Who doesn’t love a conference? The networking, the impressive speakers, the tempting afternoon cookies. I recently attended my first in-person conference in more than a year, and honestly, I had missed every bit of it.
And retailX 2021, held August 24–25 in Chicago with a masked but highly engaged group of ecommerce professionals, was certainly one to remember. As a conference that keeps a finger on the pulse of the digital future of retail, I enjoyed the incredible lessons shared by world-class speakers and hallway conversations with attendees alike.
If you didn’t make it to this year’s event, I’ve got you covered. Keep reading for five quick takeaways from the event.
The time is right for digital transformation
Far and above, digital transformation was an inescapable theme of the event—a common thread among many of the most insightful sessions.
And for good reason. Digital transformation has been front-and-center for retail brands in the past years, and the dramatic shift to online and mobile commerce brought about by the pandemic has only magnified the topic.
Cases in point: Andrew Laudato, COO of Vitamin Shoppe, and Lizzy Ellingson, Chief Digital Experience Officer of David’s Bridal, discussed digital transformation in the context of contactless commerce and augmented reality in their sessions, which I found to be two of the conference’s most impressive.
Key takeaway: Shoppers have sky-high expectations of retail brands. The best time to adapt was before the pandemic. The second-best time is right now.
Uncertainty reigns supreme
I’ll be honest—wearing a face mask at a conference is a strange experience. While it’s anyone’s guess whether this will be the new normal of events or other IRL experiences, the general uncertainty around the shopping experience is likely to stick around for a while.
While some might see complexity, smart retailers see an opportunity to better appeal to customers of all stripes. Essentially, covering all your bases today with some retail strategy scenario planning means opportunities are open to you, no matter which way the wind blows. That means leaning into digital and offline channels and ensuring they complement one another to provide flexibility.
One fascinating session featured Andrea Lisbona, Founder and CEO of D2C hand sanitizer brand Touchland. When COVID-19 first broke out, Andrea’s team managed to stay agile in light of global complexity by moving some manufacturing processes stateside.
Key takeaway: Think through each possible scenario for the months to come and take steps to address any foreseeable concerns.
Retailers can’t go it alone
Looking through the agenda of retailX, I was impressed at the mix of partners and agencies at the conference, right alongside the cast of retail leaders.
Further to my point on scenario planning, ecommerce executives and their teams are borderline obligated to map out all the positive and negative eventualities stemming from a fast-changing world. Each one of those scenarios pulls companies into new platforms and a deeper stack of resources: order management systems (OMSs), marketing tools, fulfilment partners, and countless other platforms.
Key takeaway: In-house teams and capabilities can’t scale infinitely. Retailers need to keep an open mind around the tools they bring on to improve their digital experience and analyze digital experience data.
Customer journeys are getting more complex
Growing uncertainty and strapped resources make conducting business a lot more complex than ever before. Problems only get worse when those internal goings-on impact the customer experience journey, especially when teams can’t narrow in on and triage areas of opportunity with digital experience data.
Andrew Laudato’s session, “How The Vitamin Shoppe Thrived Through COVID By Doubling Down on Digital,” unpacked his lessons regarding the impact the pandemic had on customer journeys, and how his team hit back quickly with big bets on digital and a focus on contactless commerce.
Key takeaway: Consider Andrew’s idea of the minimally lovable product (MLP), a departure from the minimum viable product. Too many MVPs stacked together, he warns, can degrade digital experience—which is why companies should use lovability as the benchmark instead.
Know why customers make decisions
One compelling session was led by Stephen Stewart, Senior Manager of Merchandising and Analytics at Lowe’s—entitled “How Lowe’s Shifted to Digital-First Merchandising.”
Lowe’s situation during the pandemic was an accelerant for their business. Customers were stuck at home, pushing buyer behavior dramatically away from in-store transactions and toward mobile, digital, and BOPIS. Stephen’s team needed data not just around what people were doing on web and mobile properties but also critically why they were doing that.
The steps Stephen and team took to accomplish that were impressive:
Create consistent “North Star” KPIs for all teams to aspire to
Invest time and effort to reduce complexity of data and develop a unified reporting suite
Democratize that “why” data through Digital Experience Intelligence (DXI) tools
One example—sales of garage floor mats were spiking, and Session Replay showed people weren’t using them for mechanic work, but for home gyms. With that “why” data, his team could build promos to help people build gyms, add in new items, and take advantage of more growth opportunities.
Key takeaway: Unearth the “why” behind user data to find new avenues for accelerating online growth and profits.
Ready to put DXI to work for your team? Request your demo now.