austin-startup-week-2020

Austin Startup Week: Planning for Startups, Take Two

This year, Ketner Group Communications is thrilled to participate in two Austin Startup Week panels! For the first year, Austin Startup Week will occur digitally and we couldn’t be more excited to participate after the fun we’ve had in previous years. Just last year Catherine Seeds was part of the panel, Differentiate or Die: How to Go Beyond Startup Status.

Panel one: 2020 PR and marketing planning

This year, I will moderate the panel discussion, 2020 PR and Marketing Planning for Startups, Take Two: What to Do Now, alongside Adlucent’s Senior Director of Marketing, Laura Russell and Revionics’ SVP of Global Marketing, Jonathan Dampier.

This panel, held during Austin Startup Week 2020, will discuss how marketing strategy has pivoted during 2020, offering best practices for managing marketing and PR programs in this time of uncertainty and practical insights for moving forward.

Panel two: innovative retail concepts

Additionally, our very own Jeff Ketner will also moderate a separate panel discussion titled, “Innovative Brands and Retail Concepts: The Next Wave.” Panel participants will include David Matthews, Managing Director of RevTech Ventures and Michelle Breyer, COO of SKU.

This session will focus on the what’s next for brands and retail concepts that is now dominating the news cycle. Prior to the COVID pandemic, all anyone could talk about was “The store of the future!” and what that meant for shoppers. We now live in a different world, which still revolves around what our future store and favorite brands might look like, but consumers priorities have changed, and expectations have become higher. 

The panel will discuss, from a VC point of view, what the next wave will be, beyond today’s “so hot right now” digitally native brands. They will explore what future shoppers will expect of these brands and retail concepts, including highly personalized services, more experiential shopping and product curation, and of course, convenience.

austin-startup-week-event-2020

Re-evaluating 2020 planning

As our CEO, Jeff Ketner, mentioned earlier this year, “2020 planning was derailed for many companies far too early this year, especially startups who looked to 2020 as the year to make their public launch.”

The pandemic has forced companies to scrap carefully laid business and marketing plans and adjust at lightning speed to constantly changing conditions. We’re now past the mid-point of 2020, and the question is: what comes next for startups?

Despite the ravages of the coronavirus, we’re seeing some signs of optimism.

Startups are focused on the future and have moved quickly to pivot their products and services to meet the uncertainties of the post-pandemic world.

Companies are rethinking business models, looking for new opportunities to help their customers succeed, and many are aligning their marketing and PR plans accordingly.

Setting a course for the remainder of the year

Both panel discussions will touch on initiatives that are a must for every company, PR practitioner and marketer, including:

  • Re-examining your brand’s proposition
  • Innovating fearlessly
  • Focusing on the fundamentals
  • Reallocating your unspent marketing budget
  • Planning for 2021 with pivots in mind

Join us for Austin Startup Week

“2020, am I right?”

This year has not only tested our personal and professional resiliency, but has taught us valuable lessons on how to roll with the punches and rise to the challenge. “How?” you ask.  Join us this year at Austin Startup Week 2020, a five-day online event showcasing the Austin startup community, to find out.

marketing investments 2021

Retail’s Big Show Has Gone Digital: What Should Tech Vendors Do Now?

NRF, the National Retail Federation’s annual expo, has always lived up to its nickname of “Retail’s Big Show.” For the past 20+ years, Ketner Group has braved New York’s frigid January weather to help our clients make the most of retail’s signature event.

That’s ancient history now, of course, for NRF and every other industry event. Almost overnight, virtual events have replaced physical events, and 2021’s January NRF is now a two-week digital event, with a physical expo to follow in June. Since no one knows what to expect from the new format, it’s opened up a huge void in sales and marketing that retail tech vendors are scrambling to fill.

This has also freed up new marketing budget for some companies, since their NRF 2021 budget may go largely unspent for the remainder of the year. We’re actively working with many clients to help refocus their marketing activities in the absence of NRF, and here are four recommendations to consider.

