Retail Rundown: NRF Retail Converge Special

Welcome to the Retail Rundown, your go-to weekly podcast where RETHINK Retail teams up with industry experts to discuss the news and trends defining the world of retail.

Last week, the National Retail Federation held its week-long virtual event: Retail Converge, which gave a stage to hundreds of retail thought leaders and innovators as we all tuned in to learn what’s next as life begins to return to normal.

Our team attended dozens of sessions and listened as top retail thinkers shared how they’ve been launching new capabilities around convenience and service while doubling down on delivering meaningful, relevant and positive experiences.

In this episode, you’ll hear commentary from several of the show participants, including PepsiCo, Nudge, SimpliField, Adlucent and Unode50.

If you enjoyed this episode, please let us know by subscribing to our channel and giving us a 5 star rating us on Apple Podcasts. 

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Hosted by Julia Raymond Hare
Written and produced by Gabriella Bock
Edited by Trenton Waller
Social media by Madison Freeland

 

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Julia Raymond Hare:
Hello everyone and welcome to our special NRF Edition of the Retail Rundown.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
Last week, the National Retail Federation held its week-long virtual event: Retail Converge, which gave a stage to hundreds of retail thought leaders and innovators as we all tuned in to learn what’s next as life begins to return to normal.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
Our team attended dozens of sessions and listened as top retail thinkers shared how they’ve been launching new capabilities around convenience and service while doubling down on delivering meaningful, relevant, and positive experiences.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
And while digital experiences ruled the roost over the last year, a major focus was centered around human touch.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
From Sam’s Club to Bed Bath & Beyond to PepsiCo, major retailers spent time examining the role culture will play in their future success.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
Keeping this idea of culture in mind, I’d like to share with you a few quotes:

While speaking in session on building trust with consumers, Anthony Hucker President and CEO of Southeasten Grocers said “The lesson is really putting people first in every decision that you make. Your actions have to speak louder than your words.”  Hucker also said there isn’t such a thing as over-communicating, and in order to build trust, it’s necessary to invest efforts in communication and put people first.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
During a session on Retail’s Profitability Paradox, Sam’s Club President and CEO Kathryn McLay said “I think if you put profit as the primary goal, you fail. You always have to start with ‘how do I create value?’ if that is your mission and purpose, you start building up for that.”

Julia Raymond Hare:
McLay continued, saying: Our mission is to improve lives at home – it’s lofty but it connects people to our mission. So, how do you create a culture that allows that? Promote innovation and performance first. Let people have those projects that allow them to shine. A culture of innovation promotes diversity that allows people to be themselves.”

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
One thing I learned was from Vice President of Marketing at Barnes & Noble College and previous guest on this show, Ken Wincko. He and cohost MaryLeigh Bliss from Ypulse shared data around the Gen Z consumer. I was surprised to learn that Gen Z’ers spend the most time on YouTube – followed by Instagram and then TikTok. So, TikTok is in 3rd place.

 

Julia Raymond Hare:
In this episode, you’ll hear commentary from several of the show participants, including PepsiCo, Nudge, SimpliField, Adlucent and Unode50. Let’s dive in now:

Jordan Ekers:

Hi, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today at the Retail Rundown by RETHINK Retail. And my name is Jordan Ekers. I’m the chief operating officer and co-founder of Nudge, which is a communication platform that helps leading retail brands better communicate, engage, and improve the performance of frontline associates to help deliver an exceptional customer experience.

 

Jordan Ekers:
And I spent most of my career working in the world of retail from a frontline associate, once upon a time, to helping to lead one of the largest loyalty programs in North America. And for me, one of the most important parts of any brand experience is the interaction that takes place between your frontline associates and the customers that are walking through your front door.

 

Jordan Ekers:
And what I’ve enjoyed most about the event over the last day is not only the sessions presented, but it’s been the dialogue that has been happening alongside, which has really driven my two primary takeaways, the first being the changing consumer preferences and the role of the store as consumer behaviors change. And the second, the power of investing in your people and how that can drive significant business benefits for your brand.

