The Innovation Conversation Goes LIVE! Top Insights from the GMDC/Retail Tomorrow Meet-Up
Throughout the pandemic, it’s often been said that retail and other industries had to “get creative” to meet the challenges presented by the global virus. While companies did use innovative tactics to mitigate store closures, fulfillment logistics, and supply chain issues, some ecommerce experts argue that there was no actual transformational innovation that occurred.
Rather, brands turned to innovations already within their purview.
In fact, Tom Furphy, CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners and CEO of Replenium, credits consumers for inspiring at least a portion of the digital shift. Furphy and Kevin Coupe of Morning News Beat kicked off a live Innovation Conversation with this topic at the GMDC/Retail Tomorrow Mid-Year Meet-Up in Dallas.
“It was the customer pushing the industry to a new place, not the industry carrying the customer to a new place. The industry needed to make that move. It forced [retailers] to get better at the basic blocking and tackling of ecommerce. To offer better web and mobile experiences. Be better at delivering and pick-up,” he noted.
What will be transformational, per Furphy, is the deep and widespread application of true machine learning and artificial intelligence to the retail experience and customer journey. Brands and retailers that are able to configure new capabilities, driven by machine learning, will really change the game over the next few years.
Shopper Preference Fluidity
Another insight to come out of the event centered on shopper preference. Attendee Andrew McQuilkin noted the changing tide of shopper preference—rising from approximately 11% of shoppers surveyed initially reporting they had no preference for how they shopped, to now nearly 30% having a preference.
If channel doesn’t matter to the consumer, and their buying behaviors are going to be much more fluid, retailers will have to double down on their personalization strategies. McQuilkin described it as not just predictive analytics, but also prescriptive analytics that will help retailers differentiate themselves from the competition. His term, “omnichoice,” reflects the idea that the shopper is now the one in charge.
Coupe supplemented this concept, arguing that the notion of channels is an industry construct. “I don’t think consumers ever say, ‘I’m going to the convenience store to buy a convenience item.’ They just go to the place they know has what they want.”
As the state of retail extracts itself even more from the pandemic’s grip, it will be crucial for brands to put this approach into the context of the likely “hybrid” environment in which consumers will shop. Retailers will need to appeal to the customer both digitally and physically in order to create the emotional experience that fosters brand loyalty.
A New Attitude About Auto Replenishment
Building on the importance of optimized customer experience, a key component that has come to light is the now nearly-ubiquitous nature of the auto-replenishment model. While Amazon was the first to introduce a subscription product offering, most retailers have adopted this strategy.
“It went from this sort of existential threat [by Amazon] to brands saying, ‘I think I can measure this.’ Retailers are actually able to see what they’re losing out on, and they’re realizing they have to offer it both as a defensive capability but also something that just makes the shopping experience better,” explained Furphy. “Let’s put these repetitive purchases on autopilot, and then free up the customer’s bandwidth and capacity to go discover new products; try new things.”
Even when selling on the Amazon platform, auto replenishment benefits brands. “I was an early subscribe-and-save customer, and I’ve always said that it doesn’t just cement my relationship with Amazon, it also cements my relationship with 20 or more brands,” added Coupe.
Everybody’s Talking About…
This “meeting of the minds” was truly a breath of fresh air… a return to normalcy—and the long-awaited opportunity to experience a live, in-person event. During the hour-long session, Coupe, Furphy, and attendees covered a number of topics including 3D printing, customized/personalized products, the love-hate relationship of delivery platforms like Instacart, the potential of future “zero merchandise” stores, and so much more.
To get the full scope of this Innovation Conversation episode, find the recording of this LIVE Innovation Conversation HERE.
And, watch for future Innovation Conversations between Kevin Coupe and Tom Furphy by subscribing to the Morning News Beat YouTube Channel.