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NRF NEXUS 2022: Event Highlights


NRF Nexus was created by merging two previous NRF events, NRF NXT and NRFtech with expanded topic areas to bring together senior retail leaders. NRF Nexus 2022 event took place at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, from July 26-28, 2022. It was a fantastic event of game-changing presentations, thought-provoking conversations, and cutting-edge ideas.

Retail innovators from all industry sectors, including retail, restaurant, grocery, convenience, hospitality, and more, convened at NRF Nexus 2022. The plan was to discuss how to improve the customer journey and prepare for the consumer of the future. NRF Nexus brought together more than 300 senior retail marketing, technology, and digital leaders who are mandated with driving innovation across their organizations. Unlike other events, NRF Nexus is open to executive-level leaders and closed to the press. NRF Nexus is designed for conductive conversations and networking in an intimate environment. To that extent, NRF is more of a connection point than a typical conference for decision makers from leading retail organizations across marketing, digital, and technology.

NRF NEXUS Key Themes

Effortless Networking – NRF Nexus is designed for conductive conversations and networking in an intimate environment. To that extent, NRF is more of a connection point than a typical conference for decision makers from leading retail organizations across marketing, digital, and technology. There were opportunities galore to network with industry peers through champagne toasts, welcome parties/ dinner, and networking breaks. Expert-led think tanks enabled attendees to dive deep into a single topic or explore three different topics with a broader perspective—a perfect opportunity to tap into the SMEs to discuss future-forward ideas.

Highly Curated Content – One could make out from the quality and depth of discussions that the content for this event was meticulously curated by retail marketing, technology, and digital innovation executives. The featured sessions, the choice of speakers, and the intimate format of the show ensured that all of the latest buzz words were demystified and were delivered in a way that was relevant to the retail marketing, technology, and digital leaders.

Innovation-Focussed Event– Exclusive curated content presented at NRX Nexus was highly innovation Focussed. Innovation became the agenda by default since the 300 leaders from retail, marketing and technology were driving innovation in their respective organizations/industries. There were practical examples and innovative use cases on how AI, ML, Metaverse, and Web 3 could be leveraged in retail for growth and market leadership.

Some of the Noteworthy Sessions

There were super engaging sessions throughout the three-day event, and we will be focusing on just a few key ones in the interest of time and space.

Selling via marketplaces: How Retailers Can be the Disruptor Instead of the Disrupted 

This McFadyen Digital sponsored session featured Tom McFadyen, Author & CEO of McFadyen Digital, and Neel Grover, CEO, Shop Premium Outlets discussing the impact of the marketplace platform business model and why is the marketplace business model so disruptive. The session also covered the launch and operation of a marketplace on a high level. Tom McFadyen also took this opportunity to present his book “Marketplace Best Practices,” an Amazon best seller. Tom’s book explores the online marketplace model as a means of platforming an eCommerce business. Marketplace Best Practices looks at what constitutes an online marketplace, who is currently succeeding with the marketplace model, and how an organization can build and grow an online marketplace of their own. You can buy your copy of this book here. You can learn more about how McFadyen Digital is helping its client’s succeed it platform business here.

Neel Grover, CEO of Shop Premium Outlets, provided his rich perspective on how retailers can be the Disruptor instead of the disrupted. Shop Premium is a premium luxury marketplace focused on sale, clearance, and outlet products. Neel previously built and ran three other marketplaces as the Chief Executive Officer of Rakuten North America, Buy.com and Bluefly and built and powered BestBuy’s marketplace as a service.

The New Consumer 

Dan Frommer, founder and Editor in Chief of The New Consumer, opened the event with his keynote with a data-informed look at the fast-changing consumer. With the help of the latest consumer spending data and results from a proprietary survey (semi-annual Consumer Trends report), Dan explored how new consumers think and what they want, intending to help retailers meet their needs. You can access this report here.

Walmart’s Vision for Ecommerce Excellence in 2022 and Beyond 

An excellent session by Walmart EVP and Chief eCommerce Officer Tom Ward that talked about the obstacles Walmart cleared while betting big on eCommerce sales. Tom spoke about how Walmart’s autonomous delivery and other last-mile innovation initiatives are helping it scale its e-commerce and omnichannel growth. Walmart grew its eCommerce to over 70% during the pandemic.

Transforming Guest & Team Member Experience

This featured session had Buffalo Wild Wings’ President, Lyle Tick, and Inspire Brands’ Chief Information Officer, Raghu Sagi. These two leaders spoke about their challenges and how they identified opportunities to improve through cross-functional innovation. They discussed how they developed and deployed next-gen technology to enhance the guest and team member experience. It was a fantastic session that provided a view of where the restaurant industry will go in the future through a technological transformation.

