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Manthan Editorial Desk

The Editorial Board comprises technologists, data experts, thought leaders and marketing gurus. We are dedicated in helping business leaders unlock the true potential of analytics.

BIG Expectations: 15 Retail Experts tell us what they expect from NRF 2019

The NRF Retail Big Show 2019 is fast approaching, and we are excited! This year at NRF 2019, Manthan will be showcasing The Store That Knows, an AI-powered, omni channel marketing entity that offers analytics and insights 24×7, giving retailers smart recommendations while implementing real-time decisions. As always, we talked to several retail experts to find out what they are looking forward to seeing at NRF this year, and here’s what they had to say:

Manthan’s Question:

What big retail idea do you hope to see at NRF RETAIL’S BIG SHOW 2019?

Joseph Skorupa

Matthew Shay (@NRFNews)

President and CEO, National Retail Federation

Retailers are constantly evaluating and implementing new technology that improves the customer experience, both online and in store. There is so much opportunity for retailers to integrate voice intelligence, and we plan to see examples of this come to life at NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show.

Bob Phibbs

Bob Phibbs (@theretaildoctor)

I’m looking forward to hearing new ways retailers are dealing with 70% cart abandonment online. Just sending more coupons within a few hours doesn’t seem to be working. That and innovative ways the human touch is returning as benchmarks of customer service.

Joseph Skorupa

Joe Skorupa (@joeskorupa)

Editorial Director, RIS News

A big idea I would like to see presented at the NRF Big Show 2019 is the consumer genome. Personalized marketing based on a retailer’s available data has had only mediocre success. What is needed is the creation of a consumer genome that enables retailers to sequence, analyze and interpret the habits, preferences and behaviors of shoppers. Humans are complex and retailers who once thought they were drowning now must realize they not have enough data or do not have enough of the right data.

Doug Stephens

Doug Stephens (@RetailProphet)

What I’d like to see at NRF 2019 is a dialogue around the power of physical stores as a media channel and the ways in which pioneering companies like Nike, B8TA, Dyson and others are designing and measuring their physical spaces and customer experiences in new and dynamic ways.

Andrew Busby

Andrew Busby (@andrewbusby)

Retail Analyst & Keynote Speaker

I’m hoping to see the store of the future. Not a box selling stuff but an immersive space, inviting me to spend time there through a combination of intrigue, excitement, theatre, inspiration topped off with a light sprinkling of magic. Yes, I’m hoping to see the store of the future.

Nicole Reyhle

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle (@RetailMinded)

Retail Minded, Founder& Publisher, Independent Retailer Conference, Co-Founder

At the upcoming NRF Retail’s BIG Show, I expect to see a lot of action within the payments category. There are a variety of innovative, exciting solutions that are available to merchants to help streamline but also strengthen security when it comes to accepting customer payments. As consumers demand more precise and effective shopping experiences, this specific space is one that retailers should not overlook. I anticipate at the NRF Retail Big Show there will be a variety of conversations surrounding payments and ways to best support consumers across the generations and across their preferences when it comes to both buying online and in-stores.

greg buzek

Greg Buzek (@gregbuzek)

President – IHL Group, Advisory Board – Retail Orphan Initiative

I expect to see major solutions around customer engagement and customer experience. Retailers have been spending quite bit on unifying their channels in the past few years, but with 55% of US Households having Amazon Prime, they must give reasons for consumers to actually visit stores. So areas of inventory accuracy, speed of service and positive, engaging experience.

tony donofrio

Tony D’Onofrio (@tonycdonofrio)

CEO of TD Insights LLC

NRF19 arrives at a critical time for retail – a positive USA holiday season, Amazon at an inflection point, and the end of an over-hyped retail apocalypse. The future of retail includes increased personalized branding and immersive customer experiences through technology. Which companies have stepped-up to this challenge in 2019?

Caroline Baldwin

Caroline Baldwin (@cl_baldwin)

Editor – Essential Retail

One topic I hope to see take centre stage at this year’s NRF is sustainability. Be it on the conference agenda or technologies showcased at the Expo. Retailers are crying out for solutions to help them to improve their businesses to become environmentally friendly, as shoppers have finally woken up in 2017 to the realisation that we need to be more mindful in our consumption of goods if we want our planet to last for generations to come.

Steven Dennis

Steven P. Dennis (@StevenPDennis)

President & Founder, SageBerry Consulting, LLC

At the NRF Big Show I’m looking to see what retailers that are trapped in the boring middle are doing to become more truly customer relevant and remarkable.

