I’ve been to my fair share of conferences and Shoptalk has easily become my favorite. This was my third year attending and I’m even more impressed than ever before.
Here are the highlights from this year’s sessions and show floor:
Mobile Experiences in the Customer Journey
Key takeaway: Apps and digital channels should be at the forefront of retailers’ business plans.
Panera Bread: Everyone claims to have a mobile strategy but few have actually perfected it. Mark Berinato, VP, Digital Experience spoke to the evolution of Panera’s core customer. He explained that its loyal consumers want to feel recognized and special. For that reason, Berinato implemented a ‘digital flywheel’ of connected touch points. Whether the customer dines in, takes out or orders delivery, Panera’s personalized end-to-end journey heavily relies on its point of sale, back of house, 1:1 marketing, customer data and big data to create a seamless experience – not an easy feat when the majority of its customers dine during three “core” mealtimes. And the company’s digital customer is much more valuable than its regular customer: The chain sees increased frequency and incremental transactions from digital diners, as well as an additional 1-2 visits per year. So just how powerful is Panera’s digital journey? In 2017, the company did $1.2 billion in digital sales (30% gross sales through digital). Additionally, Panera has a 5-star mobile app rating and 30 million MyPanera Members.
Lowe’s: Between Lowe’s iOS and Android Apps and their Store Associate Apps, mobile has become a crucial part of its business. When asked about Lowe’s digital customer, Gihad Jawhar, VP, Digital Development stated, “we recognize that customers use multiple channels, 60% of in-store sales are influenced by digital channels beforehand.” In order to bridge the gap between online and in-store, Lowe’s has implemented several app-only features. Lost in the store? No problem – you can use the app to find any item in-store. Have a question? There’s a ‘text us’ feature. Don’t have a measuring tape on hand? The app has a Measurement Moments feature which leverages Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Aside from their consumer facing app, Lowe’s is also leveraging Associate Apps to improve in-store customer service. This technology empowers associates to offer a better in-store experience by utilizing Mobile POS, updated in-store inventory and even pulling up a customer’s saved to-do lists with their unique bar code identifier.
Poshmark: Poshmark’s average active user opens the retail marketplace’s app 7-9 times and spends 20-25 minutes in-app per day – 10x the industry average. CEO Manish Chandra attributes Poshmark’s mobile success to the following four factors:
With over 25 million items for sale from more than 5,000 brands and a community that curates over 10 million items daily, every time a customer visits the app, they see something new.
There’s a massive network being created to grow the resale clothing business. New sellers are motivated to grow their Poshmark following and make money.
Poshmark has created a social styling experience with seller stylists. These stylists will curate a personalized look and send it back to the customer in a virtual dressing room.
Posh Parties are virtual shopping parties that delight customers through personal interactions.
Delighting Customers Through Personal Interactions
Key takeaway: Experiences become more powerful when we connect them to create seamless client journeys across channels.
Sephora: “Help clients find the right products for them through personalized tools and shopping experiences across channels.” This is Sephora’s strategy, influenced by three key trends:
45% of customers expect brands to customize products and experiences to fit their personal needs.
Authority is shifting from magazines and influencers to the voice of the consumer. Clients are looking to peers for advice and validation.
56% of beauty consumers “prefer to spend money on experiences rather than material items.”
According to Mary Beth Laughton, EVP, Omni-Retail, mobile is the ultimate connector for the Sephora brand and a huge part of their overall company strategy. Of its customers, Laughton said, “we need to give her a compelling reason to bring out her app.” With shoppers coming to the app 5-6 times per month, Sephora must continue to innovate, and it has done so with four highly successful examples of personalized omni-experiences: Sephora Virtual Artists, Beauty Insider Community, Store Companion and Digital Guides.
Laughton’s tips for success:
Use personal and relevant messages based on clients’ behavior and lifecycle.
When the client is close to a store, leverage geo-fence push. The push should always offer personalized samples similar to something in the customer’s basket or make mention of a class available in store (Sephora’s Success: Post push, 50% of recipients come in the same day to shop).
To truly deliver personalized experiences, put the customer at the center of your decisions.
Bring your customer experience to life across all channels – a large percentage of Sephora’s customers try at home (leveraging the app’s Virtual Artist feature) and buy in store.
Give your customers a platform where they can connect with each other, find inspiration, ask questions and get recommendations.
Omnichannel and Seamless Customer Experiences
Key takeaway: Loyalty programs are a great way to collect customer data.
According to Eric Messerschmidt, SVP Strategic Marketing, CRM and Loyalty, Ulta, loyalty provides tremendous opportunity as the value exchange for data is priceless. In fact, 90% of Ulta’s sales are from loyalty members.
Physical Retail Concepts from Digitally Native Brands
Key takeaway: It’s not about one channel, it’s about where the customer is.
M.Gemi: Ben Fischman, Founder and CEO, M.Gemi said, “We believe the customer is on mobile but the physical in-store experience is another very important touch point.” Fischman believes that physical experiences are all about fit, for customers that want to try on. In M.Gemi’s case, the brand sees physical visits as an opportunity to gather data while the customer is in-store. Their associates will implicitly gather info like shoe color preference or whether a product is too narrow or too wide. This approach has led 80% of M.Gemi’s shoppers to be repeat customers.
Away: The future of stores is all about creating an emotional experience. Although Away only sells one product (a suitcase), they’ve seen monumental growth and success both online and in their four store locations. Away’s Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer, Jen Rubio believes that stores add value to a brand that they can’t offer online. And she’s right! Especially because she understands that her consumer loves a brand narrative and has purposely designed Away’s store to be “very Instagrammable.” A brand after my own Instagram obsessed heart!
Keynote: Connection Powered Commerce
Key takeaway: Your customer is looking to a community of others for advice and validation.
Glossier: Glossier’s Founder & CEO, Emily Weiss is a real inspiration and true girl boss. With over 1M Instagram followers, the beauty brand has built its empire by empowering customers to share their experiences. If there’s only one thing I took away from Emily’s keynote, it’s that people (myself included) are looking to other people for advice. Additionally, when I feel excited about something, I want to share that feeling with others. This is exactly what the future of retail is all about – building a community and giving customers a voice.
New and Innovative Technologies
Fashwell: Whether you’re much of a shopper or not, Visual Search is the next phase of evolution for the search industry. Fashwell is the leading Visual Search provider in the fashion and furniture eCommerce verticals. Unlike other Visual Search providers, their technology is able to detect multiple products in an image and doesn’t require cropping.
Voysis: I’m a huge fan of any technology related to Voice Artificial Intelligence. After all, Alexa has pretty much become my best friend. Voysis’ Voice AI platform offers a complete set of speech and deep learning technologies. What exactly does that mean? Their technology converts your database into an artificial intelligence that your customers can talk to – while also understanding the specifics of your products, services and vocabulary.
A new search, "I'm looking for men's running shoes in black."
A refinement of that search, "Show me red and blue ones too."
Radius8: Radius8 is doing big things in the localization space. Whether you’ve considered it or not, local experiences are the next big thing in today’s hyper-competitive retail market. Radius8 has three solutions; the two most popular being local-influenced e-commerce (Smartbars) and shop the local store online (pre-shopping experience). Smartbars leverage local signals like weather, events and social trends to create locally relevant experiences. Its shop the local store online functionality allows each of your brick and mortar locations to dynamically merchandise based on what’s happening in-store. This allows customers to shop a store-first experience from anywhere.
Shoptalk solidified that the line between physical and digital in retail continues to blur. Brands are surely mistaken if they believe in choosing one over the other. Just remember, your customers are expecting a curated, customized shopping experience no matter the channel.