NRF 2019

Ketner Group Takes on the NRF Big Show 2019

In retail, we know that the holiday madness doesn’t end once the ball drops in Times Square. Even those of you who identify with “A December to Remember” more than “Ford Truck Month” – and are still reconciling the fact that no one in your family loves you enough to shell out a year’s salary on a front-wheel-drive convertible parked in a snowy driveway – know it’s time to take one more deep breath from the bottom of your newly built Saint Nick belly and get ready for NRF 2019 in New York.

Although Austin isn’t exactly the North Pole, we’ve been hard at work the past few months getting everything ready to knock it out of the park for a major mid-winter event. And this year, building on years of experience our team’s had at the event and given that our agency experienced pretty incredible growth in 2018, we’re collaborating with our largest cohort of retail technology innovators to date – representing 18 clients in total. Therefore, we’ve coordinated meetings with media and analysts, promoted their presence via social media, overseen email campaigns and used every other conceivable medium to get us ready to take on the Big Apple with the enthusiasm of Buddy the Elf.

What’s In Store

We’re excited to feel the energy in the expo hall as we move another year away from the doomsday ramblings about the ‘retail apocalypse’. We’ve seen firsthand how innovative retailers partnering with innovative vendors have established a bulwark against Amazon’s encroachment. We’ve seen how enigmatic executives have rallied an industry in need of optimism and vision to become a catalyst for even greater change. We’re excited to hear stories of recent successes and learn about what the future holds for the industry and for the everyday consumer.

Although NRF stands firm as the last hurrah before we can officially call the holiday season quits, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t be excited about having more time than anyone else experiencing The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Meet Us at NRF!

So, if you’ll be at NRF and would like to meet us to learn about our agency, our services or our clients – or would like to meet with any of them – please don’t hesitate to reach out! You can find us at [email protected] or feel free to find us helping our clients at their booths, including:

  • Columbus Consulting – Booth #3083
  • DisplayData – Booth #1910
  • DynamicAction
  • Elo – Booth #3655 (with partner and Ketner Group client, Shoptelligence)
  • GK Software – Booth #3267
  • GroupBy
  • Kibo – Booth #4419
  • Mercatus – Booth $4560
  • Mirakl – Booth #206
  • NGC Software – Booth #4523
  • Opterus – Booth #4911
  • OrderDynamics – Booth #240
  • PlumSlice – Booth #1200
  • Shopgate – Booth #551
  • Symphony RetailAI – Booth #3036
  • Theatro – Booth #1517
  • Zynstra – Booth #230

Retail Innovation Lounge Returns to Austin on March 10

As SXSW approaches, Austin is preparing to descend into ten days of madness brought on by the four main pillars of SXSW: Interactive, Film, Music and Traffic. Amongst the hundreds of sessions happening next week, a stand-out event in retail will take place on Saturday, March 10, as some of retail’s greatest minds and thought leaders converge at the 2018 Retail Innovation Lounge.

The event, taking place at Max’s Wine Dive in downtown Austin, will bring together leading retail and brand executives and technology innovators for a day of keynotes, panels and networking. Sponsors of this year’s Retail Innovation Lounge include: Strings, Hershey Innovation, goPuff, Softvision Digital Innovation, and IDL Worldwide.

What is the Retail Innovation Lounge? 

Retail Innovation Lounge in Dallas, TX (2016)

The Retail Innovation Lounge is a global, by-invite-only executive leadership series for retail innovators, brands, investors and operating professionals focused on the future of retail in a private, peer-based environment. It was founded by Anne Marie Stephen, the founder of kwolia, a strategic advisory for emerging technologies applied in retail connecting the physical and digital worlds.

Saturday’s event will bring out the best within the retail innovation ecosystem to pitch their ideas, solutions and products to leading industry investors, media outlets and partners.

What to Expect at the Lounge

The Retail Innovation Lounge will feature a meet and greet with B. Bonin Bough, the marketing executive behind global campaigns including the first ever 3D printed food product, a customizable, real-time printed Oreo at SXSW 2014, and a chat with Jay Samit, serial disruptor and best-selling author of “Disrupt You.” As well, we are excited to announce that Edward Balassanian, founder of our newest client Strings, will give a fireside chat with Anne Marie about the exciting changes he sees for the social media landscape.

