5 key takeaways from NRF NXT ALL ACCESS

Ideas and insights to consider for success in 2020

The NRF NXT experience gives digital marketers insights on the ever-evolving world of ecommerce and the future of retail. This year’s developing coronavirus implications meant the event put a greater emphasis on collaborating and merging ideas as retailers closed stores, pivoted to other forms of fulfillment and marketed products to customers from their homes.

NRF NXT went digital with NRF NXT ALL ACCESS, a virtual event July 20-22 for retail practitioners where leaders across technology, customer experience, branding and fulfillment shared resources and tactical takeaways on how to follow intuition, use new tools and be prepared for a future where retail disruption is inevitable. Here are five takeaways from some speakers at this year’s event.

2021 NRF NXT

Learn more about the upcoming NRF NXT here.

Facing the fear of failure

Venture capitalist Magdalena Yesil kicked off NRF NXT ALL ACCESS with a reminder to allow passion to guide decision making. Her gut feeling that Salesforce would become a successful company in the first years of its establishment proved successful during the early exploration of online services.

Raised in Istanbul, Yesil said her upbringing made her tough, taught her to trust her gut, helped her see the bigger picture and liberated her from the fear of failure.

When she first discovered Salesforce, Yesil wanted to raise money for the company because she believed in its mission and the future of companies thriving by creating cyber services. Yesil had the idea to give customers the option of paying for Salesforce services upfront via contract, rather than on a monthly basis in order to generate cash flow, a model which a majority of ecommerce sites now adopt for their customers. 

Today, Salesforce is a billion-dollar company; as its first investor, Yesil credits her unwavering belief in taking a chance on something new that just felt right. “If I had doubted my own conviction,” she said, “I would have never been the first investor of Salesforce.”

SMS customer is the most engaged

“If I had doubted my own conviction, I would have never been the first investor of Salesforce.”

Magdalena Yesil, Co-founder and Executive Chair, Informed

Email has been a successful conversion tool for marketers, but SMS may be a platform worth considering as marketers explore new ways to build brand recognition and grow subscribers. At skincare brand Supergoop, text messages serve as the “beginning of the journey” for customers, as those who sign up for the retailer’s messages are most likely to be first-time buyers who become product enthusiasts, said Caroline Homlish, the company’s vice president of direct to consumer.

Supergoop’s brand marketing campaigns, product launches, deals, seasonal offers and VIP perks are first developed by targeting consumers on the website, prioritizing location and personalized consumer experience. Those who sign up for SMS alerts are migrated to mobile for a new brand engagement experience. Mobile marketing has proved an effective acquisition tool for Supergoop, which saw welcome text messages generate a click-through rate of almost 70 percent, Homlish said.

An understanding of consumer behavior ultimately led to adoption of text message marketing for Supergoop. Its customers not only respond to product launches and deals, but also education around products such as how often to apply sunscreen. 

Homlish said another benefit of SMS marketing is the ability to set messaging up on the fly, test and pivot quickly without requiring many design resources. Success depends on KPIs, setting clear expectations and testing automated messages by looking at real-time performance data.

Improve the digital experience

A major theme of NRF NXT ALL ACCESS was the need to utilize omnichannel retailing, ensuring that customers can not only buy anywhere but that retail can fulfill orders anywhere as well. Methods such as pickup shelves, retail location lockers and curbside pickup might not be new, but they were tested and accelerated during the coronavirus: 63 percent of bricks-and-mortar retailers quickly rolled out curbside pickup while 39 percent implemented contactless payment, said Brendan Witcher, VP and Principal Analyst, at Forrester Research. When consumers see a retailer implementing BOPIS or curbside pickup quickly, they gain the expectation that other retailers will do the same.

As consumers continue to have higher expectations of service, retailers that meet those expectations must ensure their consumers know about new service offers. An effective model is The Home Depot’s website, which communicates a clear example of its order options to its customers, instilling confidence in the buying process.

Omnichannel fulfillment ultimately depends on the business, where that business will have the most impact, and an understanding of the customer journey. The technology will always be there to make jobs easier, so it's important to remember that it’s about the people and the process first.

Digital commerce has unlimited touchpoints

Although 80 percent of digital retail experiences are happening on mobile, conversion rates are low — about 1.8 percent on a mobile device, according to Jason Goldberg. Retailers might believe the solution for low mobile conversion would be to build better apps, but Goldberg said progressive web apps, or mobile-friendly websites, are actually the solution to not only conversion, but a better user experience.

Retailers who utilize PWAs have longer sessions and higher conversions. Starbucks adopted PWA through the website app.starbucks.com which serves an equivalent, if not quicker, functionality as its native mobile app. 

As the pace of business accelerates, platforms must change and stay nimble to solve new and evolving business problems. PWAs are an example of how our brains default to a mobile experience that is easy to utilize and offers quick results.

Digital audio listening will surpass radio listening

The Gen Z consumer is “always on,” challenging retailers to rethink evergreen communication strategies to create content that catches their attention. Brian Berner, Head of Advertising Sales at Spotify, shared trends in audio and podcasting for this demographic and how retailers can align content with listeners’ personal interests.

"Through audio, brands and retailers can forge partnerships and create original content catered to any audience. Crafting the right message to the user in the right moment has the potential to create a new brand loyalist for life."

Brian Berner, Head of Advertising Sales at Spotify

"Nearly three-fourths of all Gen Z consumers are streaming more than one hour of music and audio content per day," Berner said. Connected devices such as gaming consoles, speakers, TV and in-car streaming means Gen Z is inundated with content on any platform of their choosing. Audio serves as an alternative to visual stimulation when screen fatigue occurs and is also an opportunity for advertisers to fill the noise.

"Through audio, brands and retailers can forge partnerships and create original content catered to any audience. Crafting the right message to the user in the right moment has the potential to create a new brand loyalist for life," Berner said.

Ways that businesses can utilize podcast advertising include:

  • Streaming ad insertion, which gives advertisers demographic information on listeners with behavioral insights that inform their experience for better targeting in the future.
  • Podcast in-app offers, which allow listeners to view the sponsor of an episode, visit their website and redeem offers in the Spotify app.
  • 3D audio spots, a new form of storytelling that utilizes background noise for audio narratives. For example, to market athletic gear a retailer may use the sound of an athlete at a soccer game kicking the ball into the goal as the crowd cheers.

As shopping is an omnichannel experience, audio platforms could be an effective channel for retailers to express what their brand “voice” sounds like, creating a memorable audible experience.

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