We all need Heroes - and Alistair Crane and recurring guest Ingrid Milman Cordy join us today to talk about how any retail business can become a Hero to their customers. PLUS: Shoptalk's own Zia Wigder joins us to talk about their decision to program only female speakers in their 2020 event. Listen now!

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Main Takeaways:

  • Ingrid Milman Cordy from e.l.f. and the CEO of Hero, Alistair Crain join Brian on today's episode to talk about Hero.
  • Bridging the gap between in-store associate interactions and online shopping behaviors is an extremely powerful tool.
  • There is massive untapped potential in local and smart brands are starting to make moves.
  • Zia Wigder from Shoptalk joins Brian and Phillip to discuss an enormous announcement about Shoptalk 2020.

A Brief History: Alistair Crain and Hero:

  • Alistair has always been in technology and he was previously the CEO of a company called Grapple that was acquired by a Visa subsidiary.
  • He came over to retail about five years ago when an old friend of his had an idea of connecting associates that are in-store with customers that are browsing on the website.
  • With a standard retail cycle, there are periods when associates in-store have availability to be helping customers but there are no customers in-store.
  • Hero gives associates and store teams the power to connect live with customers who are shopping on the store's website and gives customers guidance through video and live streaming that gives them a better shopping experience.

The Decline of Footfall: Combining Physical and Digital:

  • Why is it important to engage both the physical and digital in one place?
  • Over the past 5-10 years, messaging has become the single biggest use of mobile phones and even before the start of Hero, customers and associates were connecting through means of social media.
  • In tech, technology usually tries to "create the wave" but Hero filled a need for a trend of communication that was already happening.
  • Sales that happened from these online interactions were not being attributed to store targets, so Hero provides stores a professional, secure, and trackable method of associate to customer interactions and sales.

Traditionally Luxury: Unlocking High-End Interactions for Smaller Businesses:

  • Associates connecting on a one to one basis with an online customer is a high-end experience that naturally lends itself to the luxury market.
  • Traditionally, only bigger brands (usually in the luxury space) would have an eCommerce and online footprint large enough to accommodate direct communication with online customers, but Hero unlocks that potential for smaller brands.
  • Younger, technology competent people just want to shop and just want the ability to find out quickly if an item is in stock and where they can get it.
  • Sneaker companies have been adopting this communication trend and have been using it in more and more innovative ways.

The Importance of Local: The Future of Commerce:

  • There has been a trend on the show highlighting the importance of local when it comes to commerce.
  • Doesn't it make the most sense to connect with local representatives when customers are interacting online?
  • You should also put stores where you already have business, and this can be discovered through communication tools like Hero.
  • How can you make the most of existing online customer interactions?

The Shift of Messaging: The Death of Omnichannel?:

  • A few years ago, omnichannel was omnipresent at conferences and events, but today, it is a word that is barely mentioned.
  • Omnichannel communication is now a part of everyday business and not just a sideshow.
  • Brands with heritage and locations around the world have a big advantage with their physical footprint against online exclusive giants like Amazon because they can provide an actual experience to their customers.
  • Smart retailers are making local pay with authentic local experiences by making their online customers come into stores.

The Power of Knowledge: Expertise Seals the Deal:

  • Alistair brings up Ace Hardware as an example of an extremely authentic brand that demonstrates the power of associate expertise when it comes to assisting customers.
  • Online DIY stores are overwhelming and it is so much more reassuring when an associate with expertise helps you with your questions.
  • Store influences have the power to serve as local influencers for your brand.
  • How are you capitalizing on your store associate's expertise?

Lingering Connections: Extending The In-Store Experience:

  • Customers remember positive in-store interactions long after their time spent physically in the store.
  • Ingrid mentions how powerful it is when she receives a text from her trusted Lululemon associate that there are new items in store (which she usually ends up buying.)
  • Brian brings up how impressive the knowledge was of the associates was on a recent trip to Everlane.
  • Smart brands are brands that are encouraging and rewarding their associates for creating unique and personalized content.

Bringing Local Back: Massive Untapped Potential:

  • Brands are ignoring the fact that local retail space is reasonably priced and there is so much opportunity in local that is not being tapped.
  • Brian harkens back to the recent episode with Ishani Gujral in which he came up with the idea of a bidding system for large retailers to bid on local retail space.
  • Alistair brings up Appear Here that serves as an Airbnb for retail space.
  • There is a lot of macroeconomic pressure to make your business successful before you even open the doors to your first location.
  • Bigger brands like Etsy are starting to take advantage of the untapped potential of local.

Your Biggest Assets: Your People and Places:

  • The people that work for you and the locations where your brand reside are the most important assets you have.
  • Invest in your employees: give them a living wage, encourage their growth, and empower them to make them the best representations of your brand.
  • There is a lack of willingness in big retail to take any risk.
  • Tech players take multiple year strategies, and retailers need to find a way to make some riskier decisions that will pay dividends in the future.

Unselfish Experimentation: Non-Traditional Returns:

  • Everything you do does not have to have a direct influence on your P&L and there is a reason to do some unselfish experimentation.
  • You have to try some things that are not going to work because the knowledge of things that don't work is just as important as knowing what is lucrative.
  • Experimentation is part of Amazon's makeup and they fail quickly and hard, which allows them to constantly be on the cusp of innovation.  
  • How can you unselfishly experiment with something this quarter that you wouldn't normally try to pursue?

Predictions and Inklings: A Postive Recession?:

  • Alistair has been wondering if we've been heading into a recession and thinks that Q1 and Q2 of 2020 are going to be very interesting.
  • A recession would flush out the brands that aren't even living up to their own core values and Alistair believes there is too much funding floating around and not being used efficiently.
  • Alistair wants to turn website traffic into actual footfall in-store and he is going to invest in companies that makes this happen.
  • There has never been such a good time for product innovation on both the tech side and the retail side so take some risks.

Shoptalk 2020: Women in the Spotlight:

  • Zia Wigder from Shoptalk joins Brian and Phillip to talk about the big news that Shop Talk 2020 will be 100% female speakers.
  • There needs to be change in this industry, change is happening too slowly, and Shoptalk is making a stand with this decision to expedite this change.
  • Zia goes into some of the criticism and opposition that has arisen with this decision but has been surprised that the vast majority of feedback has been positive.
  • You need a transformational step to drive change because incremental steps are not effective.

A Big Change: Piloting a Shift in the Industry:

  • In 2021, men will be included again the lineup, but the ration will forever be 50/50 from now on.
  • This change resonates with the social conscious dynamic in the industry and Phillip predicts it will be massively successful.
  • Zia is not worried in the slightest about finding the talent for the talks, but the challenge will be to find a list of speakers in the right topics.
  • You can apply to speak on the Shoptalk website along with many more ways to get involved with the event.

Brands Mentioned In This Episode:

As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! What are some ways that you could unselfishly experiment with your brand? How can you empower your employees to become the best representatives for your brand?

Let us know in the content section on Futurecommerce.fm, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Linkedin.

Have any questions or comments about the show? You can reach out to us at info@futurecommerce.fm or any of our social channels, we love hearing from our listeners!

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