If you’ve ever wondered if your day-to-day work has real relevance to what’s going on in the retail industry at-large—you must seek professional help. No, not therapists and doctors (hopefully not!), but the professional kind we got this week at the #CBUS19 retail conference. The event, hosted in our hometown of Columbus, Ohio, brought together hundreds of thinkers, thought leaders, founders, practitioners, professors, and presidents. We all love retail (the signs reminded us of this!), and we’ve all forged through the crazy disruption that’s happened to the retail industry over the past decade.
Whether it’s from natural consumer shifts (no more dark and dusty malls, please!) to technology, it’s no surprise that the industry has a lot to work out—some of which you’ve seen us wrestle with right here on our site.
As we each plot a way forward in our own corners of the retail industry, we wanted to give you a high-level recap of the top conversations, threads, and themes that came up repeatedly when we were all together at the conference. These are the topics that will help us focus our efforts—and if they’ve kept you up at night? Just like you might hear in a group therapy session…know that you’re not alone.
Let’s just get this out of the way. Of course we talked about Amazon. How could you not? From customer expectations to shipping and logistics, they’ve worked their tentacles into all areas of retail—and, of course, they’re doing lots of things well (and fast!).
BUT. As one speaker pointed out: in this cycle of time, we’re talking about Amazon. Before that, we were talking about Walmart. There’s always going to be a bigger, badder, scarier beast lurking on the horizon…part of that is the (slightly dysfunctional, definitely dramatic) nature of the industry.
We have the opportunity (and, for the sake of the people who depend on us, an obligation) to step above the fear for a moment and get honest with ourselves.
As retail practitioners (everyone from marketers to internal leadership teams to front-line associates), we simply have to be better at what we do—always, no matter which competitor waits in the wings, ready to pounce.
Are physical stores still needed?
Sooo many store closings (30,000 in the past three years!) and sooo many people shopping on their phones…it might make you wonder if there’s really a point to brick and mortar stores these days. Lots of great panel discussions, with leaders from retailers like REI, Kroger, Restoration Hardware, Express, and others, touched on this topic from many angles.
Here’s the deal (and, it’s something we’ll dig deeper into in the coming weeks): just as stores like Dressbarn and Payless are closing, other ones are popping up. At the conference, we heard from Restoration Hardware, Krispy Kreme, and Xfiniti about their current and future plans to expand with physical stores. (And we know even DTC brands are getting into the brick and mortar game.)
Everyone agrees—it’s not an apocalypse, it’s a transformation. And physical stores, as a channel to serve customers, can actually become MORE important, if they’re approached more thoughtfully and executed more purposefully.
Physical stores are still relevant, and those re-thinking them are best poised to win in the long run.
Being a capital B “Brand” is more important than ever
Being a brand—described as “something you can’t get from anyone else, anywhere else”—is what’s going to help retailers survive (and, let’s cross our fingers, thrive) in these shifting times. Whether it’s Pearle Vision, re-inventing itself by looking back at its brand history, or Lane Bryant, developing new strategies based on insights that their customer “is more than her size,” a fresh approach is what lights the way to your future success.
We’ve known that retailers have to engage with customers in new ways. (Thanks, internet.) Now, many retailers are realizing that you need a firm grasp on who you are and what value you really offer in order to do that, consistently, in all channels and at all times.
These topics are some of WHAT retail industry leaders talking about—now, you may be thinking…just HOW are some of these companies addressing these challenges in smart, specific ways? Stick close for more insights from CBUS Retail 2019 in the coming days and weeks.
Let us know what you’re thinking, too! Join the conversation by mentioning us on Twitter at @KreberCreative.
If you want to see if the work you’re doing checks out against what some of the other industry leaders are working toward, let us know! We’re always happy to talk about retail strategies and content solutions that give customers unique experiences that make their lives better.