Retail’s Crystal Ball
Samantha Klein 270006UXPV firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  david_gilboa candace_nelson warby_parker data big_data nrf_2014 jill_puleri personalization omnichannel ginni_rometty social_business nrf ecommerce future experience millennials shopping #custserv digital showrooming customer_service brick_and_mortar #socbiz #nrf14 retail
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Technology has had and continues to play a major role in determining the way people shop. After two days filled with amazing product demos and numerous talks and keynotes presented by current leaders of the retail industry at New York’s Javits Center at the NRF 2014 event, I am happy to report that the future of retail across every channel looks more exciting than ever. Here are the hottest trends from NRF:
1. Data is the new currency
The era of mass production, mass advertising and mass selling is over – the age of personalization has arrived. As IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty emphasized during her recent NRF keynote, retailers must take big data seriously. Its use and insights are essential in this era of personalization. Retailers are collecting and analyzing more data than ever before to gain real-time customer behavioral data that will allow them to fine tune their business models, better please their customers and insure their success. As Rometty noted in her presentation, prediction, scale, real time and precision are big data’s competitive advantage. Those retailers that best understand and act upon all these components will retain and win customers and not just survive, but thrive.
2. Customer service is the new marketing
Today’s shoppers, especially millennials, often value authenticity and personal service more than price and product alone The most successful retailers will transform shopping from just a commodity- and price-based experience to a more personalized, value added transaction. The growth of social media has led to higher standards for customer service. David Gilboa, co-founder and CEO of Warby Parker, spoke about the importance of customer service – or what Warby Parker calls “Customer Experience” – and how its employees are taught to embrace customers by engaging in two-way conversations, ultimately resulting in stronger relationships, increased satisfaction, personal promotion and, most importantly, sales.
3. “Embrace the crazy”
As Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, said during the NRF keynote on the future of brick and mortar, it is important to “embrace the crazy” in this era of retail innovation and disruption. She noted personal examples of opening the world’s first cupcake-only bakery, and launching a cupcake ATM, also the first of its kind. Between the millions of ad messages consumers receive each day and the thousands of social conversations constantly taking place at all hours of the day, effective marketing requires something positive and personal. Retailers need to constantly listen to, engage with and welcome ideas from their customers, as well as their employees, to stay relevant and innovative. Those organizations that are open to new and revolutionary ideas will remain the most relevant to their existing customers and gain new ones, too.
4. Physical stores are still relevant, but they need to “reboot”
“Showrooming,” ecommerce, customer connectivity and personalization will continue to take business away from brick and mortar stores unless retailers re-evaluate and continually revamp the shopping experience their stores offer to shoppers. As Jill Puleri, worldwide retail industry leader for IBM Global Business Service, explained in her Big Ideas session at NRF, retailers need to focus on integrating their online and in-store offerings with consistent pricing, merchandising and policies. Retailers must energize their physical stores by creating shopping destinations where physically interactive and emotional experiences can be shared and thereby heightened - all attributes that are not nearly as immediate or as powerfully felt when online. Puleri gave the example that drinking a cup of coffee online is not nearly as enjoyable as drinking a cup of coffee at a store. Perhaps this explains the recent emergence of coffee shops in brick and mortar stores, such as Club Monaco and Urban Outfitters in NYC.
With two more days of NRF 2014 left to experience, I can’t wait to learn what else the future may hold.