Retailers had it easier when all they had to do was keep store shelves stocked. Today they face many complex issues to meet the changing needs of customers.

  • How can they address competition — not only from stores located down the block but anywhere in the world?
  • Can they stay relevant with empowered customers who are more receptive to the recommendations of strangers online than from trained clerks in brick-and-mortar stores?
  • How can they create seamless omnichannel experiences that enable them to engage effectively with customers, both online and offline?
  • What will it take to inspire, delight, and hold the attention (and loyalty) of customers beyond the initial sale?

‘Retail’s Big Show’ Highlights Opportunities

At NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show in frosty New York City this week, retailers grappled with those realities and looked to innovative technologies for possible solutions.

Sponsored by the National Retail Federation, the three-day event attracted some 35,000 attendees and more than 600 exhibitors to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The focus this year — appropriately — was “Retail Transformation: It All Starts Here.” So it was no surprise the conference’s educational program targeted the importance of retail store transformation.

Attendees gained insights on bridging the physical-digital divide, delivering the modern retail experience, and using technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to address the needs of customers.

Customers today want to do more than buy a product in a retail store. They want an immersive experience.

According to Synchrony Financial’s Future of Retail Study, 55 percent of consumers are excited by the prospect of an in-store experience that entertains them and 70 percent of shoppers would rather spend money on experiences than things.


Have questions about your retail strategy? Contact Margaret Wise for more information or read more about Arke’s perspectives on retail experiences.


3 Important ‘Big Show’ Themes

If you didn’t make it to the 108th annual Big Show, here are three significant themes we tracked on the event.

Connecting with Customers

CVS Beauty MarkIn a move to advance authenticity in advertising and marketing, CVS Health announced plans to eliminate the use of imagery that has been “materially altered” by the by the end of 2020.

In addition, CVS is demanding the same transparency from its vendors and suppliers. It expects them to refrain from using materially altered images unless they are clearly marked as retouched.

CVS defines “materially altered” as changing or enhancing a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color, wrinkles or any other individual characteristics.

CVS Health operates about 10,000 CVS pharmacy drugstores and is a huge market influencer. It’s a leader in CX and loyalty, so ripple effects are sure to follow.

You may remember when the company decided to stop selling cigarettes in 2014. CVS reports that move has had “measurable, positive effect on public health.”
CVS Tobacco removal results

Digital Drives In-Store Strategy

Digital disruptors including Rent the Runway are now optimizing in-store experiences, showing the synergy between digital and physical retailing. Consider this.

Two years ago, Rent the Runway launched a monthly subscription program. It lets customers pay $159 per month to rent out four items of clothing at a time. Back then, the in-store experience didn’t play a big role in the business model, Hampton Catlin, senior director of engineering at Rent the Runway, told Big Show attendees.

Now “Rent the Runway is transforming its stores from showrooms for rental items to logistical hubs for unlimited subscribers to drop off items and check out new ones, all through self-service tablets.”

Rent the Runway isn’t alone. Other digital disruptors like Bonobos and Casper are increasing storefronts with a new in-store experience that complements their digital strategy. Naptime at Casper, anyone?

Partnerships Between Retailers and Startups

People using virtual reality

Photo from the NRF

Retailers are turning to technology companies and strategic partnerships to differentiate their customer experience.

They’re leaning heavily on technology startups in the areas of robotics and AI, analytics, and augmented reality. Together, they want to create unique experiences to draw customers to stores.

Cristina Cersoli, NRF senior vice president for retail strategy, said retailing will become highly interactive and highly immersive.  The goal is to create an experience draw versus a transaction draw.

How is your business converging digital and physical? We’d love your contribution to our upcoming white paper on Retail 2021. Contact VP of Strategy Margaret Wise.