 

Jordan Ekers:
So if I dive into the first takeaway, which is changing consumer preferences, I had the opportunity to listen in on the great accelerator by researcher Lee Peterson, who really spoke about the impact of the pandemic, not as a mechanism of driving disruption, but a vehicle to accelerate a whole bunch of change in the world of retail. And we know that change has largely been driven by consumer preferences, such as the way that consumers desire to shop from e-commerce, to delivery, to BOPIS.

 

Jordan Ekers:
But based on their research, they’ve noted that 48% of consumers still believe the in-store experience is a critical part of the way they want to interact with your brand, which led to their analysis that says, experiential showrooms are the future of retail, and we need to start to think about the way in which we change the retail experience and better support our people to deliver that customer expectation when they come in store.

 

Jordan Ekers:
The second takeaway is investing in your frontline associates. And this was a session that was run by John Furner, the president and CEO of Walmart U.S., which really spoke to the impact of prioritizing the employee experience to deliver a better customer experience. John had noted that frontline workers suddenly became essential workers over the last year. And there’s been a direct correlation between this investment in providing frontline associates the tools they need to deliver a customer experience, and how that has driven better business incomes, lower turnover rate, and ultimately, a better customer experience.

 

Jordan Ekers:
And so at Nudge, this is near and dear to us, because we focus on building solutions that change the way retail brands support their frontline, so they have the utility that they need to deliver an exceptional customer experience every single day.

 

Jordan Ekers:
I hope you’ve enjoyed these takeaways, and enjoy the rest of the NRF conference, and talk with you soon. Thank you so much.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
Hi everyone. My name is Jeff Swearingen. I’m the senior vice president of the Demand Accelerator at PepsiCo. I’ve been with PepsiCo for 27 years.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
I had the pleasure of being a part of the panel at NRF. It’s very interesting what we’re going to be talking about, the new connected economy. And what I find fascinating is hearing it from the perspectives of different industries and people in different positions. And there are a few themes that are consistent, I think, across all of those. I’m going to say, coming out of the pandemic, I think of just being optimistic coming out of the pandemic, one of the things that we’re seeing is that the digital changes that have taken place, particularly in the U.S., but I would say even globally over the last 18 months have been a pretty profound accelerator of some consumer behavior that I think has been there, but now we’re starting to see it come to life in multiple industries.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
I think it centers around this idea of very little compromised, to be honest. Consumers are looking for meaningful experiences from brands and services. There’s this ante of convenience that’s, I think, expected in everything now. And they’re becoming very, very comfortable operating in a virtual world. And all of these things have changed quite a bit in the last 18 months. I can tell you just in our business, the increase in online sales over the last 18 months has been a dramatic increase in what we’re seeing now. Coming out of that is that most people that have adopted online shopping for food and beverage are sticking with it. And they’re now finding this nice blend of shopping in store for some things and online for other things. I think it’s a change that is driving greater connectivity across the entire economy. I think it’s driving greater connectivity directly with consumers for companies like ours. And I think it’s a change that’s here to stay.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
I think consumers are looking for value as a baseline and believe there are a lot of options to find value. They’re looking for convenience in many forms. They continue to want to experience. So they are looking for brands that understand them, brands that are willing to invest in providing the experience, both from a product perspective, but also from an overall brand experience that’s uniquely designed for them. And I think more than ever, they’re looking for accountability from brands, whether that’s the things that they’re leaning into for the greater good of the economy or for others. So those are the things that I’m seeing pretty consistently.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
I would tell you that for us, it’s not a surprise necessarily. We always try to, at PepsiCo, look outside in. You can go back 25 years and see the genesis of a lot of this with the internet, MP3, Starbucks, others that at that time were starting to provide these choices and curated experiences for consumers. Saw this interesting statistic in China with the SARS outbreak, I think it was in 2002. In just one year, online shopping increased 5X in that country. So it just gives you the sense of how events like COVID can fundamentally change the way consumers engage with brands.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
I think over the last 10 years in the U.S. we’ve seen that through the adoption of, gosh, Amazon Prime, Airbnb, Grubhub, any number of companies, but traditional food and beverage has always lagged just a little bit behind, and with COVID and the spike of e-commerce and spike of delivery and the ability at this time for technology to step up and deliver against expectations, it’s really open, I think, a new era of how consumers engage with food and beverage.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
We spent a lot of time trying to better understand how we can use data, and we can use traditional insights to engage consumers in ways that are more uniquely motivating and deliver against those expectations.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
We’ve developed, over the last five years, a set of capabilities and experience that we put under an umbrella called PepViz. And PepViz, principle way we approach that is it helps us to identify what we call the most valuable shoppers for any brands, programs, category initiatives, which enables us to work more effectively with our retail partners in ensuring that we’re laser focused on the right consumer group. The capabilities allow us to then engage with that group in ways that are highly contextual, highly personalized through media messaging, and even pulling that all the way through to retail, through very tailored assortments, very tailored in-store merchandising and display.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
And then we’ve developed a capability we call ROI Engine which allows us finally then to optimize the investments that we’re making to engage consumers and with our retail partners, so that we’re constantly getting better. We do think it’s one of the risks that you run in a world that has become data and digitally driven so fast is that you forget that you’re talking about people. And so we really try to counterbalance all the data in digital with just good old fashioned spending time with consumers, interacting with them, people to people, understanding their desires, their motivations, their challenges and their aspirations.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
And the combination of those two things we’re finding to be pretty effective. It not only helps us to engage consumers and shoppers in ways that lift category growth, it also allows us to do it in ways that delights consumers, because the experiences we give them are more targeted. In some ways in our categories, at least historically, maybe that was a little unexpected, and so we’re able to delight them.

