The educational programs at IRCE and CRMC, both held in Chicago the first week of June, provided insights that went far beyond just the shows’ overarching topics of e-Commerce and customer relationship management (CRM). Industry leaders from retail companies including Lovesac, Warby Parker, Oriental Trading, Shoe Carnival, Jack Grace and Hilton Hotels shared tips and tactics covering global commerce, personalization, the move from online to offline retailing, selecting the right solution provider partners, and ways to make returns a strategic part of the business. Following are quick quotes from some of the retail industry experts who spoke at the two events.
“Amazon wants people to shop locally and buy globally.” — Carly McGinnis, General Manager, Exploding Kittens
McGinnis explained that the decision by the humorous card game Exploding Kittens to sell globally with Amazon made sense given the retailer’s reach: It serves customers in 180 countries with 13 global marketplaces and 175+ fulfillment centers. However, Amazon’s “shop locally” directive means that a German customer needs to be able to buy the U.S.-produced game with euros, and get the product shipped to them within one to two days.
“With personalization, some is better than none, but it’s never good enough. That’s because as you start to personalize more, consumers expect more from you.” — Sue Beckett, VP, Digital, Direct & Ecommerce, Lovesac
The executive from the disruptive furniture company Lovesac added that “having infinite data available makes personalization more complicated to get right, especially if you don’t have the right systems in place to utilize it correctly.”
“Our first physical ‘store’ was one of the co-founder’s apartment in Philadelphia.” — Dave Gilboa, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Warby Parker
Warby Parker began as a pure play alternative to brick-and-mortar eyewear retailers, but soon after its web site launched shoppers sought out a physical space to try on the glasses. The company established a showroom in its early office space, but it got so much traffic that the building’s landlord threatened to evict Warby Parker because they were monopolizing the elevators. “We learned so much from these face-to-face conversations, and got feedback that we would not have gotten from a purely digital relationship,” said Gilboa.
“When determining who to work with in changing your IT ecosystem, your new partner can change both your company — and your career.” — Charles Hunsinger, SVP/CIO, Oriental Trading
Discussing the importance of selecting the right solution provider partner for an IT project, Hunsinger said the decision is a serious one: “Who you want to work with really means ‘Who do you want to marry?’” Due diligence is critical, and it’s helpful for IT professionals to use their network not just to talk to those that selected a solution, but those that didn’t — and to find out the reasons why.
“Returns are a multi-step process, and each step is a place where something can go wrong.” — Bradford Smith, COO, Jack Grace
While the ideal for retailers would be for consumers to keep everything they buy, returns are a fact of life, so golf shoe brand Jack Grace tries to turn them from a problem into a strategic advantage. Smith advised retailers that because they can’t fix their returns processes all at once, they should focus on “any step that involves a manual process or a human bridge.”
“Customers want control, so we send a preview email of the clothes we’re going to send them 48 hours before they’re shipped.” — Sandro Roco, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Bombfell
The personal shopping subscription service for men applies machine learning to select items for customers; then a personal stylist applies the “last mile” human touch to finalize the selection. Members’ interactions with these emails are “a great opportunity to learn more about the customer,” said Roco.
“When you move from a mass media strategy, where the executive team can see the ads on TV or in print, to an audience-driven strategy, it becomes a challenge to explain to the C-level execs where the ad spend is going.” — Kent Zimmerman, VP Digital, Shoe Carnival
Because Shoe Carnival wanted to more effectively reach its target shoppers, including those in higher income brackets, the retailer moved to a more targeted strategy for acquisition, retention and reactivating lapsed customers. A key challenge, however, was convincing upper management that ad dollars were being spent effectively, Zimmerman explained: “They would say ‘I don’t see the ads,’ and I would have to say to them ‘You don’t see them because you’re not our target customer.’”
“Purpose is the new currency.” — Marc Kielburger, Co-Founder, WE.org
WE.org is a cause-based retail program that allows consumers to track the impact of their donations via Google Maps, showing them the precise impact of their contributions. According to Kielburger, “without purpose, your business model is incomplete.”
“Loyalty begins with an irrational kind of love.” — Danelle Williams, Senior Director, Global Loyalty Platform, Hilton
According to Williams, retailers need to generate Apple-level loyalty, the “’I’ve got to have it’ type of loyalty that makes people queue up for a product when they don’t even know what it’s going to be.” The Hilton Honors loyalty program has 74 million members and is now growing at a rate of nine to 11 million members per year. The hospitality company’s goal is to reach 100 million members by the company’s 100th anniversary in 2019.