4 marketing investments instead of nrf 2021

1. Double down on PR

As we wrote in a blog post this summer, this is not the time to go dark on PR. Companies have typically viewed NRF as a prime event for new customer and product announcements, and we see no reason why this should change.

After all, retailers will have set their priorities for technology investments, and they’ll want to know more about your solutions, customers, technology direction and understanding of the challenges they face in 2021 (and there will be plenty, coming off retail’s most disruptive year in decades).

So start planning your PR strategy and campaigns now. This includes press releases, thought leadership content, editorial briefings, media relations campaigns and more; if you have a robust pipeline of announcements, get started this fall and keep your foot on the accelerator pedal through January.

2. Step up your analyst relations program

Retailers’ technology priorities have shifted dramatically in the wake of COVID-19, and they will be looking to industry analysts to help them prioritize investments and vendors.

This fall and winter will be critical times to refresh your messaging and conduct analyst update briefings. It’s important to understand key analysts’ viewpoints and to demonstrate how your solutions help retailers meet the challenges of the new, post-COVID world.

If you’re not currently investing in analyst services, this may be the time to redirect some of your NRF budget, to ensure constant access to analyst research, strategic direction, inquiries and feedback.

Research projects can pay big dividends, too, whether it’s with a traditional analyst firm or through a market research group such as Researchscape, who we’ve partnered with on multiple occasions.

3. Remember: content is still king

In the absence of face-to-face meetings at events, content is more important than ever. Conversion rates are six times higher for companies that use content marketing, according to Aberdeen Group, and fresh content will drive greater engagement on your company website and provide fresh material for your lead nurturing and content marketing programs.

Content comes in a wide range of formats, including blog posts, infographics, customer case studies, ebooks, whitepapers and more.

Repurpose your content when it makes sense, in order to get the most out of your content marketing investments. One long-form piece of content can be condensed and reused for blog posts and thought leadership articles for media, for example, and also be used to drive social media engagement.

4. Complete a messaging and website refresh

Many companies have used NRF to launch new marketing messages, and that shouldn’t change. After all, NRF has gone digital; what better time to revamp your digital presence?

With all the changes in retail in 2020, your company’s messaging and website is likely due for an overall, too. Make sure your messaging and your website are current, relevant and speak to the real needs that retailers will face in 2021.

After all, your website is the foundation for all other marketing initiatives. When done properly, PR, analyst relations and content will always drive people back to the website.

Focus on the future

These are some of the key initiatives that companies must focus on in the coming months, and there is much more that can be done.

Companies should also take a close look at NRF 2021’s virtual offering, too; just because an event has gone digital is no reason to not be involved. But given the uncertainties of a new format, it’s important to put even more emphasis on the initiatives we’ve described here. 

If you’re interested in diving into one of these initiatives and would like some help, we offer a free 30-minute consultation. We’d love to talk about how we can power an impactful marketing initiative. Get in touch.

3686-festival-ketner-group-communications

Back to Where We Started in Nashville: Ketner Group Participates in This Year’s 36|86 Festival

I love anniversaries. It gives one the opportunity to look back at where you’ve been, what you’ve gone through and all the good things that lay ahead.

This time last year, Kirsty Goodlett, our director of Nashville, and I, were putting the final touches on our soon to be Nashville launch. Our anniversary “week” in Nashville kicked off with an amazing launch party, complete with signature cocktails, food and a panel of brilliant, all-female storytellers.

We continued our launch activities by participating in and attending 36|86 Festival, the premier entrepreneur and start up event of the Southeast. As Kirsty said in her recap blog last year, it was truly nothing short of magic!

We were honored to kick off 36|86 with a panel featuring Kirsty, Ben Kurland and Lisa Roberts, chatting about how to win press and influence customers. Kirsty also did a podcast interview with our friend, Clark Bucker, for the 36|86 podcast, and we secured some wonderful media coverage for Ketner Group in Nashville and Austin.

Our launch was perfect, and was made possible against the wonderful backdrop of 36|86. Which is why, when asked if we wanted to participate in this year’s festival and manage media relations for 36|86, we responded with a resounding “YES!” to our friends at Launch Tennessee.

