At the inaugural Toshiba RISE – Retail Innovation & Shopper Expertise – Symposium, business and industry leaders gathered to celebrate inspirational women in digital and retail technology.
Brands have to evolve from short-term, legacy thinking and take bold steps to bridge the gap between physical and digital worlds to connect with today’s customers.
This was the consensus of the one-day symposium on January 16, 2016, in New York City that focused on the challenges facing the retail industry and the wave of rapid advances across technologies that are changing all aspects of the shopper experience. The research, tips, insights and jokes flew through the air and landed in the ears of marketers and retail experts, as well as Toshiba representatives visiting from Japan. The discussions and noteworthy female keynote speakers were relevant, thought provoking and sharp – it was all one could do not to marvel at the brilliant minds (women and men, of course) gathered together in one room.
The following panel sessions and fireside chats spanned various topics, and turned into healthy, sometimes lively, conversations, each of which could’ve carried on much longer than the time allowed:
- Bridging the Gap Between Digital and Physical Worlds for Consumer Connection
- Inside the C-Suite: A look behind the curtain at current business challenges and decision making processes
- Post Holiday 2015 Retail Recap, Asia and 2016 Retail Outlook
- How Data and Communications are the Real Drivers Behind Successful Innovation and Customer Experience
- At the Intersection of Health, Wellness and Shopper Experience
- Disruptors and How They Are Shaping the Future of Retail
- Female Founders Starting Up
- Good Business is Doing Good
Here’s what we learned and our top key takeaways from the day:
The new currency is data.
- Collect customer data and preferences and act on customers’ purchase history to tailor shopping experiences over time. Allow shoppers to quickly discover and buy products anywhere they encounter them.
- There are lots of silos in traditional retailing – share the data and close the loop to include operations to make the retail execution work.
- Watch out: One person may behave differently depending on mission. We don’t want to get so prescriptive that we’re denying the customer an authentic experience (i.e., don’t put them in a box with predictive analytics).
Personalize the retail experience.
- Smartphones are equalizers for emerging and established brands to disrupt the market. Connect with the customer on an emotional level and add value so it’s more than a superficial offering. But sometimes we get blinded by the shiny tools around us – take a deep breath, stay calm and focus on the customer.
- Let’s not forget the importance of sales staff, a.k.a. the frontlines of your brand. If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers. Build loyalty and passion within your company by enabling one-on-one relationships between customers and staff and provide selling tools that empower staff to act on the preferences of shoppers to deliver more personalized service and experiences.
- Most Americans are single, and they’re changing the economy. For the first time in U.S. history, over 50% of the population is single.
- Sharon Love, CEO of TPN, enlightened the room, referring to the “single American” demographic as a new opportunity, appealing to an untapped buying power. Being a single consumer means more spending in self-rewarding categories; celebrating, shopping, going out and staying home (think Oprah and less Bridget Jones).
- Marketing should reflect the changing dynamic of the modern American family; i.e., single parents, same-sex parents and families of friends (e.g., Sprint’s “Framily” campaign).
How can we drive future innovation?
- Don’t let legacy thinking and processes hold you back. Completely rethink the problem to drive real innovation rather than incremental improvements.
- Create diverse teams. Keynote speaker Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, had an “a-ha” life moment: The power of diversity is diversity. Based on her extensive experience working on Wall Street, Sallie shared the benefits of breaking free frm a group think mentality and building strong teams through diversity of thought, personality, gender, age, etc.
- The balance between bricks and clicks. Customers want frictionless experiences, from mobile to in-store to online to everything-in-between. Traditionally, the shopper journey to purchase is linear; however, today’s customer no longer goes shopping – they are always shopping.
At the end of the day, we left feeling full to the brim with inspiring information and excited by all of the intelligent, insightful female voices we got to hear from. Whether in-store or on-line, retail continues to be an exciting, personal, effective frontier by which we can engage with consumers.
For more on the “New Independents,” check out: