Head of Industry, Retail, Google
For the first time in awhile, retailers seem excited to be in retail and happy to have proven the naysayers wrong. But there’s still a long way to go.
Every innovation or new service I heard about focused on digital or technology, even the in-store innovations. Tech is the backbone of retail, and those who don’t get the tech right won’t be able to compete. Fortunately, since retailers aren’t tech companies, the expo floor showed that the technology retailers lack the expertise to build they can buy in the market.
Personalization is again key to marketing and the shopping experience, but is also still a nascent effort (relative to its potential) for many — if not nearly all — retailers. And for most companies, personalization is not a source of real competitive advantage; it’s table stakes — something they have to get right to keep playing. When was personalization not key to marketing and the shopping experience? As one of the keynote speakers (I believe it was Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta) pointed out, retail went from fully personalized before the industrial revolution to mass scale following the industrial revolution, and it’s now on the way back to a more personalized experience. Enabled this time by technology and not manpower, personalization will happen at scale.
In a tech-first (specifically mobile-first) world, everyone is trying to measure — or, more accurately, figure out how to measure — the impact of technology on the enterprise and specifically on in-store sales. This one’s going to take awhile to get right.
Companies recognize they have to meet customers where customers are, not force them into the retailer’s preferred channel. Consequently, voice, visual search, flexible fulfillment, etc. are all hot buttons for retailers and at the same time make measuring digital’s impact on enterprise and store sales that much more complicated. Quality and speed of execution will be major keys to success.
With personalization, seamless experiences, in-store delight, voice assistants, BOPIS, free shipping, and more, customers have come to expect a LOT from retailers, and there is no turning back. It’s a challenging but exciting time to be in retail.
Ari Kurtz is Head of Industry for Retail at Google. He and his team consult with marketing departments at some of the country’s largest retailers, helping them reach their customers as consumers shift their media consumption habits from traditional media outlets to digital platforms. In his nine years at Google, Ari has worked with retailers like Home Depot, JCPenney, Lowe’s, Rooms to Go, and many others. Prior to his work at Google, Ari worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a global consulting firm.