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Bringing home the best from #NRF17

Slalom’s retail experts share key themes from Retail’s BIG Show 2017.

Fresh from National Retail Federation’s BIG Show 2017, Slalom’s retail experts see brand engagement and loyalty holding strong as top priorities in the pursuit of customer delight. Technology innovation and rising customer expectations continue to drive retailers forward, while brand engagement remains rooted in meaningful customer experiences; an engaged and well-trained workforce; and a relevant product offering.

Engaged customers unite

Brands and retailers are in a race to deliver authentic experiences and engage customers in near real-time based on current activities. Step by step, your favorite running shoes are tracking your intensity. More and more everyday items are becoming technology platforms. Retailers able to act quickly on the data will set the pace.

But that’s not enough. Today’s customers are experience junkies, going beyond real-time personalized experiences to seek meaning and emotional connectedness. For years, retailers have been measuring loyalty through transactions. To truly drive loyalty and gain wallet share, retailers need to instill a sense of community as a new and powerful channel.

Customers are now the cornerstone of retail brands. They’re the center of it all, co-creators and co-developers. They’re also coming together as something bigger—a powerful cohort of brand contributors.

Brick is back and better than ever

Brick-and-mortar is not dead. Instead, leading retailers are reinventing physical stores as brand innovation and community destinations. Authentic, inspirational in-store experiences offer customers a sense of surprise and discovery. The focus is now less about transactions and more about providing venues to engage brand enthusiasts, driven by the rise of a new generation of shoppers who value intimate, personalized, and connected experiences that go beyond the product they buy.

To get on board, retailers need to create an in-store experience that makes a customer feel like part of the brand community—and maybe even a movement. Why else would they come in when products are at their fingertips 24x7? Re-anchoring in customer service basics, here are four steps to ensure that customers feel valued by your brand:

  1. Create a greeting experience that communicates welcome and familiarity. Show your commitment to knowing the customer and what matters to them.

  2. Provide a tailored and curated shopping experience that includes the customer as part of the brand’s “in crowd.”

  3. Ensure a painless buying experience that keeps focus on the brand value conversation, not the financial transaction.

  4. Reconnect post-visit, reminding the customer of their experience and encouraging them to share and engage with their friends, family, and the brand community. Be prepared to remember them when they come back.
“The store associate’s power as a brand ambassador is critical to the reinvention of store experiences.”

Product co-creation

Powered by community and educated in-store by passionately informed associates, customers now see themselves as co-creators with their favorite retailers. Brands are developing more personal product relationships with customers to craft “one size fits one” experiences. Millennials—and especially the up-and-coming Generation Z—are driving the change. Retailers seek to meet these discerning customers in their constant hunt for brands and products that share their values, enable them to express themselves in new and varied ways, and give them a co-creative voice.

Fashion manufacturer and retailer Thursday Finest offers an example of unique physical product personalization with on-demand, knitted accessories completely tailored by the customers themselves. Meanwhile, Rebecca Minkoff engaged brand enthusiasts to help create her new collection a few years ago by “liking” runway looks on Instagram, an app used daily by millions.

NRF 17 attendee wearing VR goggles for a technology demo

AR/VR Technology

Retailers are capitalizing on consumers’ newfound comfort with augmented and virtual reality technology to deliver richer, more emotionally connected experiences.

Going even more digital, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology provides customers with a richer, more emotionally connected way to engage with products, bridging in-store and out-of-store experiences. Without clear AR/VR hardware winners, the no-new-hardware approach is likely to win in 2017, and the Pokémon GO phenomenon has been a graduate course in global customer AR engagement trends. Retailers are starting to capitalize on consumers’ newfound comfort with AR, enhancing mobile retail experiences with contextual product content, gaming experiences, and even personalized pricing.

There are no secrets anymore. Transparency is no longer a trend but a reality, with customers needing to know everything from what’s in a product to where and how it’s made and where it is in the supply chain. If you don’t tell them, they’ll brand switch in a hot minute. The Honest Company’s success, for example, is based on transparently safe, healthy products with zero waste and low environmental impact. The Chief Product Officer is now the Chief Purpose Officer, committing to company values shared with loyal brand enthusiasts.

Staying ahead of the curve

For our retail experts at Slalom, NRF 17 offered both inspiration and validation that true north remains in customer engagement, with loyalty the ultimate objective. We’re excited about continuing to help our clients innovate at the leading edge of the retail world, taking advantage of technology and employee passion to enhance and extend the brand experience. Three cheers for customer delight!

Slalom’s retail industry experts

Slalom’s retail industry experts help companies navigate the rapidly changing retail landscape and find new ways to delight their customers. Learn more about Slalom’s retail practice.