The Cool Stuff from NRF 2018

After so much learning from Retail’s Big Show, NRF 2018, I’ve saved the best for last.  What are disruptions in the retail and brand space that I’m jazzed for 2018?

As someone who has spent her career being ROI focused and proving business cases for technology, I typically find value and excitement the results being presented.  Ideas that can be packaged differently for various industries, or something that sparks thought around macro-trends  to take account when trying to create new solutions or ideas.

Here are a few of the “cool things” I’ll be thinking about and reviewing for my clients in 2018.

  • Albert AI Engine – Silvia Campello, President and COO of Cosabella, reported they realized a 336% increase in return on ad spend (ROAS) utilizing Albert with their email marketing, in just three months
  • Since working with AgilOne, David’s Tea has experienced a 30% increase in revenue from email, a 20% increase in open rates, and an 8% increase in click through rates
  • Augmented and virtual reality tools with practical applications – visualizing furniture in a room, a car fitting into a garage, or a pergola on a deck, for example
  • Post-recession changes in consumer behavior that isn’t changing even though the economy is getting better – presented by Kate Ancketill, CEO and Founder of GDR Creative Intelligence
    • No longer shame to buy discount – mix and match, isn’t just discount, luxury and mass
    • By Q1 of 2018, there will be more Dollar General than McDonalds
    • Decline in middle income earners

My favorite quote from The NRF Big Show 2018 provides food for thought, Michael Lastoria, CEO, Co-Founder, and Creative Director &Pizza states, “If you’re going into it with a thesis that is predominantly about unit economics or something that is going to be infinitely scalable, the chances of success are really, really, really low…it almost has to be fearlessly weird, with little to no chance of success to create the kind of phenomenon that will create that long term success.”

What a cool time to be alive!

If you’ve missed my earlier posts of #NRF2018, here you go:


Remember the Mullet

Culture of Innovation


Create Innovation – NRF 2018

The wrap-up of Retail’s Big Show, NRF 2018, has given us the opportunity to discuss people and ways that technology can unlock better experiences.  Today, we’ll explore what it means (and what it doesn’t mean) to have an innovative culture.

Create a Culture of Innovation

Technology is unlocking growth and experiences we never dreamed possible just five years ago.  Retailers and brands are faced with a challenge; how to meet the needs and expectations of today’s customers, while creating innovative solutions and products to keep you in the game for years to come.

I have worked with companies who say they prioritize innovation but are only looking for the home run.  I have talked with others who think about new product concepts, yet don’t realize that the experiences with their consumers are where the innovative opportunities lie.  Likewise, I have worked with some brands who have woven innovation into the DNA of their culture and have created a recipe for innovation success.

From listening to some of the 2018 NRF panelist and comparing my experiences, here are a few things to keep in mind when creating a culture of innovation:

  • Innovation is not something you do every few years, it is a system ingrained in your organization, constantly being fed and refined – Sometimes the concepts will be winners, and others will be duds, and your organization has to be OK with that
  • Before you start adding the cool stuff, make sure you have your basics covered
  • Take smart risks
    • Develop KPI’s ahead of time
    • Communicate to all those who have to execute so there is alignment
    • Stay off the side lines; you don’t have to have it all figured out at once
    • Start – start with the consumer journey and map backward looking for pain points and ways to solve them creatively

Above all, when creating a culture of innovation, remember to reward fortitude and determination.


NRF 2018 – Remember the Mullet

Retail’s Big Show #NRF2018 Wrap-Up

Yesterday, as a recap to #NRF2018, we discussed putting people first.  

Today, let’s begin to explore ways the technology can help to unlock a people-first strategy.

Remember the Mullet

One of my favorite lines from a presentation at #NRF2018 came from James Curleigh, Executive Vice President and President of the Levi’s® brand.  He referenced the 80’s hairstyle, the mullet, known for its “business in the front, party in the back” functionality.  

His comparison was to technology, and his guidance was, “Keep it simple on the front and sophisticated in the back”.  Implement sophisticated technology in the background to support your front lines, freeing them up to be there for your customers.  

