Last week’s Retail Innovation Conference brought together perspectives from over 50 retail professionals, who presented on everything from the state of the industry, AI and personalization, to payment systems and influencer marketing.

As sponsors, our team had the opportunity to have great conversations with some of the 400+ attendees and share insights.

Here are my biggest takeaways from the conversations and the sessions:

Meet and exceed escalating expectations

Ken Hughes, shopper behavioralist and entertaining speaker, described the perspectives of Millennials and Gen Z who have always lived in a world where, with a few clicks on a mobile phone, they can book a plane ticket without having to wait for a travel agent to call them back with flight options. They expect that the sites they interact with will be easy and fun to navigate and the checkout process will be simple and fast. They want companies to treat them as individuals and recognize them across touchpoints.

No e-commerce business is exempt from this high standard of service because all shoppers at every income level, geography and demographic have these expectations, set by best-of-breed suppliers like Amazon and Spotify.

Tell the right story to the right individual

Shoppers are seeking an emotional connection with their brands. Good stories can evoke the desired emotion and make the message memorable. But one story does not fit all — different shoppers will respond to different stories. Aaron Nilsson from Carhartt gave an example, describing how some shoppers on the Carhartt site will relate to a farmer and mom at Happy Acre Farm, while others will connect more with stories about a bass fishing champion. Although both types of shoppers are Carhartt customers, the brand means different things to them, so you need to recognize them and keep telling the right story consistently to the right shopper.

For John Wompey at Foot Locker, these brand stories have to be on shoppers’ phones, because “if you’re not on their phone, you’re not in their world.” A key campaign for his team is to promote downloads of the Foot Locker mobile app. Both Ken Hughes and Ed King from the HighStreet Collective emphasized the importance of making those stories easily shareable. Shoppers who are excited about their favorite brands want to share that excitement with their friends, and making it fast and easy to do reinforces their love of the brand.  

Adapt to constant change and trends

The headlines around retail store closings are alarming, but Kasey Lobaugh from Deloitte backed up his “it’s not a retail apocalypse, it’s a retail renaissance” statement with research findings. Retailers who try to be all things to all people, offering a blend of premium and low-priced goods, are shrinking due to changing shopper circumstances. On both sides of the spectrum, however, price-based and premier retailers are growing. Deloitte’s conclusion is, to quote Sir Terry Leahy, former CEO of Tesco, “Follow the customer, if they change, we change.”

The best way to do that is to adopt a fail fast approach as Walmart has done. Lenovo is also a believer in learning from experiments and quickly iterating. Aaron Nilsson shared how his team takes quarter bets on the outcome of A/B and multivariate testing of their online campaigns, getting everyone involved and excited about the process and the results.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, consumers’ evolving expectations coupled with rapidly changing technology and the shifting retail landscape was a key theme at Retail Innovation Conference. To meet these challenges, delivering one-to-one personalized shopper experiences and evolving personalization strategies and campaigns across all touchpoints is more important than ever.

To learn more about how Evergage can help retailers develop deeper connections with shoppers across channels, request a demo today.