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The Past, Present and Future of Retail: A CRMC 2017 Recap

Jul 5, 2017   |   4 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog


While tradeshows and conferences can be a great excuse to get out of town for a few days, being able to attend an event in your own city is pretty wonderful.

Earlier this month I attended CRMC 2017, an annual event where retailers come together to discuss their marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) strategies and learn more about the future of the industry.

Lucky for me, this year’s CRMC was held at the beautiful Hilton Chicago, which just so happens to be less than four miles from TowerData’s offices.

The last time I attended CRMC was in 2011. And in the six years since we last attended the conference, there has been a major shift in the topics discussed, the concerns facing the industry and the messages of the sessions. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from CRMC 2017 about the past, present and future of retail marketing.

Teaming Up In-Store with Online

At previous CRMC events, the workshops and presentations (while still focused on the importance of understanding customers better) were predominantly about strategies for impacting the in-store experience, driving more in-store sales and increasing customer loyalty in the store. In other words, a consumer’s online experience was an afterthought.

But at CRMC 2017, the conference’s opening remarks and keynote presentation by Retail Prophet’s Founder and President Doug Stephens were focused on the remarkable growth in online spending and how e-commerce has taken market share from in-store selling. The silos between the in-store experience and the online experience are breaking down, and brick and mortar retailers are realizing the importance of their e-commerce strategy.

Successful brands now understand that the key to personalizing the consumer experience at every stage of the customer journey is to encourage their CRM and brand loyalty teams to work together with their digital marketing team.

What Retailers Are Realizing About Data

The first day of the conference featured presentations by several large retailers, but two presentations in particular stood out. ULTA Beauty and Lucky Brand discussed how big brands have begun to recognize the power of data (specifically, real-time behavioral data and third party data). Executives from both companies examined how data enables retailers to personalize the customer experience across channels and influence consumers on an individual level.

Eric Messerschmidt, SVP of Strategy, CRM and Loyalty at ULTA, discussed how the brand is analyzing and leveraging the behavioral data of their millions of Ultamate Rewards members to build stronger and more loyal customer relationships. Messerschmidt explained ULTA is moving away from simply offering discounts to shoppers and instead identifying engagement opportunities and building targeted, personalized promotions.

Following ULTA’s presentation, Lucky Brand’s SVP of Strategic Brand Marketing E-Commerce, Timothy Mack, spoke about how the retailer is improving their audience segmentation strategies and consumer data analysis to better understand their customers. Mack discussed Lucky Brand’s plan to use actionable customer insights to transform Lucky Brand into an omnichannel, customer-centric company.

On day two, Mark Friedman, the president of e-commerce at Steve Madden, echoed ULTA’s and Lucky Brand’s sentiments, focusing on the fact brands must use third party data in order to move beyond segmentation into greater personalization. Friedman emphasized that third party data (in addition to behavioral data) is critical to Lucky Brand’s ability to understand their customers and how the company has used this data to develop more effective email marketing campaigns.

These sessions spurred conversations about how bigger brands are realizing the need to approach data analytics from a digital-first perspective and move away from the traditional long-tail postal mail analytic approach of legacy analytic firms. With more available data tied to every consumer action, real-time insights drive automated actions to foster deeper engagement at each stage of the customer journey.

I was excited to speak with many conference attendees about how TowerData can help their brands shift towards a digital-first approach. We discussed how a digital-first approach supports better identity matching and enables marketers to leverage the customer data tied to hashed emails. I explained that by taking a digital-first approach, marketers can make more effective real-time decisions.

The Sci-Fi Future of Retail

So what does the future of retail look like? Two of the most common topics introduced in sessions centered around the rise of voice-activated shopping and the potential applications of augmented reality.

We pondered the potential capabilities of in-home smart technology like the Amazon Echo to address a consumer’s immediate needs and control the customer journey. We considered the changes in the shopping experience as augmented reality provides retailers with the ability to allow shoppers to digitally apply makeup, try on clothes or even customize the entire experience.

As always, one of the best parts of any conference is the opportunity to hang out with clients, partners and prospects after the talks have concluded for the day. We always try to host an after-conference event whenever possible, and since CRMC 2017 was in TowerData’s hometown, we wanted to make sure conference attendees had a real Chicago experience. So we teamed up with some of our marketing partners and threw a great party at the House of Blues.

Were you able to make it to CRMC this year? What were your favorite moments? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter!

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