36|86 Festival goes global, interactive and virtual!

Due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s 36|86 Festival will look a bit different, but will still include all of the amazing speakers, sessions, networking and that Nashville pizazz that attendees have come to expect from the event!

The fully interactive, online experience will take place over two weeks for a global audience from Aug. 17-28. 36|86 will offer human stories, real strategies, 1-on-1 networking opportunities and shared experiences in its most accessible form yet.

Here are just a few of this years “can’t miss” featured speakers:

  • Garth Brooks, country music superstar
  • Eddie George, entrepreneur and former NFL running back
  • Van Jones, CNN host and political commentator and CEO of REFORM Alliance
  • Ian Rogers, Group Chief Digital Officer of LVMH
  • Dr. Stacey Edwards Dunn, founder and president of Fertility for Colored Girls, NFP

Ketner Group brings a bit of Austin to Nashville

Our team is so proud to again participate in this year’s festival, bringing our love of PR and entrepreneurial innovation to the 36|86 stage. And this year, Kirsty and I are bringing a few more of the KG team along for the fun!

On August 25, Jeff Ketner and Mariana Fischbach will be talking about all things press coverage in a session titled Ketner Group Wants You to Get More Press – teaching attendees how to craft PR-worthy news messages that hook the journalist, build your brand story, and define a call to action from readers.

Right after the session, Jeff and Mariana will be available for a live “ask the experts” session for festival attendees.

Kirsty and I are also back in full swing at 36|86 this year, judging two pitch competitions with some new and old friends from Nashville! Startup companies and student groups are competing for bragging rights as well as cash prizes. Don’t miss this opportunity to see some of the brightest and most innovative minds in Tennessee!

If that hasn’t been exciting enough, we have also been managing media relations for this year’s festival. It’s been wonderful taking them on as a client and telling the most amazing entrepreneurship stories.

Building community across the global startup ecosystem

Right now, a year after our official launch in Nashville, Ketner Group and the entire world find ourselves in a unique situation. Our lives have become disrupted and turned upside down, but, we’ve all become closer and more connected than ever, and that’s exciting! Think of all the possibilities!

36|86 has embodied what it means for events, right now, to make timely, engaging and entertaining content available to anyone around the world. The show must go on, and the Ketner Group team is thrilled to again share the stage with an amazing collection of game-changers, disrupters and future-seekers!

I hope to see ya’ll there!

Click here to register for 36|86, which kicks off in just a few days!

NRF 2020 Expo Hall

What to Do After NRF: Post-Tradeshow PR, Marketing and Lead Nurturing

Ah, tradeshows! Those giant beasts that take over our lives for at least six months, if not longer. We know B2B tradeshows are often a major line-item in a company’s yearly budget, and as such, should be treated with care. We often see a lot of time and focus on the first two, but it’s critical you know what to do after NRF to keep the momentum going.

As we have many clients, prospects and industry peers that attend the BIG Show each year, aka NRF (National Retail Federation), our goal for this blog is to provide recommendations for retail technology vendors to make note of in their post-NRF plans. After all, Ketner Group has been faithfully making the trip to New York every January since 1999.

That’s 20+ years of learning from our clients on what works and what doesn’t!

Now that the Expo Hall is officially closed, below is a quick checklist of things from the Ketner Group team to keep in mind as the dust settles from the Big Apple:

(As a general caveat, the best practices called out in this blog can really be applied to any B2B tradeshow.)

Post Show Emails to New Leads – Get Them Out, STAT!

We can’t reiterate this enough: post-show emails to the leads you generated at NRF MUST happen, and fast! Retailers have made a point to attend NRF to see what technologies they want to implement in 2020 – this is your chance to keep those conversations going.

Make sure to send personalized “thank you” emails to each person you meet; i.e., if a salesperson meets a prospect, he or she should take the lead on the follow-up. The email should contain a variety of helpful, unique information, and focus on the products they cared about specifically to give the email a more personal touch.

