The 22nd edition of eTail West just concluded after a 3-day conference hosted at the fabulous JW Marriot in Palm Springs. The conference was extremely well attended, a sign of a progressive return to normalcy as the impact of the pandemic starts easing its effects. A lively crowd of professionals from the Retail industry and a well assorted selection of innovative partners animated the floor of the Expo and actively participated to the carefully curated panels and sessions.
Brenda Freeman CBO at Wunderkind, Chairman of the event, kicked off the sessions by providing a heartfelt perspective on the market context touching on recent trends observed in society affecting consumers nowadays.
Themes such as the impact of Covid on people’s purpose as testified by a recent Survey published by Accenture (2021 Consumer Pulse Survey) where over 50% of respondents answered that “the pandemic made me totally revise my personal purpose and what is important to me”, compounded by environmental concerns, economic uncertainty, recent geopolitical and society unrest are shaping the way consumers behave and seek for brands and retailers to fill a void left by their diminished trust in institutions.
The sessions and panels focused upon 4 key trends:
Agility to adapt
Understanding how the needs of consumers evolved and leveraging innovation and technology at an accelerated pace has been a key strategic asset for many of the most successful retailers in the last few years. The ability to recognize these trends and to re-adjust organizations and priorities around these dynamics has allowed players to thrive even in extremely challenging times.
As shared by Chris Rupp, EVP Chief Customer Officer & Digital Officer at Albertsons this has forged their new approach in evolving the way they service their customers. Home delivery and fast in store pickup services were enabled by entering in a partnership with Doordash and by redesigning their store associates in store product picking solution.
Working on both internal efficiency, catered around employees feedback, as well as understanding how to meet their customers’ needs, that had shifted towards a more convenient and safe approach to shopping while increasing dramatically the role of at home dining have proven to be critical to win their trust and loyalty.
Engagement & Loyalty
Cost of acquiring new customers continues to rise and innovative approaches, leveraging data driven decision processes, is becoming more and more of a priority to drive sustained growth. Best practices require to build meaningful experiences with customers right off the bat and to invest with intent to foster retention long term.
The most successful initiatives focus on a holistic customer relationship – building trust, driving engagement, and creating brand advocates. It’s about engaging with consumers across the entire journey with the brands they love.
Steve Morales, VP Marketing at NYDJ exemplified this aspect by sharing his experience leveraging the SMS communication channel with new and existing customers. Their investments in this space have unlocked a more personal and customized experience while collecting crucial information to profile their customers that has allowed NYDJ to build a deeper bond and connection.
Almost every retailer had to address the challenges posed by shutting down stores and the dramatic downturn in in-person traffic, almost two years later, it’s under everybody’s eyes that pro-actively redirecting efforts and investment towards digital touchpoints became a matter of survival.
Theresa Palermo, SVP Marketing & Connected Commerce at Signet Jewelers shared how her organization was able to pivot in order to meet their customers needs under a new paradigm that she expects will permeate their behavior long term.
The convenience of complementing the traditional physical experience with a digital journey that supports consultation and advice, allowed customers and sales associates to have a more flexible, intimate and contemporary selling ceremony, supported by virtual try on, both remotely and in person. Sales associates were trained to boost even further their story telling skills and were all equipped with tools to allow them to efficiently reach out to customers and to become ambassadors for the brand on social media.
Theresa Palermo also shared some of the more forward-looking trends, which are shaping Signet Jewelers long term strategy, when discussing about the role of Metaverse, that witnessed over 1 million virtual weddings in 2021, and the crossroads between Athlete endorsement and gaming.
The journey on unlocking opportunity through personalization continues to accelerate thanks to more deliberate strategies and investments, richer data, the evolution of the tools and technologies combined with analytical models powered by AI. The bar is rising, and consumers demand this more and more from the brands they love, while navigating the fine line between what can quickly become an invasive experience that might raise privacy concerns to which they are sensitive more than ever before.
Jacob Bradbury, Sr Director, Marketing Analytics provided great insights based on his experience at Lululemon on how the power of AI, that pervades extensively today’s marketecture has unlocked personalized experiences for their customers. The ability to manage some key trade-offs is critical to successfully develop a compelling strategic journey. In particular successful retailers should focus on balancing between available data and holistic data – investing in capabilities that allow to build a multi-channel customer profile, faster data vs. “better” data – developing advanced incremental attribution models and leaning into strategies revolving around customer lifetime value, automation vs. control – managing the ambition to maximize efficiency while ensuring that the proper circuit breakers and tolerance thresholds are in place.
Written by Michele Pesce, GRA