It’s time for NRF’s Big Show, and in anticipation, Manthan catches up with Chris Field, special adviser to NRF, founder of Retail Connections and CEO of Fieldworks.  

An expert in marketing technology to retailers and brands, Chris consults for a range of international tech vendors.

MANTHAN: We’re beginning to see large retailers planning to close (or closing) their stores. What do you think is causing this trend?

CHRIS: This is not the end of the store but, for some retailers it is the end of the store as we know it. On line shopping, growing competition and the demands of a new class of shopper are forcing many retailers to rethink store numbers, sizes, locations and layout, as they have always done, but now with greater urgency.

MANTHAN:You’ve mentioned in an article that retail competition is now converging on making a digital connection with the customer. How do you think retailers need to innovate in order to forge a connection with their customers?

CHRIS: Most retailers don’t know their customers in store and therefore most attempts to make a connection with them without this information, are doomed to fail. They need to know exactly who they are dealing with as soon as the customer enters the store and that’s no easy task.

The answer is almost certainly going to be through the customer’s own device, not the myriad devices currently being handed to store associates.

This journey has not yet begun.

MANTHAN: Tell us a little bit about your Breakout Session at NRF 2017

CHRIS: While some customers want easy access to products on line in the same way they would view a paper catalogue, others want to be seduced, immersed, delighted and inspired. Story selling is an attempt to give products more context that connects them to people’s lives.

This emphasises the experience of seeing and then using the product rather than simply acquiring it. Our panel will all be asked to talk about how they think storyselling will develop and how they take advantage of it in their own organisations.

MANTHAN: Can you give us a few examples of retailers who are getting the storyselling balance right?

CHRIS: HSN is good at this because it is in the nature of their proposition and they are the act to follow.

MANTHAN: In what ways do you feel analytics can help retailers compete in a crowded market?

CHRIS: Analytics is probably a zero sum game unless the insights drawn are of value and can be applied. It’s no good employing a bunch of data scientists who discover things for which there are no processes or people to put them into action.

It’s not more tech that retailers need but the ability to apply it profitably. Many are still rushing to put tablets in store with very weak ROIs.

MANTHAN: As a special adviser to the NRF, how do you feel the flavour or focus of the NRF Big Show event has changed over the past few years?

CHRIS: Technology has never been so key to retail success and yet, both the retailers and the tech vendors need to form new relationships if they are to put it to best advantage. Tech project failure rates are still too high and that should not be seen as acceptable. The skills required of C-level retailers to choose and implement technology are lacking and this is down mainly to the fact that retail is changing faster than most of us can keep pace.

NRF has a more important role than ever to play to bring together all the stakeholders to have a serious conversation about how everyone can collaborate to solve a growing number of challenges.

This is why the speaker sessions are so valuable. No one has all the answers but a good few will emerge from those three precious days in New York in January.

Thank you Chris!