My Three Favorite Quotes From The SKU Retail Brew Summit 2022

I joined Ketner Group as an intern in early 2020. And as you can imagine with that start date, I haven’t had many opportunities to attend in-person retail conferences. So, when my team mentioned the possibility of having me attend the 2022 SKU Retail Brew Summit, I jumped at the opportunity! I couldn’t wait to hear from some of the brilliantly talented people in the retail technology industry.

I can confidently say that the conference lived up to all my expectations. I was able to hear from executives at JCPenney, Crocs, Shipt, Kroger and more. In addition, I had the chance to network with the reporters from Retail Brew while enjoying great food.

For those of you who didn’t make it to New York City for Retail Brew’s conference, I wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes and how they apply to the future of retail.

“What you do to get them, you should do to keep them.”

A major topic of discussion at the conference was customer experience. When discussing this all-important aspect of retail, Ciara Anfield, chief member and marketing officer, Sam’s Club explained that the things you do to gain a new customer should be the same things you do to keep them around.

This sentiment can be achieved through added-value strategies like promotions, deals and personalized outreach, or through community-building tactics like authentic collaborations and user-generated content.

Similarly, Kat Cole, president and chief operating officer, Athletic Greens, spoke about authenticity in employee culture. According to Kat, businesses should open clear channels for dialogue with their employees to ensure everyone feels supported from their first day at the company to their last.

“Confidence is earned through experience.”

Melissa Ben-Ishay, co-founder and CEO, Baked by Melissa started her mini cupcake business in 2008 and it has since become a staple bakery chain in New York City. This is an impressive feat in a crowded industry, and it was made possible by her focus and innovation. After explaining her rise to the top, she told the crowd that “confidence is earned through experience.”

This sentiment rang true throughout the event as multiple speakers explained that staying true to core values and the value proposition is critical to success.

They also explained that retailers must be customer-obsessed, dedicated to the quality of their product and open to testing and retesting based on data and customer reactions.

“Be the cockroach.”

Believe it or not, Tyler Williams, head of brand experience, Zappos, used cockroaches as a metaphor for successful retailers. The pest is known for its genetic adaptability, something that should inspire retailers to continue to innovate despite industry challenges. As retailers deal with labor shortages, inflation and an impending recession, adaptability has never been more important.

Speakers throughout the day touched on upcoming innovations. For example, executives from Athletic Greens and Puppyspot expressed interest in adding subscription services for loyal customers and Jing Gao, founder and CEO at Fly By Jing mentioned focusing on seamless omnichannel experiences in 2023.

Innovation is always top-of-mind for our clients at Ketner Group, and hearing so many retailers express their intent to lean on these new technologies is promising for the new year ahead.

There’s always more to learn after the Retail Brew Summit

Every event that brings professionals together is an opportunity to get smarter, craftier, and more excited about what you do – and the 2022 SKU Retail Brew Summit was no exception. I loved hearing from so many brilliant people because it only motivates me to dive deeper into this exciting industry.

The Ketner Group team is looking forward to attending more in-person events both to support our clients and to strengthen our own understanding of the retail technology industry. For example, we’re looking forward to attending NRF Retail’s Big Show, and just last week we enjoyed attending The SEMA Show!

Please reach out if you want to meet us at one of these exciting industry events.

KG Day in the Life AAE blog

A Day in the Life of an AAE: From Bagels to Broadway

When you ask a PR professional about what they do on a daily basis you almost always get the same frustrating answer, “no two days are ever the same in PR!” At least, that’s what I always heard when I was in college and trying to get a sense of my future in the industry. And if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably looking for a better answer than that.

I plan to do my best to describe an actual day, start to finish, that I’ve had as an assistant account executive (or AAE for short) at Ketner Group Communications – even though it is true… no two days are the same in PR.

A day in the life at the NYC office

So a little bit about me – I joined Ketner Group as an intern in the spring of 2020 and upon my graduation from Marist College in May of 2021 I became a full-time AAE! (Check out my previous blog entries to learn more about what I do outside of the 9:00-5:00.)

aae day in the life ketner group office

I work in Ketner Group’s NYC office which sits right across from Lincoln Center and is even closer to the set of Live with Kelly and Ryan on ABC. I work from the office about two times a week and the other days I work from my apartment or a local coffee shop.

On this cold winter Monday, I started my day as every New Yorker should, with a bagel (paid for by KG’s monthly snack budget – we all get to spend $15 a month on snacks!).

Starting the workday

One of my favorite things about working for Ketner Group is that my role changes on every client account.

For example, sometimes I am primarily in charge of media relations while other times I lead content development, and other times I support my more senior team members with miscellaneous tasks as they come up. My account managers send weekly tasks lists on Mondays and are always one email or Slack message away for any questions I may have.

aae day in the life ketner group account

After checking my email and reading up on retail tech news, which I do every day, I began my first item on my to-do list: sending out a pitch. I used Cision to help build the media list with relevant editorial contacts at both trade and top-tier publications.

