3 Key Takeaways from Shoptalk 2019

Physical retail drives impact – when well executed

Despite the constant ‘retail apocalypse’ headlines, a number of traditional retailers and digitally native brands alike spoke of the important role a physical experience plays in driving sales. Barney’s President & CEO, Danielle Vitale, noted that their customers who shop both online and in-store spends 30% more than those who use only one channel. However, she along with the rest of the speakers were quick to qualify that simply having ‘stores’ is not enough, the experience must deliver something customers cannot get online. Barney’s is approaching this challenge by thinking of themselves as ‘publisher’ versus a retailer, constantly creating new channel-agnostic content for guests to engage with. In another take on the same idea, Ryan Babenzien, Founder & CEO of premium sneaker brand GREATS, described their retail philosophy as leveraging the physical world to create a “cultural hub” where people can enjoy a moment of human connection over a common interest. He added that at GREATS the role of an associate is to educate instead of sell, yet he believes stores need to profitable, not just “marketing fluff” – as is the case for many digitally-native brands first foray into physical retail.

Is your brand delivering a differentiated and compelling physical experience that leaves the customer wondering what they will see during their next visit?

Innovation is not just a flash in the pan

In a world where we can swipe up, down, left or right and discover something new, it is no wonder why ‘innovation’ was a buzzword throughout Shoptalk. A quick trip around the Expo floor would lead you to the latest whiz-bang data-collecting technology, but Jocelyn Wong, CMO at Lowe’s, smartly warned that it’s not about finding a shiny new penny. Innovation is not a “vanity project”, but rather should drive the brand forward, disrupt the category, better serve the customer, or all of the above. Tuft & Needle’s Co-Founder & CEO, JT Marino, bluntly explained his company’s first step toward innovation within a stale category – create a “hate list” of everything that was terrible about shopping for a mattress and then work to correct those points. In regard to innovation projects at Hudson’s Bay Co., CEO Helena Foulkes shared that she pushes her team to “fail fast” because if they aren’t having failures when testing a new idea then they aren’t pushing far enough.

Are the projects in your innovation pipeline pushing far enough to drive meaningful change?

Retail must respond to evolved behaviors

Customers are becoming increasingly diverse and their high expectations are ever-changing. A reoccurring topic at Shoptalk was about developing next-gen retail experiences to respond to these evolved behaviors. Glamsquad, an in-home, hotel, office, even Shoptalk’s Expo floor, beauty platform is one such example. Amy Schecter, the start-up’s CEO, stated that her team believes their “retail store” is wherever they are servicing their clients. They capitalize on these variety of retail engagements by treating them as micro-labs for product development, learning and adapting alongside their clients. Creating an entirely new company isn’t the only way to succeed. For example, one of Crate & Barrel’s approaches to respond to evolving customer behaviors is to develop thoughtful partnerships. Neela Montgomery, Crate & Barrel’s CEO, discussed their strategy to partner with Fernish, a furniture subscription service, to access a new generation of customers who tend to move frequently, but still have a desire to fill their home with nice furniture and décor accents.

Do you know how consumer behavior is evolving in your category and how it will impact your business? How are you adjusting your business to leverage new behaviors for growth?