The 3 Most Revealing Insights from the Retailing Summit

At this year’s Retailing Summit, a forum that dives into macro-industry trends, disruptive retail models and future predictions about “big-picture” retailing concepts, I had the opportunity to hear from prominent industry leaders about consumer business trends that could transform retail.

While I attended many interesting presentations, the three that struck a chord most for me included:
  1. “Meet the Centennials: Who They Are and How They Will Impact Retail”:  This age group, born between 1997 and 2015, is next in line to impact retail, mainly because this generation is more social- than brand-conscious. As a result, they choose to spend their dollars at socially responsible retailers, according to The Futures Company Vice President Erik Medina. Centennials also came of age during the maker movement, being influenced by Etsy and Kickstarter, contributing to their preference for handcrafted rather than mass produced. They also appreciate the opportunity to showcase their unique personalities through purchasing customizable goods, from sneakers to tee shirts. This generation’s preferences could contribute to the evolution of a retail landscape that looks very different from today’s.
  2. “Innovation for the Specialty Retail Channel”: In the future, big box retailers, which are price focused, and specialty retailers, focused on niche products and innovation will thrive, shared Bluemercury COO Barry Beck. There is a continuing trend of larger retailers acquiring specialty businesses rather than building their own because of the low cost of capital. For example, Macy’s paid $210 million for Bluemercury in March. To safeguard their business and brand, specialty retailers must remain vigilant in performing their due diligence prior to being acquired by a larger retailer to ensure that they will be able to continue to provide the higher-end or unique products that differentiate them within the marketplace.
  3. “Thriving in the Age of the Empowered Customer”: Steve Brill, vice president of Global B2C Strategy at UPS, shared that it’s becoming increasingly challenging to meet the expectations of empowered customers – those who are relentlessly searching for new and unique products or the best prices and customer experiences. In order to meet this group’s ever-evolving demands, retailers must be flexible and cater to their customers’ needs. Part of this is providing the following three “C”s when it comes to the delivery of online purchases:
Choice: A customer can choose between fast or free shipping.  They want a definite delivery date and the website must have easy checkout.  Retailers are sometimes providing free shipping when it is not necessary and could be hurting their margins as a result.  They should give the customer choice based on their need, e.g. charge for fast, guaranteed options, or give free options for flexible dates and pickup locations.

Control: The retailer can provide, or align with a carrier, to share tracking information with customers.  For example, an available calendar to show date, time and location of deliveries.

Convenience: The retailer needs to provide convenience for when and where the delivery is made. For example, UPS is exploring options beyond the home or local retail store (if there is one) that could include delivery to your local grocery store.

If you had the opportunity to attend the Retailing Summit, tell us in the comments section below what presentation you found the most inspiring.