Attendees will also get a sneak peek at a new VR experience from Hershey and goPuff in a unique immersive activation, as well as a Podcast Studio with Mouth Media Network and multiple live tech and solution demonstrations throughout the day. Session themes will cover blockchain, social media, cryptocurrency, storytelling and experience creation, innovation in enterprise and brand environments and more.

Retail Innovation Lounge will also be giving out swag, hosting exclusive experiences including book signings, an evening social mixer, a future of retail documentary taping, and more. Click here to see the full line-up of speakers and technology activations.

The Best and Brightest Minds in Retail

Featured speakers for the event include:

  • Bonin Bough – Host, CNBC Cleveland Hustles
  • Jay Samit – Best-selling author of “Disrupt You” and an Independent Vice Chair for Deloitte
  • Veronica McGregor – News and Social Media Manager, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
  • Dennis McGrath – VP Innovation, Tryer Center, Starbucks

Additionally, industry disruptors from the following organizations will be on hand to share their expertise:

  • Kroger Innovation
  • Lowe’s Labs Innovation (former)
  • Lab1886 USA, Mercedes-Benz Corporate Incubator
  • Softvision Digital Innovation
  • Strings Media Inc.
  • The Hershey Company Insights and Retail Evolution
  • Moet Hennessy Innovation
  • Store No. 8 (Innovation Hub, Walmart)
  • Walmart Digital Acceleration
  • Plug and Play – Silicon Valley Accelerator
  • Treehouse (Eco-friendly home upgrade company)
  • Carnegie Mellon Entertainment and Tech Center
  • Mammoth Film Festival, Founders

Interested in Attending?

The invite-only event will take place at Max’s Wine Dive at 207 San Jacinto Blvd from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. If you’re interested in attending, RSVP here and use access code “KGRIL”.

Our team will be posting content to the String app, so be sure to follow along here on your mobile device for live coverage of the event and post your own moments while you join us. We hope to see you there!

Client Spotlight: Luke Starbuck, VP of Marketing, Linc Global

Luke Starbuck, VP of Marketing, Linc Global

A Ketner Q&A

Luke built his first ecommerce website in 1997 and has more recently focused on bringing software that improves customer experience and drives revenue to ecommerce retailers for the past 5 years. He has led product, development and customer service teams and brings his experience in print advertising and media to digital and offline marketing and growth. At Linc, his primary goal is to connect retailers with the knowledge and tools that drive stronger customer relationships and transform one time purchasers into lifetime shoppers.

KG: What are the best things about being an employee at Linc? 

Luke: Having the opportunity to be at the forefront of technology in the retail space is a unique opportunity. There are few companies who really understand retail, and who are pushing the limits of what technology can make possible. Being part of Linc gives us all a chance to not only know the future, but also define it.

KG: Why did Linc decide to engage with a PR firm? 

Luke: Linc decided PR was an important part of entering the market because our philosophy, mission and software operates under a new paradigm. We’re not just doing something better, we’re doing things differently. So education and awareness is key to our success in bringing this to the market.

KG: Why did you select Ketner Group?

Luke: The folks at Ketner Group were responsive from the get-go, and demonstrated clear understanding of the market we’re targeting. Both very important to us. Furthermore, they showed that they are focused on results, very detail-oriented and are as relentless as we are. They were a great fit for us.

KG: Ketner Group and Linc have been working together for almost a year. What’s been the most successful results of your engagement with Ketner Group?

Luke: We’ve been very pleased to be able to join the conversation in top tier retail media, with commentary and feature articles in the target publications we were having difficulty reaching previously. The biggest success for us has been constant and continuous coverage in our target publications, with some particular great results with a report we released, and also a press release about a new customer, both of which drove significant interest.

KG: What peer advice would you give to a fellow Tech Vendor looking to develop a PR strategy? 

Luke: Really consider the value before you get started. If you are targeting mastheads just for the optics, its likely you won’t see ROI. Think carefully about where your target customers are, and what you hope to get out of a PR investment. Then focus on and define goals and measurements that reflect the return you hope to get. Finally, communicate with your agency or PR lead so that they are on the same page, and then work hard every week, together.

