Executives from retailers, e-tailers and brands of all stripes converged in Manhattan on Tuesday to swap war stories, recharge and plan for the future at the WWD Retail 20/20 — The New Store Experience forum.
While every fashion company has its own plans, all see the physical and the digital sides of retail converging, and drastically changing the way things are done.
Here, a sampling of what the forum’s speakers had to say about the future and how to evolve and stay relevant.
• Marc-Alexandre Risch, chief retail officer of L’Oréal USA, said one key to keeping up with an ever-changing market is to be constantly taking the “pulse” of the future consumer — Gen Z. The giant cohort is made up of true digital natives and is expected to shake the market up even more than their Millennial parents.
• Mariah Chase, chief executive officer of Eloquii, said of the plus-size brand’s move into brick-and-mortar after a digital-only start: “I’m here today eating my words…we have just under 2,300 square feet of selling space and we love every inch of it and plan on having more.”
• Rajeev Rai, chief technology officer of Neiman Marcus Group, said retailers need to experiment to cater to and keep up with customers. “We don’t know what will work and what will not work, will not last longer than two to three years.…The customers who are going to stay digital and are not ready to go to the store, we’ll have to bring the store to them. They’re still yearning for that experience.”
• Anand Raghuraman, principal and Americas, leader, consumer products and retail at Ernst & Young, said consumers and retailers will get used to chatbots, RFID and a whole range of new tech. “Digital isn’t part of the shopping experience, digital is the foundation of it.”
• Gil Krakowsky, Gap Brand’s vice president of global strategy, business development and consumer insights, declared: “The fashion industry is ripe for disruption, the way taxis were.” In demonstrating the company’s new augmented reality fitting room app, he said retailers need to reshape the store experience to alleviate the anxieties of shopping. “It’s super frustrating to be shopping online or pre-shopping and not having the sense of how something is going to fit.”
• Maureen Sullivan, chief operating officer of Rent the Runway, noted: “All of our growth so far has been organic, fueled the old-fashioned way — word of mouth. Our customers are really an engaged community. One in six post detailed reviews.” Rent the Runway regards its growing network of stores as “an extension” of its 200,000-square-foot distribution center.
• Matt Macinnis, founder and ceo of Inkling, which works with retailers, restaurants and other industries to implement mobile customer service technologies, had advice for how to smarten retailers up: “Make mobile a central component of your workforce enablement strategy. Embrace and extend messaging as a powerful communication tool, and reduce your resources to a single digital place to go for the field team.”
• John Bailey, president and chief financial officer of E.l.f. Beauty Inc., said speed is of the essence. “If you don’t have product cycles that are less than six months and an ability to reach to customer feedback in 24 hours, you should…figure out ways you can continue to get faster.”
• Alex Chang, head of e-commerce for Lolli and Pops, said the candy brand’s storefronts are really focused on the candy-testing and the buying experience, while the company’s new e-commerce business is centered around e-commerce. “We want our gifts to really wow when [they] arrive.”
• Joyce Azria, founder and ceo of Avec Les Filles, a new Millennial brand, grew up in the business as BCBG Max Azria founder Max Azria’s eldest daughter. She spoke about the importance of being nimble and thinking like a tech start-up and keeping things tight and lean. “Operating like a jet ski is where we should be in our mind,” Azria said.
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