NRF17 Sessions: The Challenge Of Customer Engagement

Attendees heard from top retailers and experts who shared the secrets of combining the uniqueness of a brand with data, analysis and superior customer-first experiences. 

The DNA Of The Digital Native Audience

Lee Peterson, EVP, Brand, Strategy and Design for WD Partners discussed the seismic change in consumer behavior that is being driven by the digital native. These people don’t know of a world without the Internet, Amazon, eBay, or Google, and are open to anything the future may have to offer. “People don’t have to go to stores, they have to want to go to stores,”said Peterson. It is up to retailers to be constantly open to change. 

Key takeaways:


  • 51% of digital natives use mobile devices to make purchases, while only 15% of digital immigrants do so;
  • 57% of digital natives prefer mobile self-checkout while 33% of digital immigrants do so; and
  • 76% of digital natives say they are definitely or somewhat “addicted” to digital devices, compared to 39% of digital immigrants.

Brand Devotion Index: The Three Characteristics Of The Most Loved Brands

Bruce Cohen from Kurt Salmon and Ryan Watchorn, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer for Cabela’s, discussed how the best brands have deep connections with consumers. Shoppers want to buy what they desire and trust. The proliferation of marketing and sales channels has made it harder to nurture that bond of desire and trust, but if you can reach those loyal customers, you are in a for a great ride. In fact, brand devoted customers spend 50% more than non-devoted shoppers. The three drivers to achieve high marks in brand devotion are:

  • Brands must be authentic. The brand has to be distinct, with a strong position of what it stands for; integrity. No compromise to make a sale;
  • The brand must be personal: This is not about monogramming; it’s about making the consumer feel the brand was made for her, that it helps her achieve her goals and makes her feel special; and
  • There must be a tribal feeling: Consumers want to be with other people who have the same devotion to the brand. It’s like there is a secret handshake amongst its members.

Driving Retail Transformation: How Data And Smart, Connected Technology Deliver Amazing Customer Experiences

Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, touted VR’s practical retail viability as something that brick-and-mortar businesses can take advantage of right now. Krzanich discussed the reinvention of the in-store experience by utilizing the power of analytics to increase operational efficiency and help make informed decisions. He said that stores could realize an ROI of $16 for each $1 spent on planograms that are used to configure product placement on shelves. Carrie Ask, EVP and President of Global Retail, Levi’s discussed how inaccurate inventories and shelf stocks are age-old problems for retail. 

Key takeaways:

  • Levi’s goal is to develop “real-time, all-the-time” inventory insights at its stores;
  • Store traffic is declining as purchase intent rises; and
  • Virtual reality and the power of data will create a smart, responsive, connected and secure store.

The Secret To Turning Stores Into Gathering Places: The Bonfire Effect

Kevin Kelly, Principal and Co-Founder of AIA, discussed how consumers are rethinking their relation to retail and their ROI — Return on Involvement. To survive and thrive in this new era, retailers must create a “bonfire experience” to engage consumers and build loyalty. Stacey Griffith, Master Instructor for SoulCycle, discussed her brand’s effect on its participants. To build the perfect bonfire, retailers must:

  • Offer a clearly defined meaning about its brand;
  • Have brand-related solutions to any situation; and
  • Give the customer a great experience.

Storyselling: How The Convergence of Content And Commerce Builds Customer Experiences That Sell

Storyselling, the marriage of content and commerce, works most effectively in building long-term relationships with customers. While its impact can be difficult to measure, retailers have seen positive effects: Food52’s storyselling efforts have helped it boost 20% over the past year, according to Amanda Hesser, CEO and Co-Founder.

Key takeaways:

  • Devices like Siri, Alexa and Google Home are becoming key platforms for content, with brands already vying to become part of their “consideration sets,” according to Ryan Ross, EVP Marketing and Digital Commerce, HSN;
  • Influencers can be a powerful part of storyselling efforts, both to amplify a brand’s message and assist with personalization efforts;
  • Leveraging consumer-generated content, particularly on visually oriented social platforms such as Instagram, is a critical part of a successful storyselling strategy; and
  • Brands shouldn’t put all their storyselling eggs in one basket. “You can’t have a single focus on one channel; retailers need to create and deliver the appropriate content for wherever the customer is,” said Ross.

Delivering On The Promise Of Customer-Centricity And Personalization 

After Graeme McVie’s post-holiday personal email analysis, he explained that out of the more than 1,000 email offers he received from various retailers, nearly 90% were irrelevant to his needs. It is not enough to be “personalized”; retailers must be certain of relevancy. Nikki Baird from RSR Research and Chuck Sample from US Foods discussed pricing and predictive analytics as being key to retail success. “In a race to the bottom, the finish line is a cliff,” said Baird. Can you win a race to the bottom on price? Not unless you’re Walmart. Retailers must have the ability to plan and optimize personalized pricing. 

Key takeaways:

  • Personalization is essential; but it must be relevant as well;
  • Retailers must have the ability to plan and optimize personalized pricing;
  • Retailers must wean shoppers off of deep discount promotions; and
  • Predictive analytics will help retailers make actionable decisions around pricing and assortment.

Customer First: Transform The In-store Experience And Drive Performance

Emily Sklar, Manager, Learning and Development for Kate Spade and Pierre Oliver, Manager, Learning Technologies and Systems, Tiffany & Co., discussed the importance of store associates and how they are vital to delivering a customer-first experience on a consistent basis. In fact, 85% of shoppers seek out help or recommendations from sales associates, and 87% will buy those recommended items. In addition, 77% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from an associate who helped them previously. The key to harnessing this power; training and communication. 

Key takeaways:

  • Every aspect of the experience must be through a customer-first lens; 
  • Associates must be passionate brand fans who will bring more to the customer; and
  • Retailers must make consistent, branded, communications to explain exactly what sales professionals’ goals should be.

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