REVTECH Focuses on Retail Reinvention

One of my most rewarding experiences in 2017 is Ketner Group’s involvement with REVTECH, a Dallas-based venture accelerator and seed fund that works with early-stage retail and restaurant technology companies. Ketner Group became a REVTECH sponsor in 2016, I signed on as a mentor, and it’s been full-speed ahead ever since. We just completed our first year with REVTECH, and it’s been eventful, to say the least.

REVTECH hosted three Tech Trends events in Dallas, opened a 13,000 sq.ft. co-working space, announced its largest fund to date this year, participated in numerous retail industry events and grew exponentially in industry recognition. Ketner Group helped several REVTECH portfolio companies with PR launches, and we’ve worked to earn recognition for REVTECH as one of retail’s premiere growth accelerators.

David Matthews, REVTECH’s managing partner and a veteran retail tech investor, is an evangelist for retail technology role, and he’s become a good friend to Ketner Group. We share a similar passion for retail technology and a firmly held belief that technology is vital to retail’s continuing transformation. REVTECH’s portfolio companies are doing groundbreaking work in AI, machine learning, robotics, IoT, voice and other technologies that are helping retailers break away from the pack.

Last week REVTECH announced the winner of its first REVTECH Entrepreneur of the Year award. Carly Nance and Rachel Bentley were honored for co-founding The Citizenry, a socially conscious, ethical home décor retailer that sells goods from artisans around the world, donating 10% of their profits back to the artisans’ communities. In addition to its online business and brick-and-mortar showroom, The Citizenry launched a pop-up show in New York last week just in time for holiday shopping. It’s a great example of the kind of fresh retail concept that can thrive in today’s fast-changing retail world and a worthy recipient of REVTECH’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.

As we enter the final count-down for holiday 2017, retail sales are up, along with consumer confidence, and Cyber Monday set a record with $6.6B in sales, the largest online shopping day in history. The industry has reason to be upbeat about 2018, and organizations like REVTECH will play a big role in ensuring a bright future for the retail industry.

Client Spotlight: Austin-Based Shopgate Relies on PR To Tell Its Story the Right Way to the Right Channels

Ketner Group loves telling our clients’ stories – it’s what we (said in our best Ursula the Sea Witch voice) LIVVVVE for. Not only that, we always strive to develop client relationships that are based on complete trust sprinkled with a little bit of fun – a true partnership.

Soon after the Ketner Group started working with Shopgate almost a year ago, the account team (which includes yours truly) knew right away this agency-client partnership was going to be a gem! In just over nine months, the Ketner Group account team and the amazing Shopgate marketing team have developed a finely-tuned PR engine. Together, we have increased Shopgate’s presence and thought-leadership in the otherwise crowded space of mobile shopping platforms, secured some high-value media placements and of course, have had a lot of fun along the way!

Check out our recent Q&A with Amanda Laviana, Shopgate’s marketing communications manager:

KG: What are the best things about being an employee at Shopgate?

SG: I most enjoy the autonomy and flexibility of working in a company (and field) that’s ever-evolving. Particularly, I enjoy the efficiency of working on a lean team, where accountability and versatility are the most valued characteristics of every team member.

KG: Why did Shopgate decide to engage with a PR firm? What challenges were you facing prior to deciding to hire an agency?

SG: We knew we had a great story to tell, along with a great product to promote, but were having trouble effectively relaying it to the right channels. With a small team already overwhelmed with the everyday upkeep of a full marketing calendar and strategy, PR was falling to the back burner, and we identified our lack of a strategy there as a major roadblock. We’d produced so much great content, and had so many exciting announcements, features and changes that we knew would be relevant to our industry peers and prospects, yet we hadn’t properly amplified any of it. We needed a dedicated team devoted to this endeavor, and knew using an agency would give us everything we needed.

KG: Why did you select Ketner Group?

SG: We selected Ketner Group after meeting a few members of the team at industry events, and after understanding their expertise and experience in our particular field and region. After meeting the rest of the team and understanding their proposed strategy, we knew we’d make an excellent team. They really understood our needs, goals and roadblocks.

