Future of Retail: ShopTalk 2019 Highlights

Future of Retail: ShopTalk 2019 Highlights

Future of Retail: ShopTalk 2019 Highlights 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

ShopTalk 2019 lived up to the hype, proving to be the best retail conference for what’s really happening in retail today and how to shape its future. The week was a content focused whirlwind – 3 1/2 days of retail sessions covering a variety of topics from AI and technology to brick & mortar to start-ups and category leaders. Top CEOs, visionaries, and business strategists showed up to share insights and what they believe is changing retail.

Walking from session to session, you could feel the buzz and excitement in the conversations happening between attendees, peers, and colleagues.

The Gist: Reinventing retail is more alive now than ever before. As Millennials move into management positions, and Gen Z filling the majority of the workforce within the next 10 years, there will be a dramatic retail shift. Incremental innovation is required constantly and those that are late to the party will find themselves not meeting customer’s needs.

As retail and restaurant experience designers focused on the future of stores, we took a lot away from the content and put together a few highlights we found valuable.

Shopping Vs. Commerce

The customer doesn’t think in digital and physical realms, so why are you? Online is not killing traditional stores, (Can we all stop saying this now, please?) it’s merely changing how retail reacts to customers. To start, retailers need to pull teams out of the old school mindset and start connecting those department silos. Integrated teams should consist of traditional retail, e-commerce, IT, merchandising, marketing, stores, product, visual and so on. Speak the same language, set common KPIs, and map them across the customer journey.

Brands like Nordstrom know this all too well, “It’s impossible to separate out the physical journey from the digital one,” said Eric Nordstrom. Though 30% of the business is from online sales they don’t operate that way. They understand that if they create an exceptional customer service strategy at every touchpoint they will be successful. Nordstrom is doubling down on this and opening smaller footprint stores that focus on services–not merchandise–like alterations, returns to store, and BOPUIS. When determining what services are right for these locations Nordstrom says, “It’s all about the market you’re in, or looking to strategically step into, and how your brand services that customer.”

As it became apparently clear throughout ShopTalk sessions, Shopping is not linear–brands that are thinking differently about the sales process and the brand experience will stay ahead in this rapidly changing retail game.

Pinterest has become not only a community for inspiration, but also a personal mindset that connects products to the lives users want to live. Every recommendation needs to feel like it’s been handpicked for the user and the more the application is used, the more custom it becomes. Pinterest Co-Founder & CEO, Ben Silbermann, says, “Shopping is emotional, fun, and inspirational.” We should be looking at the ROI of Experience. (Chute’s rallying cry…btw) We all see the importance in Commerce, but it’s ultimately a commodity and transactional based. Look at your customers’ lifetime value. Every brand experience should delight, engage, educate, inspire, and reduce pain points to successfully convert to sales and build loyalty.

Make an Influence

There is power in everyday people and their followers. But how do you create buzz without being fake or forcing content that shapes inauthenticity? Influencers, or Creators as Ipsy likes to call them, are in full force and not slowing down anytime soon. The key to finding the best influencers; don’t support pretenders and find those who really love the product. Give them the tools, like access to special events, travel budgets, and (of course) product, so they can keep up with the demand that brand representation requires. Billabong put a focus on finding the most authentic women they could find that are already living a lifestyle that best aligns with their brand.

The success of influencers can be seen in engagement. Brands often see higher engagement, sometimes 3x more, from influencers than models. It’s important to point out that it’s not the number of followers an influencer has, but engagement levels. Average engagement rates are around 1-2% but with the right influencers, amazing engagement rates can range between 7-10%. Brands like Lively say their influencers don’t “sell” product, they “shout it” for ultimate human impact.

The term “Influencer” doesn’t mean online only. In-store influencers are connecting people to product. Associates are a retailer’s greatest assets and we should give them the respect they deserve. Companies like Macy’s and Hudson’s Bay Company are employing knowledgeable stylists and style guides that are delivering exceptional customer service. Often becoming a go-to source for all fashion needs. Delivering a truly personalized experience brought to them directly by a trusted brand. It’s in-store but also transcends to a connection outside the store through direct messaging, text, and social media.

Show Up For Her

There was a lot of talk throughout the show about “She.” What she likes, who she really is, how retail can help her. This isn’t new, but the thought process on how to engage her is changing. Brands like InstaCart, who see 82% female users on their grocery service app, are all in lockstep with what their female customers are asking for and showing up to meet their demands. They learned that She wants the added option of getting her groceries on her time. Adding pick up times to grocery rather than delivery only allows InstaCart to meet them where they want.

Did you know that at age 5, girls start developing limiting self-beliefs? Mattel is looking to do something about it–introducing the Dream Gap Project by Barbie. A global program geared to providing girls with resources and support to continue to believe that they can be, and do anything.

Content Is King

As brands showcase different ways they are using creative content to engage the customers they serve, we found a few who were taking an alternative approach to how they are telling stories.

Ulta Beauty puts an emphasis on content for the customer at all touch points. Creating a playground of beauty for guests who need help discovering what’s uniquely suited for them. With so much passion and choice in the beauty category, how can a customer navigate options like skin tone? And how can they feel confident that they are making the right decision? Ulta is using augmented reality to help guests narrow choices across brands and find the perfect foundation color. AI and AR were everywhere at the show, but what stood out about Ulta’s experience was that it’s paired with the ultimate customer service, so guests are able to find exactly what they need. It’s purposeful, useful content, not just a shiny object.

With 65,000 brand ambassadors, Lively is no stranger to the content game; always looking to create euphoric moments that appeal to their customers and engage them in new ways. Lively looks to form a community and show up for them consistently. They even recently launched a podcast, No Makeup Needed, hosted by founder Michelle Cordeiro Grant, where interviews are held with powerhouse women and what matters to them.

Dollar Shave Club launched Mel, a lifestyle and culture magazine, which originally began as a newsletter in 2015, but has grown to a content hub with its first print issue. (First time we’ve heard excitement about print for a while and we like it!) Content for the magazine is independent of Dollar Shave Club, but the attitude is much the same. “There’s no playbook on how to be a guy,” says Michael Dubin, Dollar Shave Club CEO. The magazine is geared to guys that are facing real issues and it’s another example of creating content that is meaningful for the customer.

There’s no shortage of inspiration and thought starters to be gathered from the show. As we continue to shape and evolve what’s next for retail, we can draw the simple conclusion that change is happening–quickly.

Photo Credit: ShopTalk

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