Twitter was abuzz Monday, June 28th, as the crowd at The Liberty hotel frantically tweeted under the hashtag #AdClubRetail. The buzz was for The Ad Club's first ever retail event, Breaking the Retail Code, which drew such diverse speakers as Jay Gordon, CEO of Bodega, Steven Davis, President of Rue La La, Michael Hendrix, Location Head & Creative Director at IDEO, Dave Powers, VP of Global Retail at Converse, and Co-Founders of Partners & Spade, Andy Spade and Anthony Sperduti. Big brands and little brands shared stories of success on a stage decorated with mannequins…
Maven of all things digital, Mike Schneider, started the day off with a talk titled, The Game Done Changed, which covered the various ways in which the digital world is affecting retail. Delving into various applications and experiences that effect the shopping experience, Mike set the tone for the conference, the key takeaway being that brands must "engage, and engage often," because "through devices, everywhere is a marketplace, everywhere is a store."
Mike stayed on stage, iPad in hand, to moderate the panel titled, "Shopping Without Boundaries: Buy Anything, Anywhere, Anytime," featuring Nataly Kogan, VP Consumer Experience at WHERE, Inc., Andrew Paradise, CEO of AisleBuyer, and Jeong Eun Woo, Associate Director at Microsoft. Nataly shared how her company, WHERE, is attracting users with targeted deals. "Reach, relevancy, and redemption," that's what it's all about for WHERE. Andrew spoke about how his app can help streamline the checkout process by allowing customers to create custom shopping lists and use their mobile phones to self-checkout. Finally, Jeong demonstrated the power of the Microsoft X-Box and Kinect, which allows users to make purchases through the X-Box without ever getting off the couch through voice control!
Next, John Mulliken, VP of Media & Strategic Initiatives at CSN Stores, shocked us all when he told us that CSN stores is the second largest online retailer of home goods and housewares and the 10th largest online-only retailer, period. The Boston-based company is a conglomerate of 200 separate e-commerce sites, employing over 800 people in the area.
The next panel, “Retailing in a Digital World: How Leading Brands Are Finding Ways to Win,” saw a new moderator, Stephen Arthur, Head of Industry and Retail at Google, take the stage, joined by
Nancy Dynan, VP Corporate Marketing at L.L. Bean,
Dustin Humphreys, Director of Digital Strategy & Operations at CVS, and
John Mulliken, VP of Media & Strategic Initiatives at CSN Stores. Nancy informed us that while catalogs are still L.L.Bean’s number one seller, they learn much more about pre-purchase behavior from online sales. Furthermore, customers who call L.L.Bean direct are the most loyal – for some reason, people just like to talk to people from Maine! Dustin told us all about how the CVS Customer Care Card, catalog (digital and print), and pharmacy are key drivers of their business.
After lunch, the final panel, Death of the Wallet, began, this time moderated by Mark Borden, author of B Drive and former Senior Editor at Fast Company. The panelists, Tom Burgess, CEO of Clovr Media, and Rich Muhlstock, VP of Brand Advertising and Marketing at American Express, told us two very different, but very persuasive stories of new technologies that are eschewing paper payments. First, Tom explained the mysterious name of his company, which conveniently represents what it is they do - that being the creation and implementation of Card Linked Offers (and) Virtual Redemption. Card Linked Offers, or CLO’s, are banner, text, video, or mobile ads that, when clicked, or Virtually Redeemed, apply savings directly to a consumer’s credit or debit card. Next, Rich told us about American Express’ new project that he’s heading up called Serve. Serve is American Express’ take on the mobile wallet, a mobile app that allows you to load money onto your Serve account from your American Express card, and then use the app to pay for things and transfer funds securely, wherever American Express is accepted.
#AdClubRetail’s tallest speaker, Jay Gordon, towered over our on-stage mannequins to tell us about his big retail idea – to open a store and do everything wrong. Jay is the owner of Bodega, a well-hidden limited-edition sneaker store disguised as a crummy convenience store. Jay told us how exclusivity, a lack of advertising, word-of-mouth, and a little known, yet starved community of young sneaker-heads allowed for a store where you have to step in front of a soda machine to enter to flourish. Now that’s some serious retail power.
Prompted by Stephen Arthur, Steven Davis, president of popular flash-sale site Rue La La, told us about the power of a passionate community. Rue La La’s community is highly engaged, and for good reason – the sales are consistently luxury brands, and they’re packaged the right way – with custom modeling and a fancy splash page. Now, 10% of Rue La La customers head to the site around 11am (when the day’s sales are released) EVERY DAY, and 20-30% of their weekend business comes from mobile! That’s a dedicated customer base. And it only gets better – Steven told us that Rue La La is better serve their male customers, and that we can expect a much more personalized, tailored Rue La La experience in the future.
Next, Michael Hendrix, Creative Director and Location Head at IDEO, and Dave Powers, VP of Global Retail at Converse, took the stage to tell about the fact-finding mission that lead to Converse’s first batch of retail stores. Turns out, Converse owners are a specific type, but they’re very hard to pin down into one category – that’s because they aren’t defined by any one tribe, but rather, how they float between several tribes. This lead to the eclectic Converse stores that we now have where old Chucks hang from the ceiling, customers can design their own shoes and have them made in-store, and the aesthetic of the unorganized totally works.
Our final presenters to grace the stage, Andy Spade and Anthony Sperduti, brought retail into a new light with their presentation showcasing their work with J. Crew. When the mega-retailer came to Partners and Spade in need of a brand pick-me-up, What Andy and Anthony proposed sounded ludicrous: an unbranded bar-turned-retail store that was also a functioning art gallery and used bookstore. That idea became The Liquor Store, and without solicitation, The Liquor Store was picked up by major news sites and fashion blogs around the world, and provided the brand buzz that J. Crew needed. And the idealogy behind all this? “The bigger a brand gets, the smaller it should act.” Smaller, meaning more fun, whimsical, and local, not cold, self-promoting, and omnipotent. Why? “Because no one likes big.”
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