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Retail / Ecommerce

Creating Human Connections Along A New Consumer Journey

Co-sponsored by Bloomberg Media Group and Adweek, the “Marketing in an Interruptive World” is an ongoing series that hosts industry experts in wide-ranging discussions about the future of marketing. Last month, the series continued with a summit focused on “People & Ideas”, where a panel of brand industry leaders discussed the evolution of the customer journey. The session, which kicked off with an enlightening overview of trends in the retail sector by Poonam Goyal, a Consumer Retail Analyst with Bloomberg’s Intelligence team, focused on “the art of creating human connections” – a topic that Adweek Editors and the Bloomberg Insights team believe is one of the most timely and relevant issues today.

The discussion revolved around how consumer habits and behaviors are rapidly shifting, creating a new and ever-evolving consumer frontier. Advanced technologies and the increasing availability of customizable goods and services were highlighted as key catalysts in the burgeoning consumer landscape. Additionally, in an economy that’s being influenced more and more by millennials, value was highlighted as a driving force behind the changing marketplace –and what consumers value most today is experiences. The experts agreed that breaking through to today’s consumers will require brands to develop new and more meaningful ways to connect with consumers on an emotional level, and to create unique and valuable experiences.

During the discussion, BlackRock’s Frank Cooper III pointed out that consumers are continuously shifting their behaviors based on brand interactions and technological advances, which is constantly changing demand. So in addition to creating innovative consumer experiences, brands must be just as agile with meeting consumer needs in real-time to remain competitive. Elyssa Gray of Betterment agreed with the consumer-driven approach. She added that Betterment’s marketing team has established best practices for guiding what products are offered; however, she highlighted that the team is constantly product testing and shifting products and services based on a constant stream of consumer-driven feedback.

Goyal shared a few great examples of how staple brands in the retail sector like Nike, Nordstrom and American Eagle Outfitters are already taking bold, creative steps to leverage new technologies and create interactive brand experiences. Nike, for example, is using new digital technology that allows consumers to custom design shoes that are made onsite within an hour. Nordstrom Local recently launched a new merchandise-free concept store where shoppers can drop in and sip champagne while a stylist presents a customizable virtual showroom where consumers select items to be delivered to their doorstep. American Eagle, on the other hand, is taking a more millennial-focused approach. Remaining close to the brand objective, to make consumers feel at home, the teen apparel retailer launched AE Studio, a concept store that provides onsite laundry services.

To succeed in creating better human connections with consumers, brands will also need to reinvent their branding process to create better human connections internally. Xerox’s Barbara Basney explained that one of the toughest challenges for brands, particularly for stalwart brands like Xerox, is trading in the traditional “assembly-line” approach to develop more integrated models. She emphasized that brands can no longer afford for their communications, marketing, and business development teams to function independently. Instead it’s vital to break down silos and use more team-based, collaborative approach to branding.

Today’s consumer journey is being fueled by technology and finding human connections along the way is critical if brands want to succeed. The consensus among the panel was that value, personalization, and relevant experiences collectively are the wave of the future in a connections-based marketplace.

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