1. Flexibility Is Key

During The Great Reshuffle: Building and Sustaining a Dynamic Frontline Workforce, Jessica Cloutier, Senior Director of Styling of Nordstrom, noted how important flexibility is. Retail outlets such as Nordstrom have had to rapidly create digital experiences that are equally as excellent as their in-store services.

Every retailer knows the old adage that it is ten times more expensive to create a new customer than to keep an old one, and so retailers (apparel retailers in particular), have sought to employ emerging technologies to create unique digital experiences that delight their customers and create seamless transactions to improve customer loyalty. Cloutier is thrilled at the possibility of creating excellent service even when customers are not able to visit a physical retail location.


2. Retailers Are Becoming Platforms

What is a retailer? What is a platform? What does it mean to be both of them at the same time? These are the questions that Quiet Logistics (a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Eagle Outfitters) and Farfetch answered during NRF speaker sessions. Quiet Logistics discussed creating its open-source platform to reduce cost, time, and waste in retailers’ logistics and delivery networks. Farfetch discussed creating a platform that links creators, curators, and consumers to the luxury ecommerce market.

What both shared in their speaking sessions was a fascinating insight into the future of retail: a future where established retailers increasingly begin to leverage their expertise into areas that reach far beyond simply selling a product. Both have created platforms to offer other retailers access to their knowledge and tools. As the world becomes more digital and customer expectations continue to increase (thanks, Amazon), retailers will begin to turn to these larger platforms in order to offer their own customers an experience that rivals that of the most established retailers.


3. The Customer Is King (or Queen)

Retailers face stiffer competition to keep their customers than ever before: not only do they have to offer an excellent in-store experience, but they now have to compete in digital spaces where standing out can be exceedingly difficult.

So how do you build a differentiated customer experience that builds loyalty?

Optoro met with retailers of all sizes to highlight examples of what seamless ecommerce transactions can look like, with the customer’s convenience always coming first.  During Macy’s CEO Jeffery Gennette keynote the speaker dug into the importance of making your customers feel seen by your brand. Macy’s’ new venture, Mission Every One, aims to create an equitable shopping experience that represents every member of its diverse customer base. Target pointed to a sense of community as the key to its success—by treating vendors, staff, and partners as key parts of their operation and treating them well, they knew that their customers would be cared for. Their lesson? People who are cared for, care for other people.

While many retailers have their own strategy to developing a unique customer experience that builds on brand loyalty, there are absolutely key steps to begin: offer your customers a hassle-free digital experience, make sure your customers feel like they are a part of your brand, and ensure that your company culture is one that supports staff and vendors so that they can support your customers.


4. Bringing Brands DTC

One of the most exciting trends we saw at NRF was the presence of brands, such as Supreme and Mattel, emerging on the Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) market. Shopify offers Shopify Plus, a platform that allows enterprise-level retailers to redefine what it means to reach their customers directly. The platform is the result of big retailers noticing the superior adaptability of DTC startups’ technology and operations.

Shopify Plus enables enterprise retailers to pick and choose Shopify features to integrate within their existing systems, allowing them to create the more custom experience that DTC brands offer. Furthermore, because DTC strategies are so technically based, this platform allows larger retailers to also benefit from applying more data-based consumer insight.


5. Retail Means Returns

In retail, returns are part of the customer experience. In the session But Will It Fly? The Lowdown on Drones, David Guggina, executive VP of Supply Chain Operations at Walmart, noted how the retail giant is looking for innovative ways to reduce its impact on the environment and exceed customer expectations. He illustrated how a drone-based delivery system would not only provide a more sustainable alternative to trucks on the road, but would also present customers with a convenient way to return their items. Walmart’s aspirations to utilize drones is a great example of how retailers are keeping up with consumers’ changing expectations through technology that also enables sustainability.

While retrieving items directly from customers is a huge feat, retailers must address two gaps within this process: 1) how the customer initiates that return and 2) how to enable employees to process those returns as quickly as possible.

Retailers know that returns are an inevitable part of the retail environment, and the number of returns is only increasing as more customers shop online and buy a wider variety of items. This poses a challenge to retailers: if returns are inevitable, what do retailers have to consider to ensure their customers have the best possible experience? First, they have to consider what the process of making a return looks like to a customer. Are there boxes and labels, or simply a QR code? Can they have the item picked up from their home or do they have to drive to the post office? Second, retailers have to consider the timing of returns. How quickly can they process a return, get it back onto the shelves, and how can they do it and still save on costs?

If you didn’t get a chance to stop by Optoro’s booth — or attend NRF — we can share the answers to these questions and more.  Contact us today.