Highlights from the 2018 Retail Summit

Highlights from the 2018 Retail Summit

Highlights from the 2018 Retail Summit 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

Finally, all the talk about “retail apocalypse” has ended as evident in this year’s 2018 Retail Summit in Columbus, Ohio. Positioned to explore the present and future of retail, the one-day conference was packed with trends and best practices from a broad range of industries from retail to restaurants. The common thread throughout the day all resulted in the conclusion that retail is thriving because of reinvention. In an age of ecommerce competition “localism” was the heroic conference theme that shouted opportunity for brands to connect.

Retail Summit 2018

Keynote speaker and editor in chief of design:retail magazine, Alison Embrey Medina delivered an emotionally moving presentation on “Lighting Fireworks: Designing Retail That Resonates with Mercurial Consumers.” While digging deep into the critical trends currently driving the revival of the retail industry, it was her personal story that stuck with me.

On a mission to get a softball mitt for her daughter, Allison ventured into a sports retail store in Atlanta. As you might know, most new baseball mitts are stiff and hard for kids to close with their little hands… practice and games on end to actually break it in. Looking to give that new but used feel, the associate took the mitt and put it in a steam chamber for a few minutes. While Alison thought that was it, the associate took it a step further by taking a mallet to it all while checking it periodically for softness. A thousand games of ball were literally being replicated at that moment to create that perfect glove fit. After watching in awe, the man came around the counter and handed the mitt to her daughter. I can only imagine it felt like a trophy for a season that hadn’t even started. Alison said she would forever remember that experience and go back if there’s anything they ever need.

Speaker Alison Embrey Medina

While just a few moments of that shopping experience, Alison felt something… something that can’t be created online or delivered same day. That’s the moment that retail needs to create. The feeling you can’t forget.

Hopping on over to a breakout panel session I was ready to hear the perspectives behind local design. Chuck Palmer founder of ConsumerX Retail, Alberto Scirocco, Creative Director of LeftChannel, Josh Quinn, founder of TigerTree and CubShrub, and Dilara Casey, Marketing Director at Hot Chicken Takeover, were set up to share how to connect with the community.

Gaining its grassroots origin from a food truck from the east side, Dilara explained how Hot Chicken Takeover customers would line up around the block for its uniquely Nashville style kind of fried chicken. Being new and overwhelmed at times, the experience was never perfect but given the mission and the outward passion, customers would be patient and commit to coming back. Fast forward to today HCT is scaling Cbus with its savory chicken, but always honest along the way. The element of transparency is clear to their customers, generating a loyal line of trust.

Bottom line, you can’t create or connect with a community until you find your home. Setting up shop in the Short North, TigerTree founder Josh emphasized the importance of knowing their customer as a key to the retail experience. With a curated assortment of product, if the needle was off the radar the cash register just simply wasn’t going to ring. You have to have a clear understanding of your customer in order to predict the actual purchase.

Chuck, essentially born into the world of retail, shared about his father starting a retail shop. One of the things they would do at the store was give suckers to kids when their parents brought them in. Dilara mentioned they visited that same shop recently and it’s still a common practice. While a subtle thing to offer customers, there’s something even greater they’ve established, rituals and habits outside of being associated with specific events. It’s those little moments, those little rewards that make customers not forget.

Retail Summit Conference Guide

I think a takeaway from the event was that brands need to get grounded, and by that, I mean rooted in your community and customers. That point of connection is your purpose and your point of differentiation. The moment you forget that you’re done. Reduce your price, ship faster, etc. the only thing you can compete on is experience.

Much of the Retail Summit conversation circled was around authenticity. You can’t be a successful local, community retailer if you’re inauthentic and disconnected. That doesn’t mean slapping some Buckeyes on a wall and calling it a day. It’s got to be part of the story. More so, it has to mean something to them not just you.

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