Shoptalk 2018, Distilled Into 16 Quick Quotes From Retail Leaders

The speakers at Shoptalk 2018 represented a “who’s who” of industry leaders from retailers including Amazon, Target, ULTA Beauty, Poshmark, Tapestry, Mizzen+Main, Macy’s, Pizza Hut, Sephora, Google and Nordstrom. Retail TouchPoints Editor-in-Chief Debbie Hauss and Executive Editor Adam Blair have gathered 16 of the sharpest quotes to provide a quick tour through the 100+ presentations.

“We broke down the journey and identified what was and wasn’t working.” — Jeff Gennette, Chairman and CEO, Macy’s

Gennette talked about “tough times” for the retailer in 2015 and 2016 before telling the story of the company’s transformation in progress. Macy’s will be redesigning the site and app in 2018. The brand also is “editing to reduce the sea of sameness” in the stores. The brand will spend more time going live on Instagram Stories and is offering beauty advisors as micro-influencers via #MacysBeauty.


“Our guests had decided for us – their expectations changed; technology was the accelerant.” — Brian Cornell, CEO, Target

Today, the “Target Run” is easier than ever, according to Cornell. It is “completely done on our guests’ terms.” Shoppers can order online and drive up to have their orders delivered to their car trunks within two minutes; or they can skip the trip by ordering online and getting deliveries to their homes. To improve the in-store experience, Target associates are receiving higher pay and more working hours.

“At Shipt, the same person that’s picking your avocados and selecting your eggs is the one showing up at your door. That’s what members love about Shipt.” — Bill Smith, Founder and CEO, Shipt

Smith, presenting a keynote with Target CEO Brian Cornell, revealed how Shipt has been able to scale up to 50,000 shoppers while maintaining customer loyalty. Shipt was acquired by Target in December 2017. “These are moms shopping for other moms.”

“Think like a butler, not like an advertiser.” — Rudy Anggono, Creative Director, Google

It’s all about knowing when to intervene at the right moment to deliver a seamless experience. “We have noticed a shift in consumer behavior in the past few years, from ‘tell me where to find an item’ to ‘help me figure out what to buy.’” In a recent promotion, Google transformed a Valentine’s Day ad to make it more advice-oriented. The new ad read, “Today is Feb. 14. Guys, DO NOT FORGET. Get her something nice. 50% off.” The old ad read, “50% off – Special Valentine’s Day Sale.”

“With our voice app, we still need to evolve our conversation flow. We might even bring in comedy writers to help us determine what Panera Bread’s personality is in voice.” Mark Berinato, VP, Digital Experience, Panera Bread

Panera Bread already has had success with voice ordering: “The app, which leverages Google Assistant, is very fast,” said Berinato. “We can cut order times down by 80% compared to ordering on our mobile app or web site. Voice is a powerful way to add speed.”

“We didn’t realize how many people would stop at the end of the Amazon Go shopping experience and ask, ‘Is it OK just to leave?’ We wrote over the exit, ‘You’re good to go.’” — Gianna Puerini, VP, Amazon Go, Amazon

Because the behavior of stopping at a checkout before leaving a store is something “we’ve done all our lives,” first-time visitors to the newly opened Amazon Go store were uncertain that they could literally just walk out. “But we’ve been delighted by the customer response, because the store is very geared to people who are hungry and are in a rush,” said Puerini.

“If you show a child a can of Coke once or twice, it’s easy for them to identify it. But computers, while they can recognize items in general, don’t have the inbuilt knowledge that humans have.” — Dilip Kumar, VP of Technology, Amazon Go and Amazon Books, Amazon

Amazon is “still trying to solve” some of the computer vision challenges of the Amazon Go store, said Kumar: “It’s a deep learning issue — how to teach computers to recognize items or activities where very little information is available.”

