Manthan had the pleasure of interviewing Alicia Fiorletta. Content strategist at G3 communications.

Alicia is senior editor at Retail TouchPoints. Alicia has a keen interest in the retail industry with a mission to provide retailers with the necessary information and resources. Alicia shares her thoughts on how the retail industry is changing today.

 

MANTHAN: What are some of the big changes you see taking place in retail today?

ALICIA: I think one of the biggest and most interesting changes happening in retail today is the way brands are shifting their marketing and commerce strategies from purely transactional to experiential. They’re working to create an authentic lifestyle around their brand, rather than simply trying to generate as many sales as possible. For some brands, this shift could mean holding classes, seminars or demonstrations in stores, or it could mean bringing the brand and your products to relevant events.

Mattress manufacturer Casper does a great job of generating word-of-mouth and buzz with events. For example, representatives are traveling the nation for the brand’s Nap Tour and they even held a special Sleep Symposium with Arianna Huffington, who just wrote a book on, you guessed it, the power of sleep.

 

MANTHAN: Do you see more retailers using technology to compete? Can you give a few examples?

ALICIA: Of course, technology is playing a more critical role in all areas of modern retail organizations. At headquarters, they need technology to track user behaviours, sales patterns and marketing campaigns. They use digital channels and touch points to market and sell to consumers. But the most cutting-edge retailers are using technology in innovative ways to augment the in-store experience — for both consumers and for associates.

We recently wrote a feature focused on how retailers are engaging and empowering the modern store associate. Interestingly, a lot of these channels benefited both the associate and the consumer.

For example, NYX Cosmetics publishes user-generated content on digital screens in specific areas of the store. These images inspire shoppers and give associates a great jumping-off point for engaging and communicating with them. Shoes of Prey, a shoe customization manufacturer, uses tablets to immerse Nordstrom shoppers in the shoe design and ordering experiences. And of course, I couldn’t discuss cool use cases without mentioning Rebecca Minkoff. It was one of the first, more compelling use cases for RFID and the role that it played in creating a smart, connected store really excited the industry overall.

 

MANTHAN: Is understanding customer data becoming a higher priority for retailers today than it was, even a year ago? What’s caused this shift?

ALICIA: Consumers have access to more options than ever before. New specialty brands and disruptive e-Commerce players are popping up by the day, so retailers need to work harder to differentiate.

The key to standing out, in my opinion, is providing relevant and immersive experiences across all channels. Retailers need to be able to identify each customer, their behaviour, preferences, what makes them tick, and apply these insights across their preferred interaction and commerce channels. That is why being able to collect, analyse and leverage customer data is becoming increasingly important.

But it’s not just about using in-house data (such as email opens, shopping cart abandonment data, purchase data, loyalty program information, etc.) to your advantage; it’s also about mining relevant social insights, off-site web browsing behaviours and other data points, and bringing them into the fold.

Does the retail industry still have a long way to go? Of course, but there have been some great personalization success stories and I hope there will only be more coming to the surface in the future.

 

MANTHAN: Which retailers do you see setting the pace when it comes to customer innovation?

ALICIA: There are a lot of ways to interpret and address this question, so I’ll focus it on the retailers that are really bringing their customers into the fold. Meaning, they’re using their feedback, perspectives and behaviours to truly guide their marketing campaigns, product development and more. For example, Rent the Runway uses customer data to create a thriving community of shoppers who are, in a way, helping each other find the right items for their unique needs and body type. ModCloth takes a similar, community-driven approach, and even used this data to build its own namesake collection.

Other brands, like Julep and Adore Me, are more direct about their crowdsourcing and crowdfunding efforts. They create multi-touch/multichannel campaigns asking consumers to share their feedback about products and designs they’re thinking about launching. If the prototypes generate enough buzz and positive feedback, they’re created and sold.

Taking this consumer-first approach to business takes time and effort; especially because we’re so focused on annual goals and have set processes. But these businesses are truly standing out and exciting their followers because they’re putting customer needs and wants first.

Thank you, Alicia!