NRF Recap: It’s All About the Experience (and Why P.T. Barnum Would Sink Today)

By Kurt Heinemann

January 18, 2013

What were the hot topics at 2013 NRF Big Show? Omnichannel? Check. Customer loyalty? Check. Showrooming? Check. Use of Big Data for personalization? Yep. These themes were discussed relentlessly at NRF. And all of the seemingly disparate discussions are really about two words: Customer experience.

Circus sceneCustomer experience is something we talk about a lot. We hear our clients say it over and over;  they want to provide a consistent and personalized experience that represents their brand consistently across all channels.

Ken Seiff, EVP, Direct and Omni-Channel at Brooks Brothers, and a very well-respected marketer (and a Monetate customer), articulated the importance of a consistent customer experience in his session, “Customer Centric Innovation at Brooks Brothers.” What good is a brand’s image, Ken mused, if experiences are inconsistent across channels? Ken talked about the day when a customer will be able to walk into a Brooks Brothers store, and the sales associate will know what size he needs based on the customer’s online shopping history.  From the reaction of his audience, it was clear that most retailers are gearing up for the same challenge in 2013.

Matching the Right Content to a Person and Their Circumstances

Of course, many of the discussions I had at NRF centered around personalizing those brand experiences through segmentation. Applying marketing actions to specific customers segments is quickly becoming a best practice, even among legacy retailers like Macy’s.

What’s more, retailers have also started to think about matching content not only to a customer’s past purchases and behaviors, but current situation, changing the web experience dynamically based on real-time behavior and circumstances. Should customer X, for example, be presented with the same experience when he is shopping at home on a laptop as when he is shopping in a store with an iPhone? Determining how to mash up these different data points so that a retailer can serve relevant experiences to a customer, regardless of circumstance, is another challenge on the marketer’s mind.

2013:  The Year of the Power Customer

P.T. Barnum once famously said,  “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” Well, I’m sorry P.T., but the American people didn’t have mobile devices when your circus came to town. If they had, they could have used their iPhones to read reviews on the fly, compare pricing to other circuses, and showroom the cotton candy.

Retailers at NRF discussed in detail the power that the American consumer now holds in terms of shopping across channels. From showrooming to product recommendations, the consumer is smart, and as retailers innovate, customers’ expectations of their favorite brands continue to rise. 2013 will be the year of the power customer, will you be ready to embrace them?

The Totalitarian Circus image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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