Diane Brisebois

Diane J. Brisebois (@LoveRetail)

President & CEO, Retail Council of Canada

At NRF’s Big Show I will be looking for innovative e-commerce and brick-and-mortar solutions in marketing and personalization – how retailers communicate, via different platforms, with customers in a way that enables loyalty, while managing privacy guidelines, increasing the coolness factor versus the creepiness sometimes associated with personalized messaging – ultimately leveraging analytics solutions to truly deepen the bond between brand and customer.

Debbie Hauss

Debbie Hauss (@dhauss)

Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints

I am hoping to see great ideas to help frontline brand ambassadors – retail store associates – become more motivated, empowered advocates. It’s not a new concept, but it is increasingly and vitally important for retailers seeking to succeed as omni channel marketing retailers. Some technology/solutions I’ll watch for include: empowered scheduling, new mobile initiatives and unified commerce strategies.

Melissa gonzalez

Melissa Gonzalez (@MelsStyles)

Award winning retail strategist

For NRF 2019, I am looking forward to seeing more applications of augmented reality outside of beauty. It’s been truly transformative to the traditional experience of trying on makeup looks and new products so interested to see how other categories can truly benefit from it. And as the usage grows, how we can glean actionable data from customer interactions.

Cate Trotter

Cate Trotter (@insidertrends)

Head of Trends at Insider Trends

Less customer-facing tech and more conversation-supporting tech. There’s too much focus on shiny gizmos that are used to patch poor store experiences. I’m hoping to see tech that quietly sits behind the scenes, allowing for more interesting (and more informed) conversations with customers. Done right, it doesn’t just build rapport – it works like magic!


Cathy Hotka (@cathyhotka)

Cathy Hotka & Associates, LLC

The biggest opportunity for retail going forward is leveraging customer and transaction data for meaningful marketing. I’m looking forward to talking with innovative technology companies that can make sense of this data and help create personalized outreach that builds new business.

Analytics & Insights: Interview with rue21’s Chief Analytics Officer, Mark Chrystal

rue21 has been making news for its investment in analytics in order to transform itself into a more customer-centric business.

We caught up with Dr. Mark Chrystal, Chief Analytics Officer at rue21 to understand more about how he perceives the role of analytics in retail today, his upcoming talk at NRF’s Big Show and the future of retail.

MANTHAN: In your role as the Chief Analytics Officer, what would you say is the biggest challenge facing rue21 in 2019?

MARK: The biggest challenge I face is the ability to explain what is happening in the industry and more importantly, with our current, lapsed and potential customers. My job is to help the business navigate the environment and provide insights that help chart a course to success. This is particularly challenging in the current retail environment and for a company that is in the midst of a turnaround.

“We are now seeing analytics embedded across each functional unit as means of explaining what is happening, where it is happening, and how best to respond.”

MANTHAN: In your 20 years of retail experience, what have you noticed about the changing retail industry’s attitude towards analytics?

MARK: When I started in retail, analytics was being thought of as secondary to the success of a retail business. Analytics groups, if they did exist, were often in their own silos away from the day-to-day running of the business. At that time, most of the CEOs and head merchants across retail were trained based on having direct face-to-face interaction with their customers, and therefore thought about the business through a much more qualitative micro-level lens.

With the advent of eCommerce and social media and social influencers, the environment is far more diverse and complex than it was twenty years ago. We are now seeing analytics embedded across each functional unit as means of explaining what is happening, where it is happening, and how best to respond.

“Retailers need to employ real-time analytics to help them identify emerging themes, issues and opportunities.”

MANTHAN: AI promises to make data-driven business processes more intelligent. What are the top use cases you think might have big impact in retail today?

MARK: The top use cases for AI today, are in the automation of rote tasks, and in the identification of patterns and opportunities that are not as readily discernable via other analytical methodologies or business processes.

MANTHAN: We understand you’ll be speaking at NRF. What is the product paradigm shift going to be about?

MARK: I will be speaking at NRF about the shift within retail towards data-driven decision-making and organizational culture.  The presentation will focus mostly on how merchandising functions need to, and are, making this shift.

“Retailers need to create organizational cultures that are capable of interpreting real-time insights and taking action on those insights.”

MANTHAN: As enterprise and customer data continue to grow and customer journeys evolve, how can retailers keep up with sensing, analyzing and responding to opportunities potentially unfolding every day? 

