25 March 2018
Highlight of my year: meeting the CEO of Shoptalk, Anil Aggarwal.
Never in a million years did I think I would be surrounded by 750 CEO’s. That opportunity never came to me until I began working for RevTech. Before RevTech, I worked for a technology corporation focusing mainly on startups in the health, fintech, blockchain, and AI industries. To say I was clueless about retail was an understatement. Shoptalk showed me just how much grit and resilience it takes to be in retail. Attending Shoptalk propelled me into the lives of retail companies, managers, associates, and executives. Throughout the conference I noticed three main themes for the future of retail: customer experience, embracing technology, and connecting with the consumer on a deeper level. In the opening keynote, Shoptalk CEO, Anil Aggarwal said “Shoptalk is a way to get off autopilot”. As I am back home I realize just how true those words are.
The session that stayed with me the most was the first keynote speaker, Jeff Gennette, CEO of Macy’s. Gennette shared the compelling story of how they plan to stay above the brick and mortar dangers: bringing the consumer a unique shopping experience, staying ahead of new technology, and putting themselves in their consumer’s shoes. In a world full of retail closings, Macy’s chose to be ahead of the game and that is exactly what will save them.
With 1.5 billion visits to their site, Macy’s knew they had to keep up with the future demand of retailers from consumers. Therefore, the department store has planned to expand delivery and pickup options by implementing free delivery in forty major markets. From there, Macy’s revamped their loyalty program in the fourth quarter, another smart move to keep their customer base happy and at the center of their focus. Macy’s further proves it’s desire for customer engagement by increasing staffing, improving fixtures, and introducing new technology beginning in 2019. Macy’s is also making drastic improvements in other ways: reducing management layers, moving to agile development, working smarter, and “becoming better partners to their vendors”.
Next, the department store set out to take advantage of technology with forensic mapping. By getting ahead of their competitors and learning from the mistakes of failed department stores, they knew the key to retail success: “keeping the customer at the center, alongside data and analytics”. With emerging technology on the forefront, Macy’s will have mobile checkout by the end of this year and are currently exploring practical applications for VR.
Gennette explained through research and marketing, Macy’s discovered their main consumer wanted four key things: “inspiration, clear value, fashion, and a great experience”. This is what they call the “North Star Strategy”. As a new way to bring fresh experience into their stores, Macy’s is keeping up with younger consumers by hosting pop up boutiques. Gennette points out “you can’t execute a growth plan without a growth culture”. The North Star Strategy hopes to guide the growth plan in 2018 and I am excited to see where it takes them.
Macy’s will survive the “retail apocalypse” by investing in both their brick and mortar and their ecommerce business; while improving upon their technology, fulfillment and logistics. A lot of businesses feel over-confident in their processes and I really admired Gennette’s attitude. He admits “we feel good about our plans, but we know we don’t have all the answers”.