AI in Commerce: Where Retailers Can Focus Their Energy to Maximize AI’s True Potential 

This featured session was presented by Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis Groupe. With a focus on e-commerce and digital marketing for omnichannel retailers, he has worked with over 100 clients on the Internet Top 500. He has been responsible for billions of dollars in online revenues. Jason explored the latest use cases for AI in digital commerce by providing examples of the most successful AI implementation in retail. Some of the cool ones were; AI being used as a recommendation engine for cross-selling and upselling, Amazon custom-made T-Shirt based on computer vision measuring body size. For Shein, AI scrapes TikTok for fashion design and creates a couple of prototypes & offers for sale within a couple of days. He provided a balanced view of AI by looking at what has worked and what has not and explaining why AI may not be the best goal for all. He emphasized the mistakes that many enterprises make by making AI an initiative. It’s a tool, not an outcome. 

Connecting Through Conversations: Servicing the Modern Consumer in 2022 and Beyond 

A sponsored feature session by Kustomer and had Dan Brady, Customer Success Manager at Pura Vida, and Andrea Paul Salerno, Director of Content and Research at Kustomer, discussing changing consumer expectations, the channels of the future, the importance of a seamless, effortless experience across channels. They emphasized how the upcoming holiday season presents a fantastic opportunity for long-term business growth and technology tools to create bespoke customer experiences. The session had great tips for retailers looking to build lifelong relationships in a digital-first world. The slides for this featured session can be accessed here.

 Foundations of Practical Futurism

In today’s highly dynamic and tech-driven world with increasing complexity, the ability to decipher the future and gain control can be a real strategic advantage. A highly engaging featured session by Pascal Finette, Co-Founder, be radical, gave the audience insight into how to envision the future and learn how to seize it. These insights come from 250 interviews of individuals who ran disruptive initiatives. Pascal came up with insights across five areas: first principals thinking, process, core/ edge, leadership, and upskilling. Using these principles, Pascal could offer a practical alternative, a tool to identify emerging opportunities/threats and understand the future as a dynamic space for experimentation and learning.

The Power of Web3 and the Immersive Consumer Experience 

This session by Tommaso Di Bartolo, Founding Partner, Awesm Ventures, presented the opportunities thrown open by the Metaverse – a virtual space bringing people, companies, and products together in both digital and real environments to create new economic opportunities. Tommaso demonstrated through real-world examples organizations that are jumping in and gaining invaluable experience, developing revenue streams, and even shaping metaverse culture. It was a highly fascinating session that provided techniques to spot the right opportunities in the fast-moving universe of the Web3 world.

Buying Into Better: Future of the Consumer Industry     

This Deloitte-sponsored session was presented by Kasey Lobaugh, Principal, Chief Retail Innovation Officer at Deloitte. Kasey Lobaugh is a principal in the Kansas City office of Deloitte Consulting LLP. He leads Deloitte’s Direct-to-Consumer & Multichannel Retail Market Offering. He spoke about the six forces shaping the consumer industry and the implications for the industry. Kasey’s insights come from 26 years of consulting with the world’s largest retailers, including multiple billion-dollar online organizations, where he led strategy, and implementation teams specifically focused on transforming large retail organizations. He stressed that we are navigating a once-in-a-century economic, social & technological transition, and we have the power and responsibility to shape our future for the better proactively. Future is to be created, not to be predicted.

Fashion & Wellness in the Metaverse

Another interesting session on the Metaverse, this one had esteemed fashion journalist Lauren Sherman speaking to premium athleisure brand Alo Yoga’s VP of Marketing, Angelic Vendette, and Roblox’s VP of Global Brand Partnerships, Christina Wootton, about how they together created an immersive wellness experience in the form of “Alo Sanctuary.” The conversation steered into how Alo Sanctuary came about and the role influencers played in bringing success to the program. To raise awareness around the importance of well-being and meditation,* the Alo Sanctuary welcomes the Roblox community to experience meditation and learn more about personal wellness. This is Alo Yoga’s entry into the Metaverse. The Alo Sanctuary experience takes place on an island. Upon arrival, visitors will receive a digital Warrior Yoga Mat, which they can bring into the Metaverse to explore guided meditation retreats led by a contemplative guide.

Disrupting disruption: How Technology Connects to Retail like Never Before

The featured session was presented by Mitch Joel, Founder of Six Pixels Group – an advisory, investing, and content-producing company focused on brand commerce, community, and what’s next. The session covered the dramatic realities that are forcing retailers to rethink many of their commonly held beliefs about what works in stores and online today and what the future may look like. Fundamental changes in the retail landscape are being driven by rapidly changing tech-savvy consumers, which influences how they buy and interact with retailers. Mitch provided great contextual examples of how enterprises are disrupting the disruption. The point he made was that disruption is everywhere, and you need to disrupt the disruption to make it. He referenced a quote from Cynthia Occelli; “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

Summing it Up

Over three days at NRF Nexus, many ambitious ideas around a myriad of topics around customer experience were discussed at length. Tons of actionable insights were generated from retail professionals leading marketing, technology, and digital operations at the industry’s most innovative companies. To sum it up, NRF Nexus provided fresh ideas and a new perspective, and we can’t wait for the 2023 edition.

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