KG: Ketner Group and Shopgate have been working together for almost a year. What have been the most successful results through your engagement with Ketner Group?

SG: During our tenure of working with Ketner, we’ve been so impressed with the results we’ve seen. We’ve secured coverage in virtually all of the publications we had on our “goals” list. This has included Inc., App Developer Magazine, Mobile Marketer, Internet Retailer, The Next Web and a slew of others, including many relevant local publications key to our employer branding efforts. Our brand, product, clients and leadership team have been featured in interviews, commentaries, podcasts and articles across so many channels. We really can’t overstate how valuable the coverage has been in building brand awareness and reaching new audiences.

KG: What peer advice would you give to a fellow tech vendor looking to develop a PR strategy? 

SG: Utilize the experts! Doing it alone can be appealing in the beginning, but the opportunities you miss by not having a team dedicated to promoting your story through earned media are invaluable. Whether you utilize an agency or not, a successful PR strategy depends heavily on your proactivity. Being involved with and on top of every opportunity – and finding your own opportunities – will make all the difference in the amount of coverage you yield, as well as the relevant relationships you’re able to forge.

What to Expect at Shop.org 2017

Image: Shop.org, NRF

The Ketner Group team is gearing up for the busiest time of year for our retail clients, and we’re kicking things off with Shop.org, Sept. 25-27, in Los Angeles.

This year, Shop.org is focused on bringing fresh content to attendees with keynotes from Tyra Banks and Kobe Bryant and a number of new opportunities to network and engage with industry peers. In addition, Shop.org has partnered with Fast Company to provide a unique series of sessions focused on innovation. We’re excited to see all of the changes at Shop.org this year!

KG Clients at Shop.org

A number of Ketner Group clients will be attending and exhibiting at Shop.org this year. These clients include:

Columbus Consulting

Founded in 2001, Columbus Consulting comprises of a team of highly experienced specialists in retail systems and processes. Through a combination of pragmatism, innovation and years of experience, they deliver services ranging from strategic insight to tactical project delivery. Their experience stems from holding executive responsibility in retail, and from successfully managing some of the most challenging projects in the industry. At Shop.org, Columbus Consulting will be available to discuss the benefits of unified commerce and the need for retailers to have a single view of real-time inventory as they head into the holiday sales season.

DynamicAction, Booth #1519

DynamicAction is the most advanced analytics solution specifically built for eCommerce, store and omnichannel retail merchandising teams. Connecting and analyzing millions of data points from every part of the retail organization, DynamicAction uses more than 600 proprietary algorithms to pinpoint margin-eating disconnects in the business, prescribe precise actions and accurately rank those actions by financial impact. During Shop.org, DynamicAction will be previewing the data for their upcoming Retail Index benchmark report as well as discussing how retailers can arm themselves with an Amazon Plan for the holidays.

GroupBy Inc., Booth #639

GroupBy Inc. recently acquired Edgecase, becoming the first data-driven e-commerce platform available for e-retailers. The acquisition merges the eCommerce search and merchandising provider with a data-driven product intelligence platform to create the most comprehensive cross-channel digital commerce solution to-date. At the show, GroupBy will be sharing new customer projects and deployments.

Linc, Booth #541, 1800

Linc’s customer care automation platform powers the digital experiences that strengthen the relationships between brands and shoppers, transforming one-time purchasers into lifetime customers. Brands, retailers and CPGs leverage Linc to provide their customers with exceptional tracking, return and exchange experiences, and create new revenue channels via personalized upsells, cross-sells, sampling and product re-ordering. At their booth, Linc will be providing a preview on its upcoming platform features and discussing how TechStyle Fashion Group is working with Linc to maximize its customer care efforts.

Mirakl, Booth #1205

Mirakl gives retailers and brands a fast path to increase customer value by launching an online marketplace. The Mirakl Marketplace Platform automates the hard things: seller onboarding, product data management, service quality control, and order distribution; on an API-based solution that’s modular and easy to integrate. Over 130 customers operating marketplaces in 40 countries trust Mirakl’s proven expertise and technology, including Hewlett Packard Electronics, Best Buy Canada, Carrefour, Darty, Galeries Lafayette and Halfords.

