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NRF Student Challenge: Travel STORY

Each year the National Retail Federation Foundation sponsors a Student Challenge Competition, aptly named, “The Big Pitch.” Timed to NRF’s annual retail show, this year STORY and KPMG collaborated on a competition that tasked students to create a fully-conceptualized STORY based on one of the following themes: Made in America, Travel, or Sensory. It was nearly a nine-month journey in the making as teams of students – alongside a KPMG mentor – created a 20-page pitch presentation, a mock website, and a 90-second pitch video to convince our founder Rachel Shechtman why and how their STORY should be produced. After an intense round of judging, 10 teams advanced to the semi-finals, which included Q&A calls with a panel of retail executives. From there, three teams moved onto the finals where they presented at Retail’s BIG Show Student Program.

Sarah Muller and Hailey Turner of University of North Texas teamed up with KPMG mentor Will Garman for Travel STORY, a topic that jumped off the pages of their individual social media feeds where many of their friends were posting their travel pics and announcing that they’d rather spend their money on a journey to a new destination than the latest Apple product.

“Close your eyes and imagine that you are anywhere in the world – where do you want to go?” they asked the judges.

The group’s Letter From the Editor (a visual fixture in every story) asks a different question:  “What does travel mean to you?” – and answers it immediately after with “Freedom, Self-Discovery, Escape.” Their partnership approach was also three-pronged, incorporating GoPro, Samsung, and IBM Watson together to realize the concept. Guided by simple, minimalist arrows that direct customers toward various destinations in the store, the look and feel of their proposed concept was minimized to emphasize their distinct sections “To the Mountains”, “To the Sea”, “Around the World”, “New York City”, “Pets” – as well as the partnership activations “Discover: IBM Watson”, “Reveal: Perch Interactive”, and “Explore: Samsung VR”.

These partnership activations were intended to maximize experience per square foot, the group explained. Their PERCH Interactive table would inform the “Around the World” section, animating an airplane over a virtual map that would indicate the origin of the products as customers touched them. Travel experiences filmed on a GoPro Omni Sphere and seen through via Oculus Gear headsets would let customers take a trip without leaving Manhattan. The traditional travel agent would be replaced by the interactive Watson, who would act as a robotic concierge by offering destination recommendations to customers who answered his four pre-programmed questions.

“This past summer, I took a trip to New York and saw the Remember When STORY theme. I was in there for way too long! That was my first introduction to STORY, and it’s been a great experience getting to explore what it takes to make something like that happen,” Turner said.