers and vendors from over 90 countries for educational and networking opportunities. It started in 1911; it’s in its 112th year of existence, which is quite a milestone. In 2021, the event went virtual due to the pandemic. This year the event made a comeback in its offline avatar even though some big names pulled out practicing caution in the face of Omicron wave.

This year’s event was spread across three days: 16th – 18th January 2022. McFadyen Digital has been a participant at the “Retails Big Show” for the last 12 years and it wasn’t any different this year.

NRF 2022 brought industry leaders together for insightful sessions and the newest tech. This year the Expo had 800+ exhibitors and 100+ sessions. Let’s look at some of the Expo features.



Big Ideas Sessions – This was the platform for ground-breaking solution providers in the industry to showcase their products, case studies, and use cases. This is where Tom McFadyen, CEO of McFadyen Digital, presented the first session we’re featuring…

Own the Disruption: How to Drive Scalable Profit with a Retail Marketplace
The session explained how the platform revolution of the marketplaces transforms financial, payment, staffing, inventory, order management, and other processes to enable greater scalability and profit. The session was to be co-presented by Zaki Bajwa, Global Head of Partner Solution Engineers, Stripe, who unfortunately had to drop out at the last minute. The video of this session is available here.

Innovation Lab
This immersive exhibit showcased the latest developments in retail’s tech transformation, featuring visionaries from around the globe. It featured applications in AI, Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, Robotics, and more. Lenovo and Nvidia sponsored the Innovation Lab.

The Startup Zone
The startup zone at Level 1 featured the best emerging tech from the retail space. The site featured over 40 startups that are changing the retail landscape and had a tremendous buzz.


While the event had over 100 + sessions, we are mentioning some of the key ones based on their relevance to digital commerce and marketplaces.

The Visionary 2022: A Conversation with Target CEO, Brian Cornell.
In this keynote session, Brian Cornell spoke to Matthew Shay, President & CEO, NRF, about his vision for Target’s spectacular growth; this included a strategy with stores at the center of Target’s omnichannel platform and same-day digital fulfillment leadership. He spoke about how Target is leveraging size, scale, and resources to drive continuous innovation and growth. Brian Cornell was also the recipient of this year’s NRF Foundation’s Visionary Award.

Balancing Growth and a Customer-centric Culture:
A conversation with Chewy CEO Sumit Singh. Pet Ecommerce leader Chewy is expecting a revenue of $9 billion this year; that’s a near triple in just three years. Chewy is now known for rapid innovations across the pet industry, from Food & Accessories to Pet Healthcare and Services. In this keynote session, Chewy CEO spoke about their unmatched commitment to customers. He described deliberate attention on building a culture that values creating innovations with customer needs at their core. Teams are empowered to think big and achieve the impossible.

Retail Leadership in Action:
A conversation with Walmart, President & CEO, John Furner. In this insightful fireside chat, John Furner shared his views on the next normal for the retail industry, where innovation fuels growth and customer-centricity pays off through loyalty and longevity. He also discussed pressing challenges the retail industry faced in the face of unprecedented last 22 months and how they dealt with supply chain issues and unforeseen challenges.

The Secrets to Enterprise Marketplaces
Marketplaces captured the majority of the growth last year, outpacing e-commerce. The Secrets to Enterprise Marketplaces: This session was presented by Mirakl, featuring guest speakers from Macy’s and Spreetail. This session talked about how retail leaders employ the innovative digital business model to differentiate. It went into detail to demonstrate the value marketplaces create through agility, scalability, and flexibility by onboarding high-quality sellers who offer better prices and quality.

Earning customer loyalty
A fresh take from Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran: This keynote session featured a fireside chat that delved into how Albertsons is leveraging the power of technology to better serve pandemic driven behavioural changes among consumers. Post pandemic, there has been a paradigm shift in what consumers expect regarding ease, choice, and speed of delivery. Digital transformation has been imperative in the growth strategy for Albertsons and rolling out omnichannel capabilities is all part of providing ultimate customer convenience and earning loyalty.

How a Global Brand Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Direct Commerce:
VTEX showcased AB InBev and how a global organization moved with the agility and speed of a startup to build an on-demand, digital delivery platform offering convenience, speed, and choice to millions of customers. This big idea session was chaired by Amit Shah, CSO, US General Manager VTEX, and France Roy, CTO, Direct-to-Consumer at AB-InBev, provided insights on the world’s largest brewer used technology and organizational design to truly enable transformation.

Capturing the Chinese Consumer – How Alibaba and Thom Browne Drive New Innovations:
This featured session had Hilary Milnes from Vogue Business talk with Rodrigo Bazan, CEO of fashion brand Thom Browne and Christina Fontana of Alibaba on how they are partnering to create unforgettable luxury shopping experiences for their customers. Research suggests that by the year 2025, the Chinese market will account for over 50% of worldwide luxury purchases. This is the opportunity luxury brands like Thom Browne are tapping into with the help of Alibaba.

How Business Ecosystems have Force-multiplied Value for Retailers and Consumers:
This featured session had Alberto Serrentino from Varese Retail, Tony Shan from Alibaba Group, and Stelleo Tolda, from Mercado Libre sharing some great learnings on how ecosystems have evolved into platform economies which drive value for all parties that is the merchants, retailers, and consumers. Knitting together physical and digital retailing, payments, financial services, marketplaces, media, and entertainment, the new technology platforms are ushering innovative business models built using deep customer insights..


The National Retail Federation did a good job juggling a changing list of 700+ exhibitors, 100+ sessions, and an audience that usually exceeds 35K people during an unexpected Covid surge. The event’s key themes were: Digital Integration, DE&I, Sustainability, Supply chain, Last mile, and Marketplaces. While many prominent vendors had canceled their participation, the event had an excellent quality of sessions and interactions. As expected, Innovation Lab and the Startup Zone were the most crowded.

A big round of applause is due to NRF for managing COVID risks well. Masks were strictly enforced, vaccination proof was required, keynote seating alternated seats, free self-administered antigen tests were available, and PCR testing was available onsite. Due to many cancellations, the event crowd was of reduced crowd size. Still, there were abundant sessions available and plenty of exciting companies to connect with and learnings to be had. NRF has always captured and showcased how eCommerce is evolving, be it contactless shopping experiences, e-commerce payments, or even delivery options. This year with reduced headcounts, the quality of the interactions and meetings went up as the companies and participants who attended were looking for solutions, so it was quality over quantity. It also meant more space, fewer interruptions, and an uptick in the quality of meetings and networking.

The impact of COVID is still being felt across businesses and especially retailers. As a result, they embraced transformation faster or pivoted to new business models. NRF’s Shay summed it up perfectly when he said, “There are a lot of initiatives underway, and we’re confident that retail is going to continue to step up and meet the biggest challenges of today.”

For those who couldn’t make it to the show, you can still experience insightful learning from the most prominent retail industry leaders. NRF has made available On Demand package available through purchase that gives one access to over 25 videos. These include select sessions from Keynote Stage, DE&I Stage, and Showcase. On-Demand sessions can be viewed by downloading the NRF 2022 mobile app.

All and all, it was a great edition of Retail’s Big Show that showed that retail never stopped even when normal life was put on hold, and that’s what NRF is all about—moving, striving, and accelerating.


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