If you were not able to connect at the show, send “sorry we missed you” emails to the rest of your list. Their inbox will be less hectic, and there’s no pressure for them to work you into a packed schedule. This can also be a great time to get in front of someone who was underwhelmed by other vendors they may have met with on site.

If time is of the essence, you can also send out a general, visual email to everyone that was met at NRF.

Media and Analysts – Keep Those Conversations and Relationships Going

Sales leads are important at NRF, no doubt, but so are the face-to-face meetings with key media and analysts. You’ve likely executed on a successful communications/PR plan at NRF that has landed you targeted media briefings, an interview with Retail Touchpoints TV and/or inclusion in RIS News’ Top Ten Takeaways article – all hopefully with our help! – but what should you do next?

An example of an NRF recap article, from RIS News

Media and Analysts You Met With

This is critical: follow up on every media and analyst request and conversation after NRF.  This can be done by you and via a PR partner like Ketner Group. Conversations at NRF invariably lead to post-NRF follow-up, so it’s important to follow through on all the details. A simple thank you is helpful, but even better is following up with specific deliverables, like a demo, more insight into a customer you discussed, or a new pitch angle that might have come up, etc.

Media and Analysts You Did Not Meet With

Don’t forget to follow up with key media and analysts that you didn’t get to meet with or that were unable to attend, too.

Lastly, we’ve seen way too many cases where retail tech companies make all their announcements at NRF and then have a drought of several months when they make no announcements at all. In the past, media have been receptive to story pitches several weeks after NRF, when so much of the noise from the Big Show has died down.

If you have the luxury of multiple press releases around NRF, especially a retail customer announcement, hold one back for early February.

Content – The More Unique, The Better!

If done right, post-NRF content can help motivate prospects to continue having fruitful conversations with you. Content, which includes press releases you send out after NRF, is the best way to you top of mind with prospects AND media/analysts.

Publish a Recap Blog

Do a recap blog on your key themes from NRF, or the major topics that seemed to come up in every conversation you had, then share them on social media. Focus on adding as much unique content as you can – including images, videos, podcasts, quotes, stories – to make your content stand out. As well, include a call to action for demos of products that address those topics.

Here’s an NRF recap blog we wrote last year and a great example from Kibo.  

An example of a great NRF recap blog from a technology vendor, from Kibo Commerce

Consider an eBook or Long-Form Content

As part of your pre-NRF preparation, consider creating an ebook (we recommend interactive or image-driven that is easy to read) that you can also send to prospects that showcases how your solution can help solve their challenges. This can be effective for both pre- and post-NRF marketing.

Most of us have little time to read these days, let alone retailers. Make sure any content you send is easily digestible as well as informative.

Promote it prominently on your website, including alongside your recap blog, and push via email and social to capitalize on the power of each channel.

Social Media – It’s All About the Hashtag (#NRF2020)

Speaking of social, your social media platforms are the perfect way to amplify the successes you achieved, promote post-show content and of course to further develop the relationships from NRF. It’s your branding megaphone, take advantage of it post-show!

If you haven’t already, follow all media and analysts you engaged with at the show to keep the conversation going. Share their NRF recap thoughts and have your leadership engage with their content, especially if you earn coverage with them.

Social Engagement Is a Full-Time Job

Note: beyond any NRF coverage, as part of your relationship building, we always recommend commenting on published articles throughout the year, even if they do not include your company. This goes a long way, especially with journalists.

And remember, the hashtag doesn’t end when the show does. Make sure to use any key hashtags, especially #NRF2020, to share any follow-up content you post.

Website – Your Branding Homebase for All Things NRF

Your website is your North Star, so make sure it has everything prospects and industry playmakers might need to get any information about your company after the BIG show.

We always recommend taking down your NRF 2020 promo branding as soon as the show ends. However, you may want to consider leaving a spot on the homepage for the “Missed Us At NRF?” crowd. Bring them to the recap blog and highlight the demos/calls to action.

As you prepare for 2020, get ready for the next show early! Wherever you’ll have a presence, promote it prominently on the site. NRF might be the biggest retail technology show, but there’s a ton of value in other shows like EuroCIS and Shoptalk coming right up. It’s never too early to get ready.