MARK: I believe retailers need to employ real-time analytics to help them identify emerging themes, issues and opportunities with their customers and competitors. This means having models tuned to real-time analysis, alerts and insights across the retail footprint. This also means that retailers need to create organizational cultures that are capable of interpreting real-time insights and most importantly, taking action on those insights.

Most retail organizations have not evolved to this point yet and are still grappling with the change from the old merchant model to the model that modern customers clearly demand. The best retailers understand this, have made those changes, or created those types of cultures at inception and they are reaping the rewards.

MANTHAN: Thank you, Mark!

rue21 has selected Manthan, a leading provider of cloud analytics and artificial intelligence solutions, to help advance its analytic capabilities. The retailer will be rolling out Manthan’s Customer Data Platform, Customer Analytics and Enterprise Retail Analytics solutions to gain insights within the business and better connect with consumers.

Visit us at NRF 2019, Booth 4719 for more information on how Manthan can help you use analytics to become a future ready retailer.

[Infographic] Why will you attend NRF 2019?

This year at the NRF Retail Big Show 2019, Manthan will be showcasing The Store That Knows

This AI-powered, omnichannel entity offers analytics and insights 24×7, giving you smart recommendations while implementing your decisions. All in natural language.

And if that’s reason enough, take a look at the following infographic to see who else is likely to be at the NRF Big Show.

Supplier Collaboration

Retail Prophet Doug Stephens Interview: The store of the future won’t be a “store”

Changes are rampant in the retail industry. Every day we hear of both big brands (and small ones) closing shop or downsizing in an effort to stay lean and competitive. To understand in depth what’s happening in the retail landscape, we spoke to Doug Stephens.

Doug is the founder of Retail Prophet, and one of the world’s foremost retail industry futurists. The author of two groundbreaking books on retail, a nationally syndicated retail columnist, and over 20 years of experience in the retail industry, Doug brings together his unique perspective to provide Manthan with his insights on retailing, technology and consumer behavior.

MANTHAN: You speak of a sea change in retail and the trouble that’s coming for brick and mortar stores – can you explain this revolution?

DOUG: We have entered an era where media (in all its various form factors) has become “the store”.  Whether it’s a magazine ad I can activate with my smartphone, my connected appliances, my smart TV or my in-home artificial intelligence, media is no longer a call-out to visit a store – it is the store.  And this fact will only continue to escalate and permeate more aspects of our consumption.  Therefore, the role and nature of physical stores must change in order to adapt.  

Stores have to become places that move beyond the mere distribution of products and become enchanted spaces that distribute remarkable experiences.  The problem is, most retailers aren’t internalizing this reality yet.  Most store experiences remain unremarkable and it’s a fact that’s taking a toll on retail generally.  If we’re honest, the retail brands that are getting wiped out aren’t being mourned because they had in fact become irrelevant long before they died. 

“The retail brands that are getting wiped out aren’t being mourned because they had in fact become irrelevant long before they died.”

MANTHAN: What’s the role of technology in this revolution and which retailers are leading?

DOUG: Technology has essentially become the connective tissue in every aspect of our lives, whether we’re talking about business, leisure, commerce etc.  In retail, we know that upwards of 80 percent of all retail transactions are being influenced, to some degree, by digital.

The retailers that are leading are those that are essentially using technology as the mortar between the bricks of their customer experience.  They’re viewing technology as an essential means of removing friction from the customer experience as well as fortifying moments of experiential delight. Among the brands that I see as excelling are Amazon, Sephora, Starbucks, Wayfair – to name only a few.

MANTHAN: We hear experience becoming more important than the product – is that only for high involvement categories, while the drivers in other categories might be different?

DOUG: The consumer world is now divided into two very distinctly different and viable experiential spaces.  On the one hand some brands are winning through high-fidelity experiences that are immersive, memorable and emotionally connected. Other brands are killing it in their categories with high utility experiences that are frictionless, fast, convenient and very cognitively connected – they just make sense.  Both of these positions work and both are valued by consumers. The problem is, most retailers are neither high-fidelity nor high-utility and increasingly, that makes them irrelevant.

MANTHAN: Most businesses are struggling to become truly omni-channel – what’s your advice to them?

DOUG: I suppose I have two thoughts.  First, if you’re still working on omni-channel, consider that Amazon, Google and others are already dealing in the realm of omni-presence, in the sense that they’ve launched technologies like Amazon’s Echo that are quietly infiltrating the majority of homes in North America and available to consumers 24/7. Secondly, I’m not a big fan of the word omni-channel.  I prefer to think in terms of the customer journey with a brand and the various problems or opportunities along that journey.