Shopgate, Booth #319

Shopgate‘s leading SaaS platform enables online retailers to easily create, maintain and optimize native apps and mobile websites for the iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and tablets. Shopgate uses cutting-edge marketing features such as one-click payments, mobile coupons and advanced push notifications to help merchants connect with consumers on the go. During Shop.org, Shopgate will feature a new customer win as well as discuss newly added features to its platform.

We’re happy to help you arrange a meeting with any of these clients during the show.

Retail Innovation Lounge at Shop.org

Over the past year, we’ve had the privilege to work with Anne Marie Stephen from kwolia and help support the Retail Innovation Lounge at various industry events. This year, NRF and kwolia are partnering to bring the Retail Innovation Lounge to the Shop.org show floor, Sept. 26-27.

The partnership provides a unique “lounge and learn” experience at the retail industry’s most important event for digital commerce. A dedicated stage in the Retail Innovation Lounge features curated content and programming with exclusive, inspiring content focused on today’s most successful retail strategies and concepts.

The Retail Innovation Lounge also includes lounge areas for networking and relaxation, games, a happy hour bar and demo space for sponsors. More information and a detailed agenda can be found, here.

If you plan on attending Shop.org this year, feel free to reach out to us to schedule a meeting or find us in the Retail Innovation Lounge. We’d love to see you there!

A Ketner Q&A with David Matthews, Managing Director at REVTECH

What is REVTECH and why did you start it?
REVTECH is a seed fund and accelerator program for leading retail tech startups.  I believe that Dallas is a logical hub for retail tech innovation given the number of national retailers headquartered here, most of whom are struggling to adapt to the rapidly changing retail model.  I started REVTECH because most of my most interesting deal flow (as a VC in Dallas for the past 17 years) has been in this sector.

What technology trends do you see most impacting the field?
The tools today’s consumer has at their fingertips bring selection, comparison and convenience never before seen in human history.  Retailers with legacy systems and processes simply can’t keep up.

How do you most like to stay up to date on trends?
I stay current on trends by monitoring the activities of the coastal VC’s and accelerators – especially those that focus on retail tech. I also evaluate the driving forces of M&A activity in the industry.

What’s the best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?
Best advice I’ve been given is to surround myself with people smarter than me – not a high bar!

How did you get involved in the industry?
My involvement in retail began as a low-wage employee in my youth; it accelerated when I landed JCPenney as a major customer (in my past life as an entrepreneur) when they moved from New York to Dallas.

What are three things we wouldn’t guess to be true about you?
1) I’m personally a low-tech guy, only high-tech with my investments. 2) I’m a drummer (not a singer!). 3) I’m a Buckeye!

What do you think is the biggest change occurring in the retail industry?
The consumer’s growing ability to fill needs effortlessly and to focus their shopping efforts on the wants and unknown needs.

What do you do for fun?
Walk the dog, hang out with my wife and kids and occasionally disappear to my cabin in the mountains.

About David Matthews
David is the managing director and founder of REVTECH. David founded REVTECH in 2011 as a seed capital fund and accelerator program focused on technology innovation for the retail industry. He has over 25 years of experience in building and developing companies and investing in software startups. REVTECH has funded 30 companies to date, half of which were able to attract seed funding of $250k or more, and four that have achieved $1 million in revenue annually. David has also helped these startups create over 200 new jobs. His most successful endeavors include selling Green Mountain Energy to NRG and selling Fiber Systems International to Amphenol. Matthews was raised in Oklahoma City and earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Ohio State University in 1986.

Until Next Year NRF

NRF’s Big Show is officially over and we are back in Austin! After several cups of coffee consumed as well as analyst and media meetings coordinated for 13 clients, I think it’s safe to say this year’s show was one for the books. Check out what the Ketner Group team was up to while in the Big Apple.

nrfinfographic17

NRF 2017, Here We Come

In most industries, the holidays are a time to disengage from the hustle and bustle of work, plan for 2017 and clean out the junk folders to start the New Year feeling refreshed. But as we all know, quite the opposite is true in retail. And once a new calendar gets pinned to the wall, the heat really starts to turn up as we make final preparations for the biggest conference of our year, NRF’s BIG Show.