Lastly, make sure your details for 2020 are on your website. It’s best to have an events page that lists all of the events you attend in a given year.

NRF – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

We know that you put in a ton of time preparing for NRF and working overtime during the show to execute on that planning. Just don’t forget that the show isn’t over once the booth is broken down. The people you meet and relationships you build continue on for years.

Need PR and Marketing Support?

If you are looking for a retail partner for 2020, we’d love to speak with you. Drop us a line at [email protected]!

Groceryshop logo

Groceryshop 2019: Highlights from Twitter

Alas, the Ketner Group team did not attend last week’s Groceryshop event in Las Vegas. However, it felt like we were right in the room via comments made in the Twitterverse. This is year two of Groceryshop, and from what we’ve been hearing, it did not disappoint! Groceryshop brought together over 3,000 attendees and more than 200 speakers, all who are extremely passionate about the transformation of the grocery retail industry. And why shouldn’t they be? The industry is redefining itself day after day, with new and shiny ways to make our trips to the grocery store – be they online or in a physical location – a fun and delightful experience.

Overheard on Twitter about Groceryshop 2019:

Let’s Give The Grocery Industry Something To Talk About

Grocery Retailers Should be All About That Data

Advertising Week New York

Advertising Week New York: A Ketner Group Preview

With clients like Adlucent and PMG on our roster, Ketner Group understands advertising’s role in today’s retail market. For that reason, I was excited to see the retail-heavy agenda unfold for Advertising Week New York. As an added bonus, Advertising Week is located just steps away from the Ketner Group NYC headquarters in Lincoln Square.

On Monday, Sept. 23, there will be eight retail-focused sessions with smattering of related content throughout the four-day event. Curious what’s on my agenda for the week? If so, here’s a preview for you!

Retail at Advertising Week

Monday’s retail lineup will be held on the Culture Builders Stage.

A.M. Lineup

“Passion & Performance Marketing: Driving Growth & Demand While Honoring The Spirit Of Your Brand” kicks off the retail sessions at 9:45 a.m. Google, Cardlytics and Tinulti will discuss marrying passion and performance in online and local to generate happy customers.

Next, the focus shifts to data. Experian, PlaceIQ, IRI Worldwide and TrueData explore how brands can extract more from their data. Check out “So Much Data…So Little Time” at 10:45 a.m. to learn how to manage mass amounts of data and make smarter advertising decisions.

If retail is the topic of conversation, Amazon is sure to come up. At 11:45 a.m. Catalyst, Xaxis, Georgia-Pacific and Pacvue look at how Amazon is reshaping shopper marketing. “Seismic Shifts: How Amazon is Reshaping Shopper Marketing” will help retailers and and brands better understand this changing dynamic.

P.M. Lineup

One of the hottest topics in retail is direct-to-consumer brands. During “Reinventing Retail – How to Think Like DTC Startups” at 12:45 p.m., Rhone, Koio, Bombas and Dagne Dover join Digiday‘s Shareen Pathak to explore how “DTC brands are reinventing the consumer journey, [and] experimenting with customer service and retail concepts.”

Afterward, stay in your seats for the 1:45 session, “Hello to Good-Buy: Marketing Approaches to Drive the Evolving Consumer Journey.” Valassis, GSK and Universal McCann chat reimagining marketing approaches to effectively engage evolving shopper preferences.

Then, for some holiday talk. At 2:45 p.m., Open X and Essence Global take the stage for “Reaching Holiday Shoppers in the Age of Digital.” Attendees will leave with a better understanding of today’s holiday shopper and an overview of 2019 holiday consumer spending habits.

At 3:45 p.m. Constellation Brands, AT&T and CAA discuss “Beyond Digital Retail: The Future of Retail, Moving Well Past Omnichannel.” Panelists will discuss the consumer demand for customization, on-demand services, and the impact of mobile and technology.

The retail track wraps at 4:45 p.m. with “Flipping the Script: The Rise of Shape-Shifting Experience Platforms.” VMLY&R and SHOWFIELDS, the new store concept from Shopify, explore today’s top marketing strategies.