If we can develop an intense and granular understanding of the consumer journey we can leverage the unique attributes of each channel to create the best possible solutions for the customer.  With this insight, we can then begin to build the back and front end systems and technology architecture to bring the experience to life! 

MANTHAN: Retailers that can best harness customer data will win – how far out do you see this becoming a reality?

DOUG: 200 years ago the local merchant that knew their customers most intimately won.  And they gathered information about their customers by being discreet about their privacy, delivering personalized recommendations and experiences and by building trust.  

Today is absolutely no different.  So, yes, retailers with the best data have an advantage. But getting that data means that a clear exchange of value has to transpire.  Data and privacy are no different than any other currency and consumers will spend their data with those brands and retailers that respect it and deliver clear value in exchange for it.

“I believe we’ll see a reengineering of the economic model for retail.”

MANTHAN: What’ does the ‘store of the future’ or ‘the intelligent store’ look like to you?

DOUG: 99 percent of the retail we see around us today is a relic of the 20th century.  It’s retail that was built for a pre-digital era and a completely different consumer reality.

The store of the future in my opinion won’t be a “store”.  It will be a space that draws the shopper into a story about their brand and their products.  It will be less about the products themselves and more about productions – experiences that are interactive, immersive and fun. Technology will allow us to activate store experiences that are unique, personalized and adaptive based on unique customer preferences and needs.

Technologies built into the skeleton of the space will deliver real-time, website-like insights that will allow retailers to respond in real time to different customer groups and dynamics within the space.

Essentially, retail stores will transform from being the mini-warehouses they are today, to becoming entertainment and hospitality spaces that trade on social, physical and emotionally connected experiences.  Products will come along in the jet stream across channels. 

I also believe we’ll see a reengineering of the economic model for retail. Look for more retailers working directly with brands to create experiences  – what I call physical media –  for which they’re paid upfront, rather than being dependent on product sales.  

MANTHAN: Thank you, Doug!

Big Data Marketing

Big Data and Marketing – Heady Cocktails And Crushing Hangovers.

A marketer and a data scientist walk into a bar… In most real worlds, they don’t acknowledge each other, perch on different “clicca qui” stools, chug different drinks, and go their separate ways. The more data explodes, the more decision making practices remain the same. I was recently talking to a COO who described his role as the ability to take the most impactful decisions with the thinnest possible information. It is the nature of data – Big or Otherwise. We keep talking of social feeds and Facebook posts and mobile phone penetration. All of these make for great story telling. But unless the information extracted from these sources is explicitly useful taking a marketing decision – in talking to a customer, creating a campaign, or driving a cross-sell, it is of limited value. It is this absence of a meaningful connect between data sciences and marketing that we need to bridge. What Big Data technologies help with, is to fulfil and make this crying need for usable, timely and relevant insights come alive. Let me give you a few examples : For a premier online fashion brand, the challenge in engaging with its customers centred around getting the relevant style lines in front of customers who are most likely to appreciate them, and therefore buy them. There is an intuitive understanding that the sporty maven aspires to a different style statement than the classic executive. The way the former navigates the site is of course different from the latter. The challenge and opportunity lies in identifying and quantifying this intuition, translating it into measurable insight, identifying the customer trigger, and therefore personalizing the web page. This is true Big Data analytics in action – analysing very large volumes of historic data, recognizing customer browsing behavior in real-time and serving the most relevant style-lines instantaneously. Another great example is that of a big box grocer rejuvenating his weekly promotional newsletters to be more relevant and engaging to his mailing list, and therefore growing the traffic and conversion in his stores manifold. Creating variants of newsletters or creating split runs, have always been around. But getting every single customer to have a unique, different and most relevant mix of offers and announcements on the first page of her FSI is suddenly very special. It is a special marketing capability and it makes the customer feel special. But to do this, one has to marry behavioral insights with product propensities, the offer bank, and the campaign objectives of that week. This is Big Data coming alive. And it suddenly drives redemption up three times and campaign lifts into high double digits. Now we have a real example of how Big Data has transformed a simple weekly promo mailer into a competitive weapon. In both these examples, what is valuable to note is that marketers have always wanted to do this – to engage the right customer with the right message through the right medium. What held them back was the daunting nature of the task. If done manually, the sheer permutation of communication options would call for an army of analysts to be deployed behind the scenes. If done using conventional technologies – the skills, effort and investment needed to get the data together, run the analyses, and integrate the different systems together to make it work, make the effort seem unmerited. In both examples, all three critical pieces of the puzzle – getting the data together, running sophisticated analysis behind the scenes, and automating the entire process so that results can be delivered instantaneously – is achieved by Big data technologies and Big data analytics. There’s a lot written on words like machine learning and artificial intelligence to prop up capabilities such as the ones I’ve described above. I for one am happy if the marketer and the data scientist share a tipple and reminisce the good new times. Related Solution: Transform your Customer Marketing with Manthan’s Customer Analytics Solution
Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Building Enhanced Customer Relevance with Lifecycle Aware Marketing

