After a few long years, in-person events are back! As much as we loved connecting with friends and colleagues online over the past few years, we were so excited to catch flights and see new and familiar faces at retail’s leading conferences — whether it was to hear from innovative brands, talk shop at our booth, or simply share laughs and network again.
Over the past few months, the Bluecore team attended Shoptalk, eTail West and Women in Retail. From Miami to Palm Springs, each conference has its own flavor, with equally interesting insights and discoveries.
We absorbed all of the learnings from retail experts at sessions we attended and conversations we had. After spending some time talking about how their stories and insights will impact the future of retail, we wanted to share those insights with you.
Here are a few of the main trends and takeaways from retail’s leading conferences.
5 Key takeaways from Shoptalk, Women in Retail and eTail West
1. Customers are back in stores, but the journey always starts online
It’s about the journey, not the destination — and the same is true for retail. One topic present at each conference was how shoppers are returning to stores to get up-close and personal with their favorite products, stores and brand communities. They love the experience, support from customer associates and the ability to get touch and feel products they want to buy. But even though shoppers are returning to stores, their journey usually always starts on a digital touchpoint — whether it’s an ad they click or a brand’s ecommerce site or an email. The interaction between physical and digital touchpoints is becoming more and more important for those seamless customer experiences that bridge the gap between IRL and URL. This also means that brands need to replicate that in-person experience online with a deep level of digital personalization and curation. Investing in the interplay between the two with a technical infrastructure will be critical this year and beyond.
2. “Empower the customer journey however the customer wants it to happen”
All brands want to be shopper-centric — but there are millions of shoppers. Does that mean you need millions of strategies? Yes. At eTail West, we heard from retail experts about how brands need to create experiences for every single shopper with preferences that go beyond just products. That means understanding the channel your shopper wants brands to engage with them on and when — it means understanding each shopper’s buying cadence and engaging them on a lifecycle track designed just for them. Are your shoppers avid Pinterest users? Find them there. Maybe they’re interested in the metaverse? If this is an investment your company has made, then great. Creating these truly personalized moments on the channels your shopper wants to engage with means that you’re delivering on that promise of shopper-centricity, but also protecting your bottom line by only showing up to those shoppers who are most likely to engage on each channel.
3. Investing in first-party data is critical for success — and understanding the relationship between shoppers and their data is just as critical.
It’s no secret that third-party cookies are going away. Retailers are quickly pivoting to first-party data strategies to stay ahead of the changes. This pivot has surfaced a really interesting conversation that we heard at each conference and that we’ve read about the relationship between shoppers, their data and your brand. When shoppers trust you with their data, they expect a few things in return. First, they want you to use it to give them what they’re looking for. Shoppers in today’s age are savvy about information — they have an idea of the kind of data that you’re collecting when they engage on site. They want that trust returned with quality experiences. Secondly, you should ‘respect the mood’ it comes to you in — we loved that quote from a Shoptalk session we attended. This means that if you have a shopper going out of their way to opt into SMS, then you should give them what they’re looking for. However, if they only give you an email as part of a check-out flow, maybe approach the relationship a little bit differently.
4. “Be where your consumer is going, not where they’ve been”
Here’s a quote that really resonated with the Bluecore team from a Fireside Chat with Signet. The conversation was about how brands need to accelerate with the pace of change to meet shoppers where they are — this starts with a holistic approach from the brand. With the convergence of digital and physical, brands need to start seeing the whole journey (like we talked about above) but they also need to know where shoppers are going, along with where they are in-the-moment. This is where it all comes together — by leveraging first-party data, you can collect, analyze and act on millions of shopper signals to understand what channel they’re going to be on next, what product or category they’ll want to buy next, when they’re most likely to engage next and more. It’s all about what’s coming next.
5. Loyalty is synonymous with data activation
This year at Shoptalk, eTail West and Women in Retail it was all about loyalty and community — and this ties directly into a retailer’s ability to control and activate first-party data. Loyalty is all about getting personal (at Shoptalk, we heard about this at the Top 11 session) and personalization is actually the gateway to loyalty. Shoppers are showing you what they’re dreaming about — maybe they’re surfing around looking for beachwear, ready for sunny days at the shore. By showing shoppers that you understand what they want and activating the data that they’re giving to you, you’ll keep them engaged and coming back again and again.
Catch up with Bluecore sessions!
If you didn’t catch us at eTail West or Shoptalk, you can see our sessions on demand! Here’s what they were all about.
The Shopper Paradox
Retailers spend a lot of time in a cycle of overanalyzing customer journeys, coming to conclusions about the best experience for our shoppers based on incomplete data and limited tools and adjusting strategy in the hopes of creating a positive impact on the shopper experience and our business. But as end customers ourselves, are we creating the shopping experience we expect? View this session to hear CITY Furniture’s playbook for increasing identification, first purchase and repeat purchase rates by creating experiences that keep shoppers coming back for more.
Why the Law of Averages Doesn’t Work in a Shopper First World
Being shopper-first is about beating the law of averages, looking beyond the aggregate and offering shoppers experiences that transcend their segment and persona. See how a group of forward-thinking executives in retail are pioneering a shopper-centric approach by leveraging the right tech, making channel-agnostic organizational shifts and using new measurements of success to meet shoppers where they are to rapidly respond to their nuanced preferences, and give them highly coordinated experiences that are anything but average. You can watch the session here.