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Building loyalty in today’s digital market


NEW YORK — The Emerson Group last month hosted its 10th Annual Retail Industry Day in a packed room, with hundreds of merchants eager to discover how to better position their products for tomorrow’s ever-evolving consumer.

They weren’t disappointed.

“It’s a really dynamic time in our industry right now,” said Emerson Group EVP marketing Matt Poli, who reflected on the decade the Emerson Group has been delivering provocative content as part of this event. “We have to understand how the consumer is changing. The way we like to define it is ‘connection capital.’ The return on ‘connection capital’ is truly understanding how to build loyalty in today’s digital environment at a profit.”

Leading the all-star lineup of the event was Marcus Lemonis, the retail “fixer” who hosts “The Profit” on CNBC. “I don’t believe that our success in business is based on some empirical data that we learned in business school,” he said. “I really believe that the connection between people [and] how to manage with inspiration — without intimidation — is really the key.”

That focus on people is how successful entrepreneurs break through the clutter. It’s almost like catching lightning in a bottle. Which is exactly what the next speaker, Colleen DeCourcy, chief creative officer at Wieden+Kennedy and consistent lightning bottler, addressed.

Capturing lightning in a bottle begins with demonstrating relevance, DeCourcy said, and ends in delivering on what the consumers want. “People want to feel like they’re winning again,” she said. “We are finding that when you go out into the world and actually make experiences for people … that great creativity, that lightning in a bottle, it scales itself.”

Speaking of scale, Emerson’s next speaker, Musab Balbale innovates for the largest retailer in the role of VP and general manager at Walmart e-commerce, specifically helping to forge Walmart’s digital strategy. To win in digital, retailers need to refocus their perspective, he said. “Money was the currency of the ’80s and ’90s when Walmart really took off,” he said. “Time, more than anything, is the currency we’re all working on today. Walmart feels that our emerging ‘place’ is to make time more efficient, especially for busy families.”

Digital is not only changing the game for retailers, it’s retooling the relationship between brand and consumer. “It’s fundamentally changing the way people are interacting with brands,” Evan Neufield, VP intelligence at L2, who followed Balbale, told attendees. “What consumers want is what Amazon gives them,” he said. “Every person who goes to an Amazon page sees a different page based on what they’ve bought in the past, [or] based on their search behavior,” he said. “When we looked at more than 100 brands across several retail categories, we saw that only 13% of brands are actually personalizing their homepage.”

Delivering the final keynote address, Michael Dart, a private equity partner at global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney and co-author of “The New Rules of Retail,” served up a playbook marketers can use to appeal to Generation Z as they come of age. Gen Z shoppers are environmentally concerned, view technology as tools — not games — are fiscally conservative and are continually connected. “The 21st century is going to be defined by convenience, and Amazon right now is clearly ahead in that game,” he said. “For retailers, there will be two paths. On one they’re going to become great centers of entertainment. On the other is active involvement. The concept I see thriving is more of a farmer’s market concept — small-scale stores where people like to hang out.”


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