At the end of February, 24 Seven welcomed an incredible panel of speakers to our NYC HQ to discuss the changes happening in the retail industry as part of our Techfluence Event Series. Panelists included Rachel Kraus, VP of Marketing at Westfield WTC, Andrew Deitchman, Co-Founder and CEO of The New Stand and former CEO of Mother NY, Neeta Singh, Chief Operating Officer of Activant Capital, and Ron Thurston, Vice President of Retail Stores & Operations at INTERMIX. We discussed all aspects of the retail experience including competing with your customer’s couch, how technology is altering customer needs, and the future of retail.
How Amazon Changed Everything
Our topic for the evening was the “New Retail Format,” so our speakers opened with a discussion of online commerce and retail and how critical it is to create a similar experience for both.
Neeta Singh brought up Amazon noting, “At the end of the day, Amazon has changed customer’s expectations. Customers love shopping, but want to have a better experience, and from my perspective, one of the most difficult things for an incumbent retailer to provide that experience is the technology infrastructure.”
Ever since Amazon introduced Prime, consumer expectations have skyrocketed, which has created a need for companies to match and cater to what their consumer wants. Customers love to shop, but crave a better experience, which is where new technology infrastructures are coming into play. Rachel Kraus continued on this topic, discussing that it’s not only about quick deliveries, but that in-store technologies will be able to shorten the distance between the retail chain of events, and truly compete with your couch. Stores are now able to build back-end infrastructures to create a more cohesive customer experience, including real time solutions for customers while in the store like inventory feeds.
When discussing the thought process behind these real time solutions, Ron Thurston explained that at Intermix they consider “everything from the consumer point of view and the store point of view. So the talent you hire, train, and put in stores has to equal [the customer’s] expectations when [they] come into the store. So the effort that we put in on the backend of people is where the technology wins, because if the store teams aren’t engaged, excited, find it useful, find it easy to use, find it building business, then the store teams drop their use of the technologies because it’s not user friendly… it’s really about having people in stores that put the customer first and then technology supports the experience.”
Having extraordinary talent that utilize the in-store technologies is not easy to come by, though. Ron continued to explain that, “It takes an extraordinary amount of work. It’s not easy [to find good talent.] People don’t just drop out of the sky and are really good at their job, It takes incredible amounts of effort and marketing and kind of a PR part of your organization to attract the best people and creating a culture of a place where people really want to work, because if they love what they do, you’re so much better customer facing.”
So, how do you build something people will come to? The New Stand offered a great perspective on this, as their stores are built into spaces where the people already are. Their storefronts in the metro stops and on ferries allow for easy commuter access to improve your daily life. Bonobos created a retail format to bring people off of their couch and into their store with their unique try-on store locations because “guys were coming into the office to touch and feel the clothes before placing an e-Comm order… and that turned into what today is the guide shop”, Thurston noted. The inspiration for the Bonobos Guideshop came from early Apple retail, with a focus on education leading into purchase. Bonobos’ showroom locations allow the customers to see the clothes in person, try them on, learn about fit and styling. But how do you bring all of these advancements into one environment? If you curate the public space with different activations and experiences, you will create FOMO. Yes, this is no longer just a saying, but now a marketing strategy. Rachel Kraus explained how they use this strategy at Westfield, “Nothing replaces high touch human experiences. It’s what all of us crave, that’s what relationships are about, that’s what fuels the human spirit… so it’s all about creating this sense of fear of missing out and being on top of people’s minds and their radars.”
What Does The Customer Really Want?
Aside from technology and an incredible event, at the end of the day, people crave relationships, and it is important to remember that when creating these new retail formats. For The New Stand, “it’s about day improvement, it’s what we focus on…but really it’s about how do we engage with those people and how do we uplift their day not just by having the essentials but also using those spaces to introduce them to new products.” One main reason customers still get off their couch and into the store is because of their relationship with a brand or the people who work there. This idea of spending money on products, experiences, and services is all blending together, and top retailers are providing the opportunity to purchase, while also having great customer service. We all know that feeling of going into a store and wanting to either be treated like royalty, or not spoken to, so logistics will come into play and truly allow for a tailored customer experience.
As mentioned above, attracting the right talent for your customer base is hard work, but pays off in the long run. Are you looking to update your current retail format? Check out our top talent for all your retail needs and watch the event highlights here! And be sure to stay up to date with our upcoming Techfluence events!