 

Jeff Swearingen:
At PepsiCo, the thing that we’re always striving for, you’ll hear us say this, as silly as it may sound is we just want to create smiles. We know that in our categories, when you create smiles, you’re doing something right in how you engage people. And that you’re hopefully not only delivering against their expectations, but that you’re delighting them. We do have a lot of tools and capabilities all under this umbrella, PepViz, coupled with good category experience and having been working against this for a few years and trying to find new and unique ways to delight consumers.

 

Ben Zenou:
Hi everyone, my name is Ben Zenou, I’m the C.E.O and co-founder of SimpliField. For those that aren’t familiar with SimpliField, the first truly integrated mobile platform for retail operation, communication and advanced performance analytics. We open the door for real-time, end to end analysis and business prioritization, in a way that’s never been possible before. We support now over 130 leading international brands and retailers to empower their teams and deliver excellent customer experiences, every day. In every store.

 

Ben Zenou:
My key takeaways from the event are, that COVID-19 has taught us that the retail industry is really ripe for change. Retailers are getting leaner and more agile, the retail workforce is becoming younger and more diverse. Specialized in selective retail model are emerging as a key complainant to digital and direct to consumer sales.

 

Ben Zenou:
Today, more than ever retailers have realized the strategy is imperative of investing in empowering the talent with the right tools they need to succeed. In other terms, the general message of this for me, is that the retail renaissance is underway and the digital transformation will be a huge part of that.

 

Ben Zenou:
SimpliField can help planning around retail experience. SimpliField is here to provide retail teams with the tools and other insights they need to unleash efficiency, drive decisive action and make a meaningful and measurable impact on results.

 

Ben Zenou:
So imagine you are a V.P. of a retail operation, at a large luxury brand, overseeing thousands of stores and team activities. All your store managers trying to ensure that each team members have the right information to prioritize work and ensure the highest impact, from collaboration in visual merchandising to ensuring every store is set to make it count. Or you’re a regional manager that needs to understand what to do each day. You walk into a store and make every visit count.