Then I switched hats, so to speak, and drafted a bylined article for another client based on an e-book they created. Bylines are my favorite projects. I really love working with our client thought leaders and compiling their ideas into a compelling story.

My after lunch to-do’s

After lunch, the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) committee met to discuss our plans for a company survey. Our committee works with The Courage Collective to make sure we are creating a supportive space for everyone and are living up to our company values. The committee is open to anyone so everyone has the chance to have their voices heard.

After the DEI meeting, I attended a client PR Update call. These calls occur regularly with each client as a way to catch up on ongoing tasks and strategy. My colleagues and I met with our client on Zoom and discussed current and future PR initiatives. After the call, our internal Ketner Group team met to make sure everyone knew their roles and responsibilities for the week.

Finally, I signed off at the end of the day and went to see a Broadway show (thanks to the Broadway lottery!).

What two years at Ketner Group taught me

While no two days are the same, there are certainly a few overarching takeaways from my time at Ketner Group. These include:

  1. The title change from ‘intern’ to ‘AAE’ is a big deal – Since I joined full time, my responsibilities have grown tremendously. But, my previous intern experience (both at KG and elsewhere) set me up for success.
  2. My team is always there to support me – Whether it’s on a project or with a personal matter, I can always count on my KG team to help.
  3. Reading the news is essential – I listen to a news podcast every morning and spend about twenty minutes each day perusing the industry newsletters in my inbox. This helps me stay up to date on the happenings in retail tech!
  4. Fun is just as important as work – At Ketner Group, we know how to have fun. We go to lunches and happy hours, take part in virtual celebrations like Halloween pumpkin painting and hold some great pop culture conversations in our #watercooler channel in Slack.
aae day in the life ketner group team

I couldn’t imagine a better place to have started my full-time career in PR and I would recommend Ketner Group to anyone.

If you’re interested in an AAE role, check out our hiring page or reach out to us today. I hope to work with you one day!

amazon go evaluation

“It Feels Like Stealing!”: A First-Hand Experience at Amazon Go

As someone who never considered herself a “tech nerd” before joining Ketner Group, I would not have predicted that I’d be be jumping at the chance to try out new store technology. But after nearly two years of talking about all things e-commerce, personalization, omnichannel retail, etc. and hearing our clients describe their impressive innovations – I have developed quite an interest in the technology that powers our daily lives.

And what e-commerce platform is arguably the most pervasive to our day-to-day? None other than Amazon. With its user-friendly interface and convenient delivery options, we all rely on Amazon at least once in a while. But ever since the digital-first retailer entered the brick-and-mortar space and started changing the way we shop I’ve been interested in checking it out.

I’m fortunate enough to work in Ketner Group’s NYC office, so I was just a short subway ride away from the Amazon Go store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. But for those of you that were curious about how the Just-Walk-Out technology works, yet don’t have such easy access to the new-fangled store, I’ll walk you through my experience.

Setting the shopper expectations

After initially looking up the store to plan my excursion, I was surprised by the hours. Amazon Go stores in New York City all close by early evening and remain closed all weekend. As a nine-to-fiver, this confused me – the times seemed to limit the number of people who could try out this cool, new buying experience. However, after reading more, it all made sense.

The Amazon Go store was never intended to replace a trip to the grocery store or your favorite department store (although, Amazon is looking to create a department store in the near future). Instead, this store was designed for the nine-to-fiver who forgot their lunch or needed a quick snack during the day. The shop only sells grab-and-go meals, packaged snacks, and drinks.  

First impressions of Amazon Go

When the subway came to a stop on E 53rd and Lexington Ave., I emerged from the exit and immediately saw the Amazon Go sign. A perfect location for a store appealing to white collar workers, the store is right in the center of tall office buildings and less than 40 feet from the popular subway stop.

From the outside the store looks sleek. There is a simple black awning with the recognizable Amazon logo and a sign that promotes the products on one side and explains the unique technology on the other.

amazon go exterior

Next, I saw the Amazon lockers just inside the first door. This is another example of Amazon’s easy delivery options because this central location is convenient for workers looking to pick up their order from a secure drop box on the way home. After taking in the façade and the lockers, it was time to go inside.

Scanning in: two options

Upon entry you have two options: scan your palm or scan a QR-code. The latter is simple, you just open the Amazon app, tap “in-store code” and scan the QR-code that comes up. The former option connects your palm to your Amazon account after you first set up the technology, only once, at a kiosk by the front door. In under two minutes, you can unlock this option, making it so you don’t even have to take out your phone and navigate to the app to enter.

scanning in to amazon go

Intrigued to see how it worked, I chose the former and set up my account at the kiosk so I could simply hover my palm over the sensor to open the turnstile gate and begin my shopping journey.