Customer Marketing is not about intuition anymore:  it is about knowing the customer well and mining actionable insights that go beyond demographic segmentation. In order to do the right behavioral targeting, there is need to add psychographic segmentation in building audience profile. This brings mail order brides Mexico focus on behavioral marketing where it is imperative that the Marketing Lifecycle intersect with the Customer Lifecycle Journey and Product Lifecycle. This intersection is what leading Marketers across the globe are looking to exploit to push the frontier on customer engagement and build brand advocates out of the buyers.  As David Redhil, CMO, Deloitte puts it, “Great relationships are built on moments that matter – you are there when I need you, you have a capacity to own my problem and walk in my shoes.” (ref) In his book Organizational Physics, Lex Sinsky argues that “In order to execute on a successful strategy, the stages of all three lifecycles must be in close alignment with each other. If not, like a pyramid with one side out of balance, it will collapse on itself and your strategy will fail. Why? Because aligning the product, market, and execution lifecycles gives your business the greatest probability of getting new energy from the environment now and capitalizing on emerging growth opportunities in the future” The same also applies in the customer marketing context. This is further illustrated in the success of new consoles and gaming toys from the company with lion’s share of the gaming market. The CMO of the gaming giant ascribes its success to their customer relevant market strategy that keenly observes areas of overlap between marketing and product lifecycle, in the light of Customer Lifecycle and Life stages.

The Intersection Where Opportunities Abound

intersection_where_opportunities_abound An awareness of Customer Lifecycle in the context of Product and Marketing Lifecycle allows the marketer to broaden his horizon and not only to predict the next logical purchase, but in ensuring that the Events of Marketing Relevance in the Customers’ life are in the radar.  The intersection also provides for successful NPI (New Product Introduction) and increased brand adoption among customers. As the customer advances in her journey, the product and marketing lifecycles should be aligned in creating relevant offers and responsive price-points that win customer delight. “Consumers are not always selfish, rational and independent agents but instead they exhibit a strong interdependency and limited or “bounded” rationality”, a study on Consumer Decision making reveals. Marketers today are gearing up to exploit the Events of Marketing Relevance, as they present themselves. To uncover these events it is essential that an inclusive and holistic view of products, marketing and customers are built, monitored and aligned. These need not walk in distinct directions away from each other, the marketer’s craft is now ably supported by the right customer analytics products and efficiencies to bring harmony into it and unearth opportunities unbound.  
Marketing Lifecycle

How to Align Marketing Lifecycle with Customer Lifecycle for Profitability

Let the truth be told, success is all about discovering options and picking the right one at the right time and, for a Retail Marketer that means connecting with the customer around the right event! Does this sound complex? Well, look closer and you will see that each part of this puzzle presents abundant opportunities; the trick is to piece it together. It is about going beyond demographic segmentation and raise your marketing from mass marketing to behavioral marketing, as we discussed in the blog post (ref). Let’s see how. These opportunities are easily recognizable when leading marketers gain visibility of the intersection of customer, product and marketing lifecycle. This intersection unveils undiscovered complex events that impact customer’s purchase behavior and presents marketers with the right capabilities to monetize them.

How to identify opportunities at the intersection of lifecycles?

An opportunity to connect with the customer at the moment that is most significant makes a marketer more relevant to her, as we discussed so far. Let us spend some time on understanding how these opportunities could be unearthed. Customer Lifecycle Marketing
The first step of discovering the significant intersection lies in how accurately and timely a marketer is able to map streams of customer data across the multiple points the customer interacts, such as, viewing the collection online, visits to the store, PoS data and loyalty data, to name a few. Once this data is accurately captured and minutely analyzed, some unique patterns could be discovered in buying behavior which will also indicate the different journeys that various customer groups undergo. While many of the patterns may point the usual, a keen eye will reveal some unique events. These events either demonstrate convergent or divergent behavior, understanding of which is gateway to