 

Ben Zenou:
SimpliField connects each and every person that works in a distributed retail enterprise, opening the door for real-time end to end analysis and business process optimization, in a way that’s never been possible before. For the first time a distributed retail enterprise can see its business running in real time, from the corporate office to the field, all the way to the stores.

 

Ben Zenou:
Insights are shared throughout the team for consistency and alignment, field and stock teams have the information to do their job more efficiently, effectively and safely, and H.Q. gather powerful, real feel intelligence to drive strategy.

 

Ben Zenou:
Pandemic, or no pandemic, our solution and our teams are here to support retailers in reaching their final objectives, to always deliver excellent customer experiences, every day, in every store. We’ve proven during the pandemic, that what COVID-19 did, was to accelerate the need for change. We developed user friendly, interactive, and mobile solution to support them in their work. And H.Q. want to bridge that gap to gain visibility and increase efficiency. SimpliField can improve the post pandemic experience in three ways. It will enable us to communicate, to operate and to analyze all from one mobile platform.

 

Ben Zenou:
Post pandemic many behaviors will remain. For retail performance to increase I believe a tool like SimpliField can really simplify the lives of retail teams in adapting and thriving in the new normal.

 

Matt Zieger:
This is Matt Zieger, vice president of technology at Adlucent. Adlucent has been around for over 20 years and helps retailers run performance marketing at scale. We are Google’s number one shopper marketing agency and a Facebook Premium partner.

 

Matt Zieger:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s show as much as I have, especially thoughts on industry collaboration and a future-forward vision for how we invest in digital connections with our customers today. We at Adlucent are very bullish on AI and automation, but even more so on first-party data and the need for retailers to take more ownership in using their data to drive better results than from leaning on external sources. That’s why as we look to next year and the increasing limits on tracking, we are partnering with retailers to prepare their own sites and apps to be cookieless today.

 

Matt Zieger:
Adlucent provides a solution for setting you up for success in using first-party data in the future. We call it Spotlight, and it starts with a set of thorough audits to help surface the high-impact opportunities for improving your digital technology.

 

Matt Zieger:
From these audits, we provide a series of recommendations, like setting up Google Analytics 4, or enabling Facebook conversion API. And we don’t stop there. We work cross-functionally with your IT, marketing and analytics teams to implement the recommendations, even putting our own hands on keyboards and getting into the weeds, helping move you to a cookieless server-side tracking solution that sets you up for success in even as soon as Q4 of this year and beyond.

 

Matt Zieger:
Some of the immediate impacts to your bottom line would include a higher conversion rate, lower cost per acquisition, and an overall leg up on your competitors in online ad auctions.

 

Matt Zieger:
I hope you enjoy this year’s NRF Retail Converge and feel free to reach out to Adlucent if you want to learn more about this solution, or just to talk MarTech and performance marketing. Thanks for listening.

Jason McNary:
Understanding the post-pandemic shopper, revenge shopping. Since we were in lockdown, we are more eager and maybe even desperate to shop more than we did before in order to compensate for the lost time. Consumers don’t have a problem spending large amounts of money. There’s a big need psychologically to go back to what things were.

Jason McNary:
Store openings and return to physical retail. At UNOde50 we’re taking this year as a very important one for us expansion wise. We’re opening 10 new retail stores in very relevant markets such as Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, and New York. Customers are also excited about stores opening again and being able to shop and have the entire in-person experience again. A lot of customers are tired of all of the Zoom calls and really excited and eager to have in-person interactions and experiences again.

Jason McNary:
Innovation. More focus on digital, for sure. Better customer experience, both in store and online.

 

Julia Raymond Hare

I’d like to thank all of today’s guests for taking the time out of their summer schedules to share their experiences and insights from this week’s event. I’d also like to thank the National Retail Federation for pressing forward with another virtual event. That said, I look forward to meeting all of you next year in New York City when the NRF kicks off its annual Big Show.

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