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February 11th, 2016

The Connected Consumer: NRF Retail’s Big Show 2016 Recap

With over 34,000 attendees, 300 speakers, 150 educational sessions and 580 exhibitors, the 105th NRF Retail’s BIG Show in New York City last month was bustling with the latest and greatest trends, technology and innovations within the industry today. Retailers from all over the world were eager to learn and find the best ways to implement solutions, technologies and strategies into their own businesses, in order to keep on top of a rapidly changing marketplace.

If one thing was apparent it was that the retail industry as we know it is in the midst of a huge transformation. With consumers now expecting more from their retail experience, whether it’s in the store, online or on their smartphone, it’s no surprise that the biggest buzzword we heard this year was ‘omni-channel’. It seemed to be on nearly every sign, session title and booth backdrop. As part of the omni-channel conversation, many of the presentations and discussions we heard at the Big Show, centered on creating new and relevant experiences in stores in order to better engage, connect and convert consumers.

Even in this digital era where consumers are engaging in multiple channels throughout their journey, it is encouraging to know that retailers with brick-and-mortar stores, who successfully engage customers well in-store, sell more on their websites vs. pure online players. This also tells us that physical stores still play a big role in the whole omni-channel ecosystem. However, when it comes to running an omni-channel business, there is still a lot to consider and most still don’t have it all figured out quite yet (at least not if you ask the consumers). So we’ve compiled a few key takeaways from our own research and some we picked up during our week in the Big Apple, to help you get started on navigating through your customer experience.

1. Map the Customer Journey

The goal is to get to a single view of customers across devices and channels. You want to look at their path to purchase, what are their greatest challenges, and where are your greatest opportunities? Start with a proof of concept on one brand or one customer segment where the opportunity is the greatest and there are low barriers. Look at who your most loyal customers are, their shopping behaviors, visiting patterns, engagement and what drives their behaviors.

Be aware that understanding cross-channel journeys may be difficult as fragmented data may reside in various data silos. Every retailer struggles with legacy systems, omni-channel roadmaps, etc. If you want to deliver a compelling customer experience, you have to understand these constraints, but not allow them to become a complete roadblock. With this understanding, you can figure out what to invest in today and prioritize on low hanging fruit.

2. Target a Single Customer Across Multiple Channels

Multichannel customers tend to spend 3 to 4 times more than single channel customers, so it’s important to invest in them. Once you know who your most loyal customers are and their purchase behaviors based on the customer journey, you can target shoppers more effectively depending on where they are in their journey, engagement preferences, where and when they are more likely to convert.

Creating a consistent customer experience across your channels is crucial. Consumers experience your brand as a whole, whether their exchanges with you are online, in a store, on an app, on their phone, or some combination of these. The question to ask is: what value is there in a positive online experience if a customer’s in-store experience is negative? In our survey of smartphone owners, 70% of participants viewed the online shopping experience better than in-store. Consumers are increasingly more comfortable with technology, and they have a real desire to do research on their own before they buy — in any channel. If you work each channel as a separate unit, you run the risk of turning customers away from you if you can’t provide consistency.

3. Create an Experience Worth Talking About

Mobile technology and the connected consumer are here to stay. That was very apparent in everything we saw and heard at the Big Show. Creating a seamless, end-to-end customer experience, by leveraging the convenience of brick-and-mortar stores with control of digital is the best bet for converting the maximum number of sales, building sustainable customer engagement and loyalty, and generating more opportunities to cross-sell. The more channels a customer is engaged in, the more loyal the customer.

From what we have found in our research, the consumer’s mobile device is the most underutilized technology in every brick and mortar store. Across segments, shoppers have shown strong interest in mobile in-store experiences. They want control and convenience in-store in the same way they have outside the store.

One good example is Target. Their app allows customers to create shopping lists, alerts them if the item is out of stock in their local store or only available online, and then maps out where the items can be found in the local store and highlights the most efficient route. The Target app also provides a plethora of information about things like product inventory to help shoppers on their path to purchase.

Another fun example is Rebecca Minkoff. You can expect to see connected walls and interactive fitting rooms at the fashion brand’s NYC flagship store. On the showroom floor, a mirrored display lets shoppers watch videos from the runway, browse clothing and accessories, request items to a fitting room, and enter their phone number to download the mobile app. Once inside the fitting room, shoppers can change the lighting (because we all know that is the key to liking how something looks), scan clothing tags to receive recommendations, contact a staff member, and check out through a mobile device. Now that is something worth talking about and an experience to remember.

In Summary

Beyond the buzzword, the future of retail will be best captured by the organizations that put customer-centricity at the center of their business and continue to serve the customer demands of “anything, anytime, anywhere, anyhow.” Retailers today need to be more agile and adopt a continuous improvement methodology while working to achieve a consistent omni-channel customer experience. Overall, we saw that 2016 will be a year of transformation and we are excited to see what it has in store for all of us, as businesses and consumers.

If you would like to learn more about our retail research, please contact us.

Tags: ecommerce events Mobility Strategy omni-channel

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