The RISE Symposium and Future of Retail through David Bowie’s Greatest Hits

Before the NRF’s Big Show kicked off this week, I was honored to a part of the first RISE (Retail Innovation and Shopper Expertise) Symposium, presented by TPN and Toshiba to celebrate “inspirational women in digital and retail technology.”  The speakers were a who’s who of accomplished women – and men – who are paving the way for how tomorrow’s consumers will shop and experience brands across platforms. 

From the inspiring and entertaining Sallie Krawcheck to Coca-Cola’s Scott Ryan, Estee Lauder’s Divya Gupta, Rite Aid’s Gerard Babbits and many more, here are a few takeaways, headlined by a few of my David Bowie faves, which seems only fitting as the world at large continue to mourn his loss.


Ch, ch, ch, changes

In case you didn’t notice, the world it’s a changin’ and it’s not changin’ back. Think about it – today’s leading provider of transportation (Uber) owns no cars. The leading provider of accommodations (airbnb) owns no real estate and Amazon just surpassed Walmart in market cap – a fact which perhaps is not so surprising when you consider that the Seattle-based company added 3 million new Amazon Prime subscribers in the third week of December alone!  On top of that, sales from mobile devices grew 42% during the 2015 holiday season.  The challenges for brick & mortar retailers are real and here to stay, which is a nice segue to…


Under Pressure

(Shared credit to Queen for this one!) Retailers – and brands – are under increasing pressure to differentiate and connect with consumers.   How does a mega-brand like Coke do this?  According to Scott Ryan, VP, National On-Site & Specialty Retail, they made it personal.  As you may recall (and likely fondly!), they put names on cans and consumers literally drank it up, proving that when brands connect with consumers on a personal level, everyone wins.


Rebel, rebel

Retailers and brands that embrace risk and prioritize innovation will win; this was a recurring theme.  In today’s competitive retail sector, it’s good to be a rebel, to mix things up, to be at the forefront of new technology.  Just ask Gerard Babbits, Senior Director of Digital Marketing for Rite Aid, which recently rolled out proximity beacons in all 4500 stores, a move that will improve the entire in-store shopper experience by offering relevant timely deals, eliminating wait time for prescriptions and more.


Modern love

Enduring relationships require good, healthy communication and that’s at the core of the “Three Rs” I suggested while speaking on a panel about the intersection of health, wellness and the consumer experience:


Find ways to drive authentic consumer recommendations at scale. According to Nielsen, 92% of us trust the recommendations of friends and family members over any other form of advertising. 


Numerous research reports show that brand trust is in decline.  Today’s consumers are skeptics – and turning to each other prior to making purchase decisions either online or at shelf.  Driving authentic product reviews at scale will be critical to both brand growth and retailer success.


We no longer live in a linear world where brands put out a clever, curated message and that’s that.  Rather, successful brands are engaged in an ongoing dialogue w/ consumers.  Identifying and partnering with platforms that facilitate that dialogue will be critical as the retail landscape continues to evolve.


Young Americans

No conference is complete without a nod to Millennials and RISE was no different.  We discussed their quick adoption of wearable technology, commitment to holistic health and their ability to change the status quo – as evidenced by several successful Millennial business leaders who are changing the way we outfit our wedding parties (Corie Hardee, Founder/CEO of Union Station), shop for jewelry (Daniella Yacobovsky, Co-Founder/Bauble Bar) and fight disease (Emily Schaller, Founder & President/Rock CF).

In all, the RISE symposium informed, inspired and educated, paving the way for a great few days at the NRF’s Big Show and reminding us, as Sallie Krawcheck put it so well in her rousing keynote, that the true to key to success in any business is in diversity – hence the appropriate focus on women in this critical business sector.