The in-store experience was unusual

My first thought once I made it past the front gate was the lack of inventory. To be fair, I went to a store clearly designed for the nine-to-five worker at 5:20 p.m. on a Friday, but I was surprised by just how many shelves were empty. Regardless of time, grocery stores rarely look like this, unless it’s the toilet paper aisle during a global pandemic.

amazon go inventory

Almost all of the grab-and-go meals were sold out, and many of the snacks were missing from their aisles. And there were no employees restocking because there were no employees at all. The only people in the store at the time were me and one other shopper who came in, grabbed a soft drink, and ran to presumably catch his train home.

Despite the store being understocked, it was extremely clean. I never saw anyone cleaning, but I’d assume that an employee comes in (or checks one of the hundreds of cameras) every so often to make sure the place is neat.

Skipping the line

The main pull to Amazon Go is, of course, the Just Walk Out technology. According to Amazon, gone are the days of having to wait in line and speak to a cashier, or even scan a barcode at self-checkout. Now, if you identified yourself on the way in and your Amazon account is linked to a credit card, all you have to do is pick up a product, in my case a granola bar for the walk home, and head out the door. It feels like stealing!

My gut instinct after leaving the store was to look around and see if anyone was waving their hands at me trying to catch me before I rounded the corner with the stolen snack. But I had paid, and I had followed the rules of the revolutionary store – that’s really all I had to do. The cameras and sensors in the store and the technology that links your phone’s Amazon account to the in-store experience do all the work.

About five minutes after exiting, I received an email thanking me for shopping with Amazon. The email contained my receipt and a summary of my visit including the length of my trip. My credit card was automatically charged for the right amount and my shopping journey was complete.

Amazon Go has pros and cons

The Amazon Go store was undoubtedly cool. The convenience of just grabbing what you want and leaving, without any lines or conversations to slow you down, is unmatched and the excitement of scanning into a store with your palm was unique.

But at the same time, I’m not so sure I’m ready for the traditional in-store experience to fall by the wayside either. The experience felt impersonal and the comfort of knowing there is an in-store associate ready to help you in a normal store was missed.

For the grab-and-go lunch rush or mid-day snack crowd that Amazon Go is trying to appeal to, the frictionless experience is ideal, but for the everyday shopper, the Just Walk Out technology may not be the latest and greatest.

Keep the conversation going

Interested in talking more about Amazon Go and other retail technology trends? We’d love to keep the conversation going. Reach out to us to learn how we help retail tech companies create captivating communications campaigns.

jenny bradford aae ketner group

Get To Know Jenny Bradford, Our New Assistant Account Executive

Hello! My name is Jenny Bradford, and I am the newest full-time team member at Ketner Group!

So much has changed in our world since I wrote my intern intro blog at the beginning of 2020, but I am thrilled to still be with KG and taking on my new role as an assistant account executive.

In January of 2020, I became the first intern in the New York City office. I was part of a semester-long internship program hosted by my school, Marist College, that allowed us to experience life in the city before we graduated.

I had a few internships under my belt at the time, but I was ready to find a team I could see myself with long-term. I was hesitant to apply to KG at first because retail technology sounded daunting, but I’m so grateful that I gave it a try and joined the Ketner Group dream team. Now I can confidently say I’m becoming quite the ‘tech nerd.’

Navigating 2020 as a senior in college

While my Marist in Manhattan experience ended abruptly in March of 2020, my journey with Ketner Group did not.

I stayed on remotely throughout the year and into my last two semesters of college. While being a senior during a pandemic was not exactly ideal, having Ketner Group as a constant despite the chaos was a relief.

jenny-bradford-ketner-group-aae

I was still able to maintain a high-grade point average and navigate leading my school’s PRSSA Chapter through redefined opportunities for pre-professional growth.

My free time transitioned from dance team rehearsals and Poughkeepsie outings to lots of socially distant picnics and outdoor games. All of this taught me that it’s really not about what you’re doing, but rather who you’re with (even virtually!), and that’s a lesson I’ll cherish forever.

While I’ll miss doing my work from my dorm window that faces the Hudson River, I’m excited to move back to New York City with my older sister.

Crafting and exploring when I’m outside of the virtual office

As someone who’s not too keen on relaxation, “the city that never sleeps” is the perfect place for me in my twenties.

I’m determined to find the hidden gems and become a true New Yorker, but I’m also secretly excited to revisit all the tourist destinations each time someone comes to visit me. I already have a list of must-try restaurants and must-see views that’s growing rapidly. (Any favorites? Please, email them to me!)

When not out-and-about, I love to try new crafts. This year has been all about paint-by-numbers and embroidery. I’ve made way more than I can reasonably display, but it hasn’t stopped me from buying more kits…oops.

“Graduating” from intern to AAE

I am so excited to finally be a full-time member of Ketner Group Communications. It’s been an honor watching the company grow and acquire new clients in the past year and I can’t wait to see what happens next!