Shoptalk 2019 did not disappoint: it has established itself as one of the “must attend” retail events of the year. The biggest problem is choosing between compelling sessions, meetings and, of course, playing with the puppies from the SPCA.
I actually missed a few sessions I was planning to attend because I was engaged in great conversations with retailers, solution/service providers, media colleagues and other industry experts. Five top takeaways from my Shoptalk experience are:
- Personalization is being defined by each company’s business goals;
- Women Leadership is taking center stage;
- Influencers are rising to the surface as a vital marketing element;
- Subscription Services can boost sales and loyalty for a wide variety of brands; and
- Voice is the next customer engagement frontier.
Getting Personal With Personalization
Some of the most compelling topics of discussion were around the true meaning of personalization in today’s retail world. I wanted to find out how companies are defining what personalization means to their businesses, as well as how they are balancing the importance of moving toward a 1:1 relationship with customers amid challenges around GDPR and privacy/data security. Here are a few insights I collected:
- Vineyard Vines is working with CCG Analytics to pivot the way it approaches the business: “We are now looking through the lens of the customer vs. financial metrics,” noted Chris Fitzpatrick, VP, Business Analytics & Strategy. As a result, the retailer has developed five customer personas, is opening successful new stores and is expanding its product selections.
- Because “e-Commerce is becoming commoditized,” Kibo has acquired Certona to “double down on personalization,” according to Michelle Fischer, Chief Customer Officer at Kibo. The goal is to deliver a “Personalization-First Commerce Platform,” she noted. “Personalization is the glue of omnichannel,” added Meyar Sheik, Founder of Certona and the new President and Chief Commerce Officer of Kibo.
- Salesforce is automating its collection of consumer sentiment using AI in order to deliver better, more personalized customer service. “Data is the currency making personalization happen,” noted Rich Lyons, CEO and President, Lyons Consulting Group. The company also recently added a new position: Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer, in an effort to “uphold the basic human rights of every individual,” the company reported.
- Macy’s is working with Perch Interactive to provide a more relevant customer experience in its fragrance department. Through interactive displays, shoppers can view videos and gather relevant information about the products they are interested in. For the retailer, the data collected by the interactions with the products will help drive more effective merchandising and inventory decisions.
- “Personalization is misunderstood,” said Raj Nijjer, VP of Marketing at Yotpo. The company recently developed Yotpo Focus to help marketers integrate data and systems, delivering deep learning to improve personalization. Powered by AI, the solution customizes the online product description pages (PDP) to highlight the most relevant content for each customer.
Spotlight On Women Leaders In Retail
As I write this article on March 8, International Women’s Day, I am compelled to point out the strong, positive focus the retail industry is placing on the empowerment of women leaders in business. During Shoptalk, the Women In Retail Leadership group offered ongoing, focused sessions at the Female Quotient lounge within the Shoptalk exhibit hall; and the Women2Watch/Remodista group hosted a lunch discussion and evening reception during the event. Also, Yotpo was promoting its recently published “Amazing Women In E-Commerce” report.
Influencers’ Influence Is Growing
The importance of influencers in driving retail sales and loyalty is on the rise. I’m impressed with the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking some companies are using when it comes to their Influencer strategies:
• Shopstyle is a two-year-old platform that offers syndicated Influencer content to shoppers to help with product selection. The company currently has 20,000 Influencers providing content. Grove Collaborative, an online retailer selling “healthier home essentials,” has thousands of Influencers currently promoting the brand.
• Executives from Mizzen+Main, Ipsy and Billabong also spoke about “Using Influencers Effectively” during a Shoptalk track session.
Subscription Services Are On The Rise
Grove Collaborative also has an optional subscription service offering for its customers. Shoppers can customize their monthly delivery basket and speak 1:1 with their own Grove Guide.
Subscription offerings are helping retailers expand sales and customer loyalty. Brands like Gap, Stitch Fix and Target are all experimenting with the strategy, and even Amazon has jumped on the subscription bandwagon with Prime Wardrobe. Subscription retail also has made an impact on holiday marketing.
Voice: The Next Frontier
When asked, most industry executives said they expect voice to become a significant part of retail business strategies. But the question is, when? “Voice will be a big game changer,” noted Sandro Corsaro, Chief Creative Officer at Fandango. In May 2018, Fandango enabled voice ticket ordering via Google.
A main stage session featuring an Amazon executive during Shoptalk asked, “Alexa, What’s Next For Voice Retail?”