Inside the SAP Retail Forum: The Future of Retail

The SAP Retail Forum is a yearly conference where industry leaders gather to discuss new technology in retail and the future of customer service and sales. This year I had the pleasure of attending and speaking on the topic of Social Selling: how to leverage popup shops, mobile and social to sell to customers. I touched on four distinct case studies: Warby Parker, JCrew, Fruit of the Loom and Nordstrom’s. All brands that are creating noise to gain customer visibility. I’ve included a couple slides below from the presentation. The major takeaway was: brands need to engage in attention arbitrage when selling and use cohesive campaigns that are disseminated through online, offline and mobile to sell and create effective brand stories.

SAP Retail Forum

I got to see amazing new RFID technology that allows sales associates to know when customers take product off the shelf. New shopping bag technology that will allow customers to walk out of a store and pay with their profiles and never have to swipe a card or stand in line. There were many “wow” moments.

 

One of my favorite speakers of the conference was Doug Stephens. Doug is a retail futurist and is always looking towards the future of how selling is evolving. He spoke of how the brick and mortar store is becoming a media outlet, and referenced a popup shop we all know well- Rachel Shechtmans Story in NYC. Rachel’s ‘store’ evolves a couple times of year and she sells square footage to brands that want to use her space to sell, test market products etc. Doug pushed the audience to think of this question “what if it was free?” What he was pushing these big retailers to think about was how they could sustain their businesses if their products were free. How would they make money? What types of infrastructure and channels do they have in place that they could sell? Could they sell data? Could they rent out space? What is of value besides the product? This is a very important question. Brands create the conversation on all channels: stores, social media, blogs, tv, radio, newspapers, digital ads, billboards, newspapers. Brands can own the market simply by owning the conversation and brands can create the data an infrastructure to become more than just the seller of goods.

SAP Retail Forum

So how to build the business that will last?

 

Start by thinking about your brand beyond the product. What channels do you want to exploit? Where is your customer? Where can you dominate and be the best? Don’t try to be everything to everyone- be something powerful and poignant.

 

Next, create content that does not center 100% on your brand. No one wants to be in a world that is mono brand. In fact, most consumers are mixing high and low. Think about your ideal brand partnerships- where are they? What channels are they exploiting? How can they create a larger conversation with you? How can that create value for your customer?

SAP Retail Forum

Once you establish the how’s and why’s now its time to monetize. Think about your valuable data on the niche market you are catering to. Who would find that useful? How about the brand partnerships you have created? How valuable is the conversation? Could you charge for co-op advertising? Create events? Think about the value of the brand, not the value of the product. If you hone in on your customer and the conversation you won’t have to build a business based on what worked last year, you will be building based on what customers are asking for tomorrow.

 

Creating value doesn’t just happen on the front end, it happens on the backend too. One of my clients opened up a retail store, and simultaneously created a distribution center and ecommerce platform. The model allowed her to have sustainable revenue streams coming in from both the front end with customers and on the backend with other brands. And since she had the retail space already there was only little that needed to be done to up the shipping systems to allow for creating extra income.

SAP Retail Forum

Ok, ready to rumble?

 

Take a step back and look at what you have already created or want to create. What is the bigger picture here? What value/story can you create? What if what you were selling was actually free? Think big, think beyond your brand.