We’re just about getting into the swing of things now, and while it’s clear that a number of people are missing the NY experience this time round, as a colleague noted, there is much less walking to do.
Here’s the best of Day 2.
Retail 2020 – what a year! Shelley Bransten, Microsoft, Corporate VP Retail & Consumer Goods
Shelley Bransten’s aptly titled session took a look at the year that was through emergent trends in the retail industry. As Bransten put it COVID-19 has been the ‘Chief Innovation Officer’ for this industry. Not to be topped on the disruptive metaphor front, she continued we’ve been experiencing a ‘Change Black Friday’ every week.
In something of a showcase for Microsoft’s on-going role as a parter of the retail industry, the session focused on four key change areas: Data, Partnerships, Sustainability & reCommerce and Loyalty.
The ongoing digitization of the retail industry is well-covered ground, Bransten pointed to the need to make sense of the vast amounts of data being generated, to be able to leverage it in personal and human ways.
Where large retailers to some extent once operated in silos, partnerships are the new key to growth. Kroger and Ocado, Walmart and Instacart and even Walmart and AT&T. The diversity of partnerships highlights the creativity and energy occurring in retail – fuelled by pandemic acceleration.
Sustainability is now a key concern – 67% of consumers evaluate sustainability during a purchase. With many retailers committing to renewable or fully sustainable targets by 2030, this will continue to grow.
Finally, Bransten described the ‘Loyalty Shocks’ of the last year in which 75% consumers reported new shopping behaviors, 50% tried a new supermarket and in which 79% of consumers tried contactless payments for the first time. The times they are a changing.
In terms of winners and losers, it was clear that ‘retailers who laid the digital tracks early’ were better equipped to navigate the changes of the last year – and beyond recovery mode are entering 2021 stronger than ever.
React and Adapt – Transformation During COVID-19
The Retail Zipline hosted session, focused on 3 retailers individual experiences of transformation, with huge operational changes the common thread.
Jessica Siwy, Sr Manager, Store Operations at Bevmo! highlighted the speed of change, noting that the company flipped their model in a single day, from in-store to curb-side pick-up. The need to act quickly brought the BevMo! team together, which Siwy also cited as a significant factor in helping the business manage the huge increases in eComm traffic. At least 50% of the changes BevMo! Implemented were likely to continue, with ‘adapt & change’ the new mindset driving their business.
For Corey Bouyea, Director, Store Operations at L.L. Bean, health and safety was the first priority across their 54 stores. As quickly as they closed, stores were soon back open with shopping appointments & curb-side pick-up in place and a quickly launched app – all new concepts for the L.L. Bean team. Bouyea also cited around 50% of operational changes made as likely to continue in 2021. In spite of the challenges, ‘brick & mortar is more important than ever’ with consumers returning in higher numbers than his team could’ve imagined, delivering an incredible in-store experience is just as important as omni-channel.
American Eagle’s Manager of Store Communication, Taryn Racin made it three for three in terms of about half of changes AE implemented likely carry over to into 2021. Racin noted the significance of Webex for Store Heads, who could now be in New York and California in the same day. She noted the need to stay agile and from a comms perspective, the importance of ensuring that the right messages, were getting to the right people at the right time.
Shoppers Today Are Truly Omnichannel, Benny Tadele, VP Global Merchant Payments Solutions, ACI
While ACI’s sponsored session was unsurprisingly somewhat payment focused, Benny Tedale presented some interesting statistics about the way our shopping behaviors have changed in a year. Tedale again described the need for retailers to do everything they can to make things simple for the consumer. The expectation today is that you should be able to buy what you want, when you want it, through your preferred channel at any given time.
In the grocery sector this was most evident in the massive adoption of digital channels across the last year. While the topic of ‘digital acceleration’ is almost threatening to become a cliche of this years show, it’s clear that this evolution is going to be a on-going and important trend in the grocery sector – a trend also noted by dunhuumby’s CEO Guillaume Bacuvier in another session on the grocery industry. Citing the groups Retail Preference Index for US Grocers, Bacuiver noted the importance of speed and convenience as key factors in consumers rankings of US grocers over the last year, citing the perhaps surprising first quartile dominance of Amazon in this sector as an interesting proof point.
Recruting Young Talent to Drive Innovation, Stacia Anderson, PetSmart
In a final closing session presented by SAP and PetSmart, Stacia Anderson, EVP Merchandising and CX for the retailer, spoke the importance of recruiting young talent to help keep innovation fresh within an organization. As Anderson put it, ‘everything needs to start with the customer journey and experience’ – this is the pull back to all things from proprietary products, merchandising, communications to website. Sharing the stage with two soon to be graduates from the Terry J. Lundgren Centre for Retailing – all spoke passionately about the need for retailers to engage with fresh talent if you want to stay relevant.
In a closing statement Anderson advised other retailers looking to invest in young talent to remember that communication is a two way street. “It’s not just about showing up to career fairs and interviewing a few students – it has to be a partnership”. Share case studies, show your expertise and ask for students expertise. That’s when you’ll get graduates who can describe our culture better than you can – ‘transparency is key’.
That’s us for Day 2, we hope you have another great one exploring the agenda today, and remember, our booth is always open if you need a break from it all: https://nrfchapterone.com/exhibitors/11EB3320160E7B70A00C71AE4D46291B/TruRating