The theme of this year’s Global Retailing Conference was “Accelerate Your Brand/Get Ahead Of Your Shopper,” and there was a lot of discussion around how retailers need to do more to engage customers and encourage advocacy. 

The message:  In an era defined by hyper competition both online and off, those retailers willing to step up their game with technology, marketing strategies and new ways to interact with consumers are in the best position to succeed in a rapidly changing, shopper-driven retail landscape.

Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s, spoke about his company’s focus on inventory optimization as key strategy in being responsive to customers.  He explained that Macy’s uses a combination of technology and math to efficiently and profitably fulfill customer orders by looking across their entire network, not just at nearby stores.  While shipping costs may be higher with this approach, it helps avoid markdowns of items that aren’t moving in certain stores by sending them to locations where there is demand.  And, by the way, this approach makes for happy customers.

Kevin Sterneckert, Vice President of Research at Gartner gave a presentation on “The Future of Brick and Mortar.”  He believes that within 10 years, retail as we know it will be unrecognizable.  Retail stores will be there for a “touch and feel” experience only, with no actual sales. As a way to stay competitive with online-only retailers, stores won’t stock any merchandise; it’ll be shipped directly to you. He also thinks that technology advances won’t just change the physical appearance of stores for consumers, but should transform the retail workforce into being more knowledgeable, customer-friendly and effective. By the time shoppers walk into a store in the near future, sales associates will probably know what each consumer wants to buy, based on information on their phones or tablets.  Retailers can also use technology to determine your gender, age, race and income.  Kevin’s message: Retailers who don’t adapt quickly and successfully using these tools will be at a disadvantage.

According to a survey by the University of Arizona and Demandware of 7,000 consumers across the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany, a small group of consumers called Digital Divaswield significant purchasing power – both online and in-person. The survey, conducted by Rob Garf, Vice President of Product and Solutions Marketing at Demandware and Anita Bhappu from the University of Arizona revealed that Digital Divas demand a streamlined omnichannel experience; as they visit an average of 3.4 different retailers during their shopping journey –  70 percent at physical retail stores and 51 percent at retailer websites. Additionally, this consumer group is twice more likely to use mobile devices while shopping in stores than non-divas.  This mix indicates this group is clearly connected to multiple retailers through various channels during a single shopping journey.
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The message in this session was that retailers can’t ignore exponential value that Digital Divas represent.  And to address the needs of this valuable segment, it is imperative that they establish a digital backbone to enable seamless and consistent experiences for these digitally savvy consumers.

– Jack