As hundreds gathered for the opening address at the Retail Innovation Conference in NYC this past week, every retailer had the same thing on their mind: Amazon. When keynote speaker Bryan Eisenberg hit the stage his message was being like Amazon is easy, so easy in fact, that even a lemonade stand can do It. The message: the challenge retailers are facing is not about understanding how Amazon does what it does. Per Eisenberg, it’s simple – focus on the customer in everything you do. The challenge for every other retailer is executing that strategy when faced with the organizational silos that cause retailers to lose sight of customers when key business decisions are made.
Putting the customer first means investing in community and storytelling to go beyond just what you sell, even if it means investing more upfront to receive much more in return down the line. It means investing in stores that carry the message of your brand and result in sales and customer value far beyond those four walls. It’s not about selling what you have, but what your brand believes and stands for to connect with what your customer believes. You must anticipate where you customer will be, not try to play catch up with where they are today.
A refocus on a customer first mentality resonated with the entire audience and carried throughout the conference. With case studies presented by the likes of Moosejaw to Stitchfix, attendees received a crash course on becoming more Amazon-like. In the closing awards, an Innovator of the Year recipient posed this challenge to retail- “You have two choices – fear change or fear what will happen if you don’t.”
For the lemonade stand it is an easy decision to make, but for most retailers it present a great challenge. As I mentioned earlier this year and it still rings true – 2017 is the time for innovators to rise to the challenge in retail. If what we saw this week at the Retail Innovation Conference is true, those that do will be rewarded greatly.