Echoing a theme from other speakers at the summit, Greg Petro, founder and chief executive officer of First Insight Inc., told attendees that “listening to the customer” is essential in today’s retail market and added that the goal of his firm’s solution is to “listen to the customer in a structured way.”

Petro said First Insight, now in its 11th year, works with retailers and brands to deploy various tools aimed at gleaning consumer insights about shoppers and the products, styles, colors and price points that resonate with them. “This frees up merchants to be more creative,” Petro said, adding that the data and insights generated by First Insight “informs product development and design.”

The company, which is used by brands and retailers in 30 countries, generates six to eight million data points each month — across several product categories, Petro noted, adding that “customers are ‘talking,’ but the challenge is listening to them in a structured way that can acted upon.”

Why is that critical? Petro said it’s because consumer preferences are constantly changing and zeroing in on their needs is how companies will win.

“Personalization is a huge wave that is going to hit our industry, and its been coming for some time,” Petro explained. “And the segmentation of the industry has been occurring at a much faster pace — [beyond] what your technologies can provide.”

Petro said this puts a spotlight on the importance of culling data and consumer insights. By way of example, he then shared results from a First Insight survey of more than 1,000 consumers. Some of the notable findings include that “men are 80 percent less likely to use a mobile device for shopping,” Petro said, adding that 44 percent of men preference to shop in a store where they can “touch and feel” a product.

“Looking at these results leads to a natural assumption that men are ‘hunters’ who just want to get in and out of the store,” Petro said. “But [the survey also showed that] men are 42 percent more likely to want to wait for a product than a woman.”

Petro said the results can help retailers and brands rethink how products are dispersed between stores and online. “If it’s a gift, for example, women are looking for that product immediately while men are willing to take time,” he said.

Researchers at First Insight said in the report that the results “point to a significant gender gap between how men and women shop and make purchase decisions as the retail industry responds to disruptors such as mobile shopping, Amazon, discount retail and artificial intelligence.”

Petro then told attendees that being armed with consumer insights and data can augment the traditional creative aspects of retailing, which will lead to the creation of a new generation of merchants.

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