Monday wraps with a networking happy hour. Stick around for cocktails and conversation with fellow attendees.

What to Check Out After Monday

While the official retail track takes place on Monday, there are plenty of related topics to check out throughout the four-day event. So, let’s see what other sessions are worth checking out.

Tuesday largely focuses on AdTech and brand innovation. Throughout the day, hear from Burger King, brands like The Knot, LG and OceanSpray, and Verizon and Anheuser Busch.

On Wednesday, DTC, retail and the customer experience continue to be key themes. Sessions include:

On Thursday, Advertising Week will focus on female leaders in advertising and marketing at retailers and brands in a series of “Future is Female” sessions.

Meet Ketner Group at Advertising Week

Attending Advertising Week? Want to chat about the state of advertising and retail? In that case, I’d love to connect and grab a cup of coffee during the events. Send me an email and we’ll find a time to meet up.

Ketner Group Panel on Storytelling in Nashville and Austin

Nashville Office Hosts Storytelling Panel

On August 26, as part of the week-long celebration of our Nashville office launch, Ketner Group hosted an outstanding all-female panel around storytelling and brand building. If you’d like, you can view a recording of the panel on our blog.

With more than 60 entrepreneurs, marketers and communicators of all ages were in attendance, we met fascinating people with unique backgrounds and perspectives on brand building and business development.

A very special thanks to our panelists Nicole Delger, Kelley Griggs and Brittney Oliver for lending us their time and expertise. A sincere thank you to all who joined us – we hope every attendee learned a little something that makes their story easier to tell and more powerful for their brand. 

The storytelling didn’t disappoint. We loved hearing about how an unknown author was able to secure a publisher for her book after Brittney wrote a Fast Company article about it and put her on the map.

Meanwhile, Nicole discussed how her reliance on telling stories has helped Musgrave Pencil Co., a more than 100-year-old business, develop a modern brand voice.

And for all of the PR pros looking for some insights into the secret sauce… Kelly spilled the beans on how journalists identify stories that will resonate with their audience (it’s all about personal connection to a story’s presentation and impact).

Our engaged audience asked great questions and kept the conversation focused on driving and measuring value – the real reason we spend so much time on creating our stories.

We also want to extend a very special thank you to the We Work in East Nashville for hosting, Perfectly Cordial for making spectacular cocktails for our guests, and to Goodnight Loving Vodka and Cazadores Tequila for donating the spirits.

We can’t wait to continue growing our Nashville office alongside the thriving Nashville business community.  We wish we could do it all again next week!

NYC retail scene

NYC Retail Hits and Misses: Edition 1, Volume 2

A better title for this edition of “NYC Retail Hits and Misses” is “NYC Retail Hits and a Fix.” Or, a la “Friends,” in honor of its 25th Anniversary, “The One Where Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now Redeem Themselves.” But this did not come without one last blunder.

Before we dive into my ongoing NYC grocery saga, let’s talk about some happier retail happenings.

Hit: The Lead

No, don’t worry, “The Lead” isn’t a hip new retail store or direct-to-consumer brand that you’ve missed out on. But it might be one of the hottest new retail innovation events.

Launched last year, The Lead “bridges the fashion & retail industry with the global Silicon Valley, empowering the industry’s transition to digital centricity.” With more than 1,300 attendees at this year’s Innovation Summit, The Lead is quickly capturing the attention of retailers, brands, solution providers and influencers, alike.

Last month, Catherine made the trip to NYC and joined me in Brooklyn for the summit. Over two days, we heard from innovative solution providers like NewStore, Yotpo and Afterpay. Speakers also included executives from some of the hottest young brands and retailers in the industry, including Bombas, Shinola and AYR. We heard how Bombas is creating a culture for today’s workforce, how Shinola is reinvigorating Detroit, and how AYR is reaching millennials and Gen Z.

After two days of great speakers and conversations, I’m excited to see where next year leads (pun intended) the event.

Miss Fix: Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now

Okay, now back to the grocery drama.

