I recently traveled to Las Vegas for ShopTalk 2018, which covers everything from new technologies to the latest trends in consumer behaviors, preferences, and expectations. The show can best be summed up by the CEO of our customer ULTA Beauty, Mary Dillon: “Invest to innovate,” and “Fund with efficiencies.”
From my perspective, the show’s key theme can be summarized simply as improving the customer experience through technology. This theme wove its way throughout executive discussions and the show floor, covering everything from the in-store experience, artificial intelligence, shipping and product improvements, analytics, and social media interaction.
Many CEOs spoke about the different parts of the path to purchase and the unique challenges their businesses faced. At the root of it all, they shared their decisions about how they improved customer experience in-store and online. All businesses face challenges, but what matters is that opportunities for improvement are identified and corrected, and positive behaviors are acknowledged and recreated.
Many presenters at the show discussed the challenges of competing with Amazon, which developed a business model that leveraged technology to redefine consumer expectations. This is the year to consider improvements to processes that have a major impact on the customer experience – including prioritizing website interfaces, and leveraging data to identify and repair supply chain issues. All these things will lead to happier and more loyal customers.
The CEO of millennial beauty-brand Glossier, Emily Weiss, led a well-attended discussion on leaning on your heaviest assets: customers. Retailers have data coming in from thousands of locations, but many fail to adequately harness it and then wonder why sales aren’t meeting expectations. To continue to be successful, brands must take a closer look at their data, particularly customer data, and make personalized marketing and product adjustments.
Just a few short years ago, retailers were fearing the demise of brick & mortar stores. It was less of a concern at this year’s show than in the past. Instead, brand leaders focused discussion on how to utilize technology for improving customer-centric retail experiences.
These are just a few of the many themes observed at last week’s show, but I think they will be lasting throughout the year. In short – listen to your customers, embrace data, and don’t be afraid to make changes.