“Quick and Dirty.” — Dana Randall, Head of Innovation, Tapestry

That’s the description of how Randall approaches new technology implementations, especially when the Board or other key stakeholders are hesitant to commit. “Make a smaller investment to test: learn what you need to learn; validate what you need to validate” in order to gain confidence across the organization.

“A lot of brands look at wholesale as just another sales channel, but we look at it as an extension of us.” — Kevin Lavelle, CEO, Mizzen+Main

A digitally native brand producing performance fabric dress shirts, Mizzen+Main has developed strong partnerships with retailers and wholesalers. Recently, the brand quickly moved from a two-door test at Nordstrom to 80 doors, and the brand is now sold in all Nordstrom stores. “We regularly prioritize shipments to wholesale partners versus our own online business. That commitment is how we’ve been able to grow to sell in 500 stores. We are agnostic to where our customers are buying.”

“Pizza Hut customers “want it now and hot; and mistakes are not an option.” — Helen Vaid, Chief Customer Officer, Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut has uncovered “13 moments of truth” that define the customer journey. To deliver an exceptional experience during every moment, the company is focusing on seamlessly connecting the dots end-to-end. The Pizza Hut digital team, based in London, is empowered to try new strategies in real time without testing first.

“Taking channel out of the equation.” — Mary Beth Laughton, EVP, Omni-Retail, Sephora

Helping to define a new way to do business, Laughton’s role recently was transformed to ‘Omnichannel.’ “It has been a huge unlock for our organization. We have a team focused on omnichannel experiences, so we don’t fall back into channel silos.” With an omnichannel customer experience as the goal, Sephora has launched a number of initiatives, including: Sephora Virtual Assistant, Beauty Insider Community, Store Companion and Digital Guide.

“Invest to innovate,” and “Fund with efficiencies.” — Mary Dillon, CEO, ULTA Beauty

ULTA is testing a partnership with Facebook designed to help connect the shopping journey between the social channel and the stores. The retailer also is working with Spruce Labs to enable easier service check-in and help salon professionals better manage their schedules. “We center everything we do on our guests and associates.”

“Fashion mall for the social media generation.” — Manish Chandra, CEO, Poshmark

Taking advantage of the fact that the average person engages with their smartphone 80 times per day, Poshmark has more than 25 million items for sale from 5,000 brands on any given day. Approximately three million “seller stylists” curate product assortments on the platform and build communities of like-minded shoppers. Live daily Posh Parties, held in cities across the U.S., augment the excitement of the social commerce marketplace.

“Focusing less on one visit and more on engagement.” — Ken Worzel, President,

To further cement long-term loyalty with its customers, Nordstrom is focusing on experiences and different types of services. Nordstrom Local, a pilot project in Los Angeles, is a small space for the retailer, just 3,000 square feet. No products are sold in the space, but it offers services, including alterations and styling. Nordstrom also is working to engage shoppers via community and collaborations with industry influencers.

“Our brick-and-mortar retail stores are a bit of a Trojan Horse, because every part of the fit process there is about gathering data.” — Ben Fischman, Founder and CEO, M.Gemi

“If we can implicitly gather information [about customers], it makes digital onboarding that much better,” said Fischman. M.Gemi, which began as an online-only Italian shoe retailer that introduces a new style every Monday morning, has opened a variety of brick-and-mortar store types and sizes. Fischman believes a big part of their value is in gathering in-person customer data, and the numbers bear him out: “80% of people that buy in our physical stores repeat in digital.”

“How difficult is it to get a 360-degree view of the customer? If one is flipping on a light switch and 10 is putting a woman in Mars, it’s a seven or eight.” — Eric Messerschmidt, SVP Strategic Marketing, CRM and Loyalty, ULTA Beauty

Messerschmidt believes personalization and omnichannel must go hand in hand: “I don’t know how you can drive personalization initiatives and not think omnichannel. All the customer journey stages — awareness, consideration, purchasing, fulfillment, post-purchase, customer service — have to be part of your thinking.”

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