US lobby group: Put your customers first

President provides retail outlook.

Customer-centricity is where retailers should be focusing their efforts in a world of multi-platform retailing. This was the view of global retailing from National Retail Federation (NRF) president Matthew Shay. The NRF is the peak retail industry lobby group in the US and the world’s largest retail trade association.

Shay was visiting Australia recently as a guest of Australian networking organisation NORA, sharing his insights on the outlook for retail from a global perspective and how this will impact the local market.

“The customer, along with digital innovation and the importance of multi-platform retail engagement is driving the transformation of retail, certainly in the states, and I think around the world,” Shay said. “Putting the customer at the centre of everything and thinking about the customer first, thinking about the experience the customer has when they engage with a brand or the store or on a particular platform. How do they feel at the end of that engagement?

“That’s a way that retailers are finding they can compete successfully, if they have the right talent and if they create the right experiences they’ve got an opportunity to really grab a customer’s attention and give them something that’s going to be memorable and  bring them back again and again.

“That clearly is not a technology issue, it’s an issue that all businesses can go after, but retailers are the ones who are going to do it most because of their relationship with customers on the front line.”

Shay also spoke about the experiences of major retailers, such as Starbucks and Walmart, and how these organisations are focusing their business attention more on staff training, education and welfare rather than on their core products, an area, he said, that will also help to drive better retail experiences for customers and businesses.

“The retail industry, at the end of the day, is about people. And, that’s how you win, and by attracting and retaining the right talent.”

NRF senior VP government relations, David French; NORA founder & CEO, Paul Greenberg; Adobe MD, Suzanne Steele; NRF president & CEO, Matthew Shay and NORA head of partnerships, Sarah Burke.

Turning his attention to technology in retail, he explained how the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other digital innovations will affect retail in the future.

“AI is not a future state, it’s today’s reality. It’s in the here and now. It’s being used in the decisions that retailers make in the way in which they engage with their customers, the way they do everything from targeted marketing, to suggested selling, to merchandising. If you’re not in it now, you’ve got some catching up to do.”

He also spoke about other platforms that are, and will be important to retail, going forward. “I think it helps if people understand that bricks and mortar, e-commerce and mobile are all flip sides of the same coin. All the research that we’ve done shows that the customer that shops across channels is the one that is the most valuable.

“Combining the digital capabilities with the mindset of breaking down the silos within a retail organisation, ensuring that the different departments across marketing, merchandising etc. are sharing the data that they are capturing in a way that is usable and able to be actioned,” he said.


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