Here are some specific examples of how tech in the background can maximize interactivity throughout the store (B&M or online):

    • Invest in technology to help with inventory, freeing up people to do things only human beings can do
    • While AI hasn’t yet been perfected to replace humans, it has other practical uses on the backend, for example, product feeds – utilize natural language processing to auto tag the products with attributes freeing up your writers to focus on consumer facing copy to help bring your product to life online
    • Utilize Chat Bots for simpler requests and create business rules to involve humans where necessary
    • Offer technology options in the dressing room – Rebecca Minkoff has created a way to “buzz an associate” to request another size and offers friction less check-out from the dressing room

So often, we think about how new and shiny technology can give our customer’s a better experience.  There is something really powerful about freeing up our employees, through technology, to allow them the time and opportunity to deliver a better brand experience.  



NRF 2018 Wrap-Up – People First

Last week wrapped up Retail’s Big Show, NRF 2018, and all the talk of innovation, AI, AR, and robotics makes me want to geek out and review the emerging concepts coming our way.  There are some really exciting things on the horizon, which will unlock new ideas in the future, and as an eCommerce and Digital Marketing leader for 15+ years, new technology has always been my friend.  However, I find that I have a more realistic view of how the concepts can be put to practical use.

Technology that solves problems, removes impediments, and makes life easier for your employees or for the end consumer should always be explored and balanced against ROI.  Most of us don’t have the luxury of unlimited budgets, so before exploring the cool new things brought into consideration at NRF 2018, let’s get back to basics and then talk about innovation.

Today, is part one of a four part series of insights I’ll be releasing throughout the week.  Feel free to join the discussion below.

Put People First

There was plenty of talk about the customer at NRF 2018, and there should be, no doubt.  But in retail, there are other people to consider before the customer.  Your employees. These are folks on the front line interacting with your customers or in the back preparing the products for delivery. 

This theme came up more than once over the course of the show.  When asked about Rockstar Entrepreneurs, the product being sold was rarely mentioned.  What was mentioned over and over again, was the brand experience.  As Manish Vora, Co-Founder of Museum of Ice Cream stated, “Just look at Outdoor Voices.  If the people who work there want to be there, you want to be there”.

This was echoed in Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Walmart, who had offered three key take-aways around a people-first strategy:

    • Make your employees feel valued; it starts there and then spreads to you customers
    • Take care of the basics (parental leave as an example) and demonstrate that you are creating an opportunity for your employees – if someone wants to climb the corporate ladder, show them how you can support them in the effort
    • Commit to a long-term strategy to meet the needs of people and that will create a strategy to win in the long haul

We often talk about customer-centric strategies and it’s important to remember that everyone within an organization is served by someone else.  Happy customers internally render happy customers externally who support your brand with their wallets.




Trend Articles for 2018

Below are my early finds for 2018 trends in digital marketing and eCommerce; spoiler – all strategies should start with your end consumer in mind.

  1. 7 email trends for 2018 by Marketing Land
  2. Link strategies from Search Engine Land
  3. Data, AI, IoT – Oh my  – from Retail Touch Points
  4. Forbes – Trends for CX

There you have it!  Whether you are a content creator, SEO expert, email marketer or CX/UX professional, having your end consumer in mind in everything you do is the single most important part of your strategy.  It doesn’t matter if you are a B2B or B2C company, you are in business for you customers or potential customers – without them you are nothing.  How can you fold into his or her life seamlessly and make life easier?

As always, here to help and looking forward making life easier for you.  Let’s make 2018 our best year yet.


Black Friday Strategies from the Big Guys

Have you prepped your holiday calendar yet?  I hope so.  Here at TC Rock, we recommend that the shell of the calendar be created by August, with products plugged in and finalized by 10/1.

If you haven’t started yet or you are just tweaking, read how companies like Amazon and REI leverage Black Friday.

What can you learn from the top brands in Ecommerce from last year’s black Friday?



From Forbes: E-commerce’s Achilles Heel

“It’s a common misconception that e-commerce is inherently more profitable than brick & mortar retail. The fact that very few online dominant brands’ profit margins exceed those of “traditional” retailers is one clue that this isn’t true. But a better way to understand the longer-term outlook is to look at the underlying economic drivers”

Full story from Steve Dennis