This year, the Ketner Group team has been as busy as ever, meticulously preparing, pitching, coordinating and managing all sorts of client announcements and on-site briefings. As the newest member of the KG team and a rookie to the realities of NRF life, I have to admit it’s been impressive watching our team stay (mostly) stress-free, while securing some truly terrific opportunities for publicity next week, without losing sight of client needs in the now.

As our entire office goes wheels up this weekend, heading from sunny and warm Austin, Texas to the hopefully not-so-cold and not-so-gray Big Apple, I expect to feel the same excitement and confidence in our client outcomes as our veterans who have been mastering the NRF process for over ten years.

We look forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces, connecting with new clients and having NRF ’17 mark the start of another great year at Ketner Group, for our clients, and for the retail industry in general. Good luck everyone!

Ketner Group clients at NRF, and where to find them:

 

NRF 2017: Don’t Throw Away Your Shot in the Greatest City in the World!

For those of you who are theater nerds like me, perhaps you caught the mashed-up reference to two songs from the critically acclaimed, Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. (For those of you who didn’t catch the reference, I’ll forgive you only if you can score me 5 tickets to the show next Tuesday!)

Image provided by Kathleen See
Image provided by Kathleen See

But, back to the matter at hand. Those of us working in the retail industry know there are exactly nine days until NRF begins. As of right now, the race is on to be in the room where it happens -“it” meaning where the best and brightest in retail come together to showcase the technologies that will change the way consumers shop in 2017 and beyond. (I’d also like to say I threw in another Hamilton song reference in this paragraph. I’ll let you figure that out on your own.)

The Ketner Group team has attended and supported our clients at NRF for nearly 15 years, and we’ve learned a few things along the way – one big one is to wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated in between your Starbucks trips! Here are a few additional PR tips to keep in mind as we enter these last few days before the BIG show:

Don’t save all your announcements until January. Most vendors spend months planning their NRF announcements. But why cram all your news into a three-day period? We counsel our clients not to save everything until NRF, but rather to adopt a release strategy for before, during and after the Big Show.

Announcing significant customer wins and new technology in the months leading up to NRF is a great way to build momentum going into the show and to trumpet your successes to prospects. During the show, your news faces stiff competition from hundreds of other press releases, but one or two newsworthy announcements can help drive booth traffic and create a buzz during NRF. After the show is a good time for announcements, too; editors’ inboxes will be a lot less crowded, many of your competitors will emptied their arsenal of news at NRF, and your news will have room to breathe.

Don’t expect to brief everyone at NRF. While NRF presents a terrific opportunity for face-to-face meetings with key editors and analysts, you won’t be able to meet with everyone on your list. The top editors and analysts are in high demand during NRF and have tightly packed schedules; many of them will have their entire days booked in 30-minute slots starting at 6:30 a.m., and paying clients and prospects will have top priority. It is important to respect the fact that they may not be able to meet with you; briefings before or after NRF can often be more relaxed and unhurried.

In keeping with this, we advise our clients to connect with key influencers in the months leading up to NRF. Schedules are more open, and it’s an excellent time to bring analysts and editors up to speed on your company’s latest products, customers and other developments. During these briefings, you can also lay the groundwork for a possible meeting or product demo at NRF.

Leave the PowerPoints at home. The editors and analysts you meet at NRF will likely be cramming 30+ vendor meetings into their day – which can mean an equal number of mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations. We advise our clients to scrap the PowerPoints during NRF. After all, if you’ve done your briefings in the fall, then an NRF meeting can be a chance to build a one-on-one relationship. Offer editors and analysts a comfortable place to sit (their feet will be aching!), bottled water and treat them the same way you’d treat your most valued customers. Find out in advance what they’d like to focus on during the meeting: demo, product roadmap or customer announcements. If an editor is accompanied by a sales rep, be sure to give him or her equal time, too.  After all, editors and analysts have to make a living, too, and many of the lead generation programs offered by the top retail and analyst firms can produce solid results.

 If companies prepare properly, NRF can get the new year off to a running start. Don’t forget, history will have its eyes on New York during those four days this January – what will you do to earn your shot in the greatest city in the world?