Recapping Day 2 of NRF 2015 with a look at the day’s biggest themes:
Millennials: The new kids on the block are driving the most meaningful changes in retail. This diverse, tech savvy, and educated group of people are expecting a whole different shopping experience than previous generations. The good news is that they are spenders. Luxury retailers have seen that they’ve gained traction with millennials recently by catering to their wants and needs. This has led to a focus on functional luxury, which could mark a sea change for luxury retailers and redefine what “luxury” is. In addition millennials are constantly using their mobile devices, so retailers have to be sure to create meaningful digital experiences.
The In-Control Customer: Customers like be in control, to be able to curate their experience to their wants and needs. Retailers are starting to tap into this behavior, and set themselves apart from the pack, by offering customization and curation. Ebeltoft’s just-released study on retail innovations highlighted successes like Trunk Club and Outfittery, which both allow customers to work personally with stylists to find clothing in a streamlined experience. Selfridge’s in the UK has opened it’s Fragrance Lab, where customers go to the store and walk out with a fully customized fragrance that is unique to their tastes.
Always Connected: Customization and curation can also go digital, an example of the ever-evolving omnichannel experience that retailers seek to provide. It’s crucial that customers always feel connected to the brand, regardless of whether or not they’re physically inside the store. Retailers need to make sure they provide a consistent cross-channel experience. Cole Haan is providing instant inventory so customers know what to expect when they enter the store. Alison Corcoran of Staples noted how important it is that in-store associates are in tune with the brand’s digital offerings, so that the customer journey is as seamless as possible.
The Two-Way Journey: Adrian Stanbury, Chief Technology Officer at Wm Morrison Supermarkets said it bluntly: “Getting to know the customer is key.” That seems obvious, but when many brands and retailers think they’re getting to know their customers, they’re actually only learning what a customer does. There’s a difference. New data technologies are helping retailers learn more about their customers. Disney introduced its Magic Band, a wearable that customers can use as their park ticket, to pay for meals, etc. It also gives the retailer a wealth of information about the journeys of its customers. As long as brands provide an excellent value in exchange for their customers’ data, the customer is likely to be a willing participant.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail: Retailers should be at the forefront of innovation, not responders to it. Of course, with that comes risk. Ryan Craver of Lord and Taylor believes startups should be commended for their willingness to try new things. And Daniel Hodges, CEE of Consumers in Motion, thinks retailers should do perhaps the reverse of what they’ve been taught for so long: they should set up stores with innovative features, experiences, and environments, and let the kinks work themselves out. “Nobody has the answer, so take part in innovation,” he urged.