#PlaceConf: After the Apocalypse — The Future of Retail

Yesterday at the LSA’s Place Conference in New York City, Matt Kojalo from Skyhook, Gil Larsen from Blis and Todd Adest from NinthDecimal were asked to share their thoughts and ideas on the future of retail and how retailers can keep up and stay relevant in today’s competitive market.

Greg Sterling started off the conversation by asking about what retailers can do to utilize location to address retails challenges.

The panelists were in agreement that retailers need to understand what consumers do when they aren’t in their store and look at their real-world behaviors in order to create a better overall user experience. Matt from Skyhook chimed in saying that analyzing the consumer journey and where they shop is key in understanding consumers and their behaviors. Gil Larsen from Blis added on by saying that retailers are flying half blind because they don’t know what their consumers are doing outside of their store.

Todd Adest brought up an interesting point that some retailers are leveraging first party/CRM data to gain insights on existing customers which helps get new customers. Retailers are trying to maintain loyalty by going after potential customers who are shopping with competitors or upselling current customers. He emphasized that it’s about making the message relevant and understanding who you’re talking to and what message you’re delivering.

Greg mentioned how people want consistency and convenience when they are shopping both online or in store. He asked how location can update and change the in store experience, similar to how Whole Foods and AmazonGo provide a great user experience with quick checkout lines.

Matt responded by saying that optimizing stores so they match demographics, like whether or not to have a large baby clothing section in a Target in an area that doesn’t have many children. Todd brought up that location data has a robust set of inputs with unlimited outputs. Working with brands in creative ways, like opening a restaurant during breakfast time to optimize for foot traffic in the area opened up a huge opportunity for growth. These kinds of examples showcase the many capabilities and use cases of location data for retailers.

The conversation then shifted to how retailers can harness this data and how to translate it into something tangible. Gil started off by saying that analytics and insights is where the business is heading. Retailers are using the data to help inform where to put stores and what product to keep in stores. He referenced research with H&M that found that their best performing stores had a lot of short visits. They found that the closer they put stores to competitors stores, the longer people spent in those H&M stores.

A plus side to brick and mortar retail is the ability to see in person what you want to buy before it’s purchased. Gil mentioned that there will never be a massive sway away from traditional retailers as long as they understand what consumers are looking for and provide a compelling in-store experience. Todd added on saying the trend is that retail stores are like showrooms, people get the feel and take the test drive and then buy online as a result.

Greg wrapped up the panel by asking if the things discussed in the panel are going to show up in retail and if we are going to see any changes.

Matt said we will see some changes on the consumer side but retailers still have the advantage as consumers are still shopping in-store, but improving the experience is still critical. Gil brought up that data privacy is an issue and having consumer consent for advertising is increasingly important. But in the end consumers want relevancy, so we need to establish a middle ground. Todd ended by saying that user experience depends on the data collection. Messaging will become relevant as a result, and cookies long ago of customized user experience will come to fruition from better CRM data.

Retailers still have a long way to go and aren’t quite there yet, as estimated by the panelists that only 30-50% of retailers are starting to understand the value of the data and are using it to its full potential. The future of retail is ultimately unknown, but these panelists painted a clear picture of where it might be heading. It’s up to the retailers now to harness the data to stay ahead of the competition.

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