Key Takeaways From The 2016 Retailing Summit

Last week, several colleagues and I attended the 2016 Retailing Summit hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. Top professionals in the retail industry convened and addressed a wide variety of topics including emerging trends and lessons learned.

A few notable themes included:

Focusing on the Customer

Shawn Baldwin, SVP of Product & Global Food Sourcing at Walmart and Duncan Berry, Founder and Head of Innovation at Fishpeople Seafood know from their time in the grocery business, that customers care about the quality of their food and want to know where it comes from. While flavor and freshness have always been top-of-mind, local and sustainable options are just as important.

Of course, several challenges arise when trying to meet these increasing demands. One tactic is to create a consistent process of relentless transparency throughout the entire food chain. This not only builds trust with consumer but also covers all your bases in case of an emergency.

Retailers are operating in a customer-centric world. In fact, according to Eran Cohen, EVP of Customer Relations at PetSmart, creating a customer-focused data foundation is a fundamental need. This includes keeping track of customer transaction and behavior data as well as records of interaction. When analyzed properly, this ensures the customer is taken care of at all touchpoints.

Integrating Technology

As omnichannel and e-commerce continue to transform the industry, it also seemed to transform this summit. Naturally, many discussions touched on these topics, but Zachary Paradis’ breakout session touched on the “transformation imperative.” In other words, as the bar continues to be raised, retailers need to always improve. Paradis recommends:
  • Don’t delay mobile
  • A visit to the store isn’t the end of the journey: A visit to your brick-and-mortar is a jumping off point for many more one-to-one touchpoints. While sales people can act as decision support and provide another level of service, connect with them online to be available whenever they may need you, or feel like paying you a visit.
  • In-store digital does not include your app or your website: Leading retailers are innovating in the physical realm from smart mirrors to high-tech devices.
As retailers begin to get up-to-speed on their omnichannel efforts, virtual reality (VR) is just around the corner. In fact, VR will be in the market as soon as 2017, said Dan Ferguson, EVP of Interactive Digital with Groove Jones. Soon, this may allow customers to shop from home while still getting a virtual brick-and-mortar experience.

Remembering Retail 101

Making sure you’re keeping up with innovation in the industry is important, but retailers can’t lose sight of the basics. Melissa Holdier, President and COO of Tuesday Morning discussed her organization’s turnaround by focusing on product quality, re-establishing core supplier relationships and cleaning up stores.

And, when considering supply chain strategy and inventory, don’t forget the shared burden of organized retail crime (ORC). According to Tony Sheppard, National Manager of ORC at CVS, ORC affects the entire industry, costing retailers an approximate sum of $15-$30 billion per year. This type of crime includes refund fraud, gift card fraud, UPC switching and more. ORC highlights the importance of inventory management and customer relationship-building so retailers can identify where there are possible breaches.

These are just a few of the great insights we gleaned from the 2016 Retailing Summit, we’re already looking forward to next year.