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National Retail Federation Big Show 2014 Day One Recap: Experience is everything

NRF Big Show 2014

Today marked the first day of the 103rd annual National Retail Federation Big Show 2014 where Ogilvy is launching its own commerce division: Commerce@Ogilvy. According to Brian Fetherstonhaugh, Chairman & CEO of OgilvyOne Worldwide, this practice was launched to propel Ogilvy into this new age of selling and help our clients navigate this fast-approaching future. Their mission: design consumer-centric shopping experiences for brands across multiple channels anywhere, anytime, including social.

So we had team members including director of eCommerce Lara O’Shea, Martin Girdlestone, Jyoti Patel, Rob Urquhart, and Giulia Callegari, covering today’s top sessions at the NRF. Some of the nations biggest retailers were on hand to outline what their focus is for 2014 and beyond across social, mobile, and online and off.

1) Reimagining Main Street – How Brick and Mortar retail will thrive in the 21st century

Rick Caruso, Founder and CEO of Caruso Affiliated, runs luxury outdoor retail spaces like The Grove, so though his session talked about the death of the traditional mall, he focused mainly on the role of brick and mortar establishments.

According to Caruso, within 10-15 years the typical US mall, unless reinvented, will no longer meet the public or community needs. It’s outlived its usefulness. But as the rate of loneliness in the US has doubled in less than 30/40 years, people are looking for more human interaction. So it’s all about retail companies creating an experience that is magical and memorable. Just let Kris Kringle in the film ‘Miracle on 34th street’ be your inspiration.

The customer shops with retailers because of the experience, which relates to community and service. Hospitality needs to be front and centre and the store is the physical embodiment of who they are.

Retailers should expand this vision to reflect the same experience no matter what touchpoint their customers find them on. Caruso did focus directly on physical stores, the theories behind continuous commerce show that digital, mobile and social should mirror the experiences in store and feed into a customer’s overall experience with a brand.

2) The Power Couple: Loyalty and Mobile

Just as experience in store is important to win over customers, loyalty is ultimately what retailers are looking for. This is about winning hearts, minds and share of the customer’s wallet. But when looking to reward loyalty, “don’t think about the customer being loyal to you, think about them rewarding themselves,” says Sandi Riffle of Century 21.

Retailers need to look at ways to optimize and maximize the combination of mobility and loyalty. As highlighted by IDC Retail Insights’ Leslie Hand, “during peak, retailers witnessed 15-30% of commerce transactions were through mobile.” By creating engagement through mobile and across channels, you can drive continuous engagement through loyalty. As Amy Chu of Sears stressed, recommendations should always be omnichannel as a customer who is Omnichannel is more valuable.

When thinking about interactions with a customer, thinking about what they don’t want can make it easier to focus on things they do want. By including a mobile and social experience, you can ensure you don’t serve everybody the same way. According to Johnna Marcus from Sephora, you need to “tier your levels of customer and offer perks to elite customer segments.”

3) Navigating Retail’s Relentless Reality: What CEOs are doing to thrive in a consumer-driven world.

When push comes to shove, CEOs are on the line when a retailer is in trouble or reap from its success. Forbes’ Chief Insight Officer lead a discussion with Footlocker’s CEO, Ken Hicks and Hamish Brewer, the CEO of JDA Software, to see what retailers have to do to be successful.

The next 10 years will deliver more change than the last 50, but according to a recent retail survey, many CEOs are locked in past strategies and not facing up to the key issues of today.

While online retail is the growth driver, it is also the margin killer. Profitable retailing will be achieved through strategies that deliver substantial change, break down silos and constantly evolve through testing and learning.

Differentiating on the entire customer experience is key to competing with the threat of Amazon. Making unique and exclusive store experiences gives the customer reason to come to you and come back often to stay current.

For the majority of retailers the 80:20 rule still holds true. Treating your best customers differently by segmenting your service across the entire experience including the services they get and the price they pay.

The axis has shifted – customers are now better informed than the staff in store. Shifting the role of the store from a sales point to a full service centre of marketing, education, sales, service, and returns needs new processes, training and technology.

4) Nordstrom’s CEO embraces an continuous commerce model

Blake Nordstrom

A power lunch hosted by Sue Carrera featured a panel of speakers but one stood out.

Blake Nordstrom, Nordstrom’s CEO, is the kind of leader needed in today’s retail market and reflects in his store experience. He understands both off and online challenges, and is open to changes. Nordstrom believes that stores can take a page from what is happening online.

The customer wants a rich experience across all channels, whether it’s in store or online. The challenge is integrating because the customer has choices. Whilst’s it’s clear what we need to do, the challenge is making it happen.

Talking on the issue of the UPS/Fedex issue at Christmas (Nordstrom uses UPS), the company shipped 300,000 packages on Dec 23rd, and a couple thousand didn’t make it in time. But the customer didn’t place their trust in UPS, it placed it in Nordstrom. It’s up to them to fix it. They need to make it work.

It’s not the 98%, it’s the 2% of packages that didn’t make it. Customers want to be associated with the values that relate to them. It is up to retailers to take care of the customer no matter where they are. It’s more about how your actions are associated with your values. This has to be more than marketing.