Barbarian event series

“I’ve worked in retail for almost 20 years and I haven’t shopped in a retail store probably in the last 10,” said Shirley Romig, vice president of East at Lyft.

Though not entirely shocking in today’s digital world, it was a sentiment that made the audience lean in just a little closer earlier this week at the first installment of a debut event series by creative digital agency, Barbarian. The panel, titled “DTC Is Every Brand’s Imperative,” was moderated by Barbarian’s new chief executive officer, Steven Moy who spoke to Scott Lux vice president of e-commerce at Intermix, Shirley Romig, vice president of East at Lyft, and Andy Rhodes, chief information officer at UNICEF.

Something all parties could agree on was the importance of customer experience. Though beyond clienteling, panelists shared the future of retail has to make sense to consumers contextually. According to Lux, brands need to understand what is going to compel someone to take the time to actually go to a store. In the past, he said there were too many stores, “on the upper westside you would see five stores of the same brand in a 20-block radius.”

While brands have in many ways evolved, certainly by minimizing store locations, what has not evolved is people’s desire to engage with a brand.

Vintage and resale shops, the panelists said, are huge learning opportunities for retail. “There is still a place for people to go and have that discovery in a retail store that you cannot get online,” Lux said. Rhodes continued saying, every brand’s experience needs to be individual, finding what the specific experience is that a consumer will connect with. “In the case of some of the high experience brands,” said Rhodes, “retail is so important because consumers increasingly want to feel good about the brands that they are engaging with.”

“The organizations that are successful are the ones that weave in the data and look at it to make decisions versus beating a number into answering a question in a way that they want to hear,” Romig said. Having a background in retail, including positions at both Equinox and Saks Fifth Avenue, Romig said she is familiar with retail as a data-heavy business, though the process of utilizing the information, she said, is quite different from a technology-first company.

“I don’t think AI will get us to the level to replace a human, we’re able to bring a feedback loop to our buying team,” Lux said. “From a product standpoint it’s still very much that human element.” Intermix even brings that human element online, connecting shoppers with in-store associates — for those customers, like his copanelist, who just can’t make it to the store.

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