As you might recall, after my last experience with Amazon Prime Now and Whole Foods, I was left without groceries. Soon after I wrote that blog, I learned the Whole Foods on the Upper West Side allows customers to shop in the store and pay for delivery anywhere in Manhattan. For a small fee of $4, my LaCroix, watermelon and other heavy items were delivered to my doorstep. Problem solved.

But not for long. On June 6, Amazon and Whole Foods ended their relationship with Instacart and moved all of their delivery in house. Long story short, when I went grocery shopping on June 11 and asked for delivery, I was out of luck. Whole Foods now only delivers to customers within 10 blocks. My nearest Whole Foods is 20 blocks away.

After a lot of back and forth, I was once again left without groceries. I was told my only option for delivery was to order through Prime Now. <Insert face-palm emoji>

After explaining my ongoing saga to the store managers, I was told to call corporate customer service. I then received a call from regional headquarters and was told to email the details and share the blog I’d previously written. This was the last I heard in mid-June.

Fast forward to early July. I see a courier delivering what appears to be a Whole Foods order from Prime Now in my neighborhood. I gave it another go. It was July 4 weekend and I had time to go to the grocery store if needed. But wah lah! Later that day, I had a fridge full of Waterloo sparkling water!

Two orders later, and the Whole Foods-Prime Now drama appear to be solved.

The NYC Retail Adventures Continue

With a Friends-themed pop up on the way and the opening of ThirdLove’s first brick-and-mortar concept, the adventures continue. If you’re in NYC, let’s grab coffee and discuss all things retail.

shoptalk-2019-1

Shoptalk 2019: Consumers Lead the Retail Evolution

At Shoptalk 2019, Shoptalk founder, Anil Aggarwal, asked, “what will retail look like ten years from now?” It’s an interesting question. The retail industry is changing at an unprecedented pace, thanks to consumers’ changing expectations. And retailers are answering the call with new initiatives that will have a lasting impact on retail.

It’s important to explore the depths of which consumer behaviors are changing retail. For example, Facebook’s VP of Ads & Business Platform, Mark Rabkin, stated that consumers are proving how quickly they can get into new models of consumption. Meaning, consumers who normally adopt new trends every six months are now adopting new trends on a monthly basis. This new adoption model has quickly driven retailers to experiment with new customer experience concepts. Below are a few interesting ones seen and heard from the Shoptalk floor.

Macy’s Pursues Mobile and In-Store Experience

Jill Ramsey, Macy’s Chief Product and Digital Revenue Officer, and Rachel Shechtman, Brand Experience Officer, discussed retail’s next chapter. Taking a look at Macy’s most-loved traditions like its Thanksgiving Day Parade and holiday display windows, Ramsey and Shechtman identified key areas to make the Macy’s shopping experience iconic with digital and in-store components. Ramsey highlighted how Macy’s mobile app is now the retailer’s year-round display window, bringing shoppers aesthetic and curated shopping experiences that drive inspiration.

Macy’s also created a new initiative, Macy’s Style Crew, driven by store associates. The retailer tapped into its employee base to identify micro-influencers who can showcase their fashion and style. This initiative showcases Macy’s products beyond the retailer’s four walls and drives inspiration. Within the store, Shechtman discussed her work with Macy’s to create curated in-store experiences that facilitate shopping for consumers.

Startups Merge Digital and Physical

Discussions also highlighted how digital pure players are finding a home in brick and mortars. For example, both Madison Reed and GlamSquad, who traditionally offered their services offline, have teamed up with established retailers and opened their own locations to create full-circle shopping experiences. For example, GlamSquad who brings mobile beauty services to consumers’ homes, opened beauty kiosks at CVS. Meanwhile, Madison Reed opened Color Bars in select locations around the country. Both of these digital pure players agree their digital presence is key, but their newfound physical presence taps new audiences. While their digital presence put them on the map, their physical component takes their shopping experience to the next level.

Rent the Runway and Crate and Barrel Offer Services

Crate and Barrel discussed rethinking the in-store experience to deliver customer experiences that live up to the expectations of today. Crate and Barrel’s CEO, Neela Montgomery, discussed different partnerships with companies like Zola, a wedding planning and registry company, to facilitate the shopping experience.

As well, Rent the Runway’s COO Maureen Sullivan discussed how the company gives shoppers the ability to shift from ownership to access with the ability to utilize Rent the Runway year-round.

Retail Ten Years From Now

So, what will retail look like ten years from now? The truth is no one can answer that question just yet. However, as consumers continue to run the show and retailers answer the call, it appears retail will become more service oriented than ever. The new age of retail will also continue to focus on delivering fun experiences that drive inspiration and continue incentivizing consumers to shop. It will also blend the lines of physical and digital, creating unique experiences upon every iteration.

NRF 2019

NRF 2019 Gives Retail Stores the Old “Razzle Dazzle”

Please excuse the musical reference in my headline, but it just seems to fit!  The Ketner Group team is still on a high after wrapping up another successful NRF Big Show. We also saw the musical “Chicago” (starring Cuba Gooding Jr.) on Broadway. In the musical, the song “Razzle Dazzle” is about a lawyer who wins all of his cases by putting on a good show in the courtroom. He always stretches the truth since most of his clients are actually guilty!  The “razzle dazzle” I’m referring to, however, is the hundreds of new retail technologies that were on display last week at the Javits Center.

I think Joe Skorupa, editorial director of RIS News, summed it up best: The 2019 NRF Big Show was big, big, big! As usual, frenzied herds of attendees funneled into sessions and booths that were often too crowded to accommodate them. But this year’s NRF took bigness to a new level. Aisles were clogged with attendees, innovative exhibitors were jam packed and traditional exhibitors were jam packed. The lower level of the Javits Center, usually an outpost for the forlorn and lonely, was a hotbed of engaging technology and crowded activity.”

Razzle Dazzle ‘Em, Give ‘Em A Show That’s So Splendiferous

This year, NRF exhibitors and sponsors truly outdid themselves. The renewed interest in the brick and mortar store is everywhere, and the excitement is brewing. The industry “talked the talk” about the store in 2018, but at NRF, everyone seemed to really “walk the walk” when it comes to store investments! Even Target CEO Brian Cornell acknowledged the value of his stores. According to Cornell, Target stores fulfilled 3 out of every 4 orders. This included items picked up in the store, delivered to customers in the parking lot, or picked and packed by store associates and shipped to customers. Cornell considers his stores his single biggest competitive advantage.

Razzle Dazzle ‘Em, And They’ll Beg You For More!

You’ve heard the phrase “location, location, location,” but it seems in 2019, the chant for retailers will be “the store, the store, the store!” Just take a look at some of the store-focused announcements from Ketner Group clients:

  • California Closets demonstrated their use of Elo’s smart table technology, which incorporates use of endless aisle/endless design app on the Elo touchscreen platform.
  • C-store retailer Pilot Flying J announced that it is deploying a new store architecture solution with NCR Software Defined Store, enabled by Zynstra. The architecture creates an agile infrastructure across the entire store, reducing costs and optimizing operations for faster innovation.
  • Theatro announced the launch of its new data analytics suite, a proprietary method to track, aggregate, and analyze in-store employee key performance indicators.

These and many other new store technology deployments tell us two things. First, retailers want to do all they can to make the store a destination for fun, in-store shopper engagement.  Second, they can (and should) utilize the store to power their omnichannel efforts. Note: I have a feeling that we will have another word to replace omnichannel in 2019. Stay tuned on that!

Razzle Dazzle ‘Em, And They’ll Make You A Star!

The Ketner Group team believes the old “razzle dazzle” has new meaning for the retail industry in 2019. Gone are the days of trying to impress retailers with a three-ring circus of ineffective and expensive technologies. Solutions demonstrated at NRF 2019 have invigorated the industry with a breath of fresh air. The Ketner Group team is excited to play our part to push that momentum forward in 2019.

As notable author and speaker Steve Dennis recently tweeted, “Physical retail isn’t dead. Boring retail is.”

Don’t be boring. Go after the razzle dazzle!