As consumers continue to expect faster, convenient service in all channels, the retail industry has inevitably gravitated further towards next-gen technologies. That means the roles of many C-level executives must shift, with more tech-savvy change agents required to understand the new developments and help retailers adapt.
A panel discussion during the 2017 Retail Innovation Conference, held May 8-10 in New York City, featured three entrepreneurs with backgrounds from both retail and technology. They discussed the changes they have had to instill within their own culture, logistics and various channel sales strategies to continue staying ahead of the industry.
The panel, moderated by Retail TouchPoints Content Strategist Alicia Esposito, included:
Rathna Sharad, CEO and Founder of runway2street and FlavorCloud;
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co-Founder of Fitz, GLAMSQUAD and Gilt; and
Ryan Craver, Chief Digital Officer of Lamour and Founder of Commerce Canal.
Wilson noted that achieving a good technology balance requires more than just getting top execs to buy in to the adoption of certain platforms. Industry disruption requires an organization-wide understanding of how newer technologies can help them at every level of the business.
“Our customer service is 8 am to 10 pm, but we’re seven days a week so being on Slack on the weekends to handle all kinds of crazy customer requests can be really important,” Wilson said. “I’d rather hire someone who’s incredibly bright and can problem solve, that on paper might not have the exact domain or functional expertise of the job requirement, but will show many examples of achievement elsewhere.”
Craver noted that the change in spending habits to off-price, home improvement and health has created a race to the bottom for major apparel brands, enabling smaller startups to leverage technology to set themselves up for success.
“The ability for a brand to open up a Shopify site tomorrow, or start drop shipping for Amazon’s, Walmart’s or Jet’s marketplace has never been easier,” Craver said. “We can all start a brand tomorrow, if we wanted to, and call it whatever we want. That has changed a lot of retailers in the way they do business. They continue to see declining store traffic and see shipping/fulfilling costs and dot-com orders going up, and all the brands they are carrying open their own stores.”
The panelists agreed that logistics presents a major barrier for these tech-driven smaller brands, giving them more incentive to sell on marketplaces. But the next great opportunity for these retailers is cross-border commerce, meaning that these companies must evolve beyond a reliance on marketplace sales, according to Sharad.
“International used to be 10% of traffic to any web site,” Sharad said during the panel. “Now, it’s about 40%-50%, so what are you doing about that percentage? Does that translate to conversions? And more importantly, does the experience create stickiness where customers are willing to come back? That requires seamless shipping and returns, yet that’s still not happening often.”