Retailers Building with Data, not Brick and Mortar

Last week, I attended a customer relationship marketing conference for retailers, by retailers. I have to say that I barely made it through the conference without spontaneously combusting from the speed of change in the retail marketing sector.

From the advent of new ways to leverage big data—including new social media channels, QR codes and real-time engagement—to inventive new physical store formats, the fundamental rules governing retail commerce are changing at a breathtaking pace. It appears that only the most innovative, most consumer-focused and well-capitalized players will thrive.

The conference opened with a presentation on the state of the industry. Trust was a major focus. With only 19 percent of consumers believing that large retailers would act in their interest if given the opportunity to do otherwise, the mandate was clear: retailers need to clean up their act when it comes to how they manage their customer relationships. Failing to do so comes with existential consequences.

Interestingly, even during a roundtable on future trends in retail, the elephant in the room went unacknowledged. The roundtable was comprised of online and brick-and-mortar retailers, but the conversation never addressed what had been seen as a strategic advantage a decade ago, but now threatens the long-term future of so many retailers—the brick-and-mortar locations themselves.

My wife and I recently attended a variety show at the Kellogg School of Management. In one of the sketches, the grad students revised they lyrics of the MTV classic, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” In their remix, set in the distant future (2014), the theme was updated to “E-commerce Killed the Physical Store,” with the kicker of “The UPS Man’s My Best Friend.” Think about it…it’s scary how quickly the winds have shifted in retail.

The speakers at the conference were generally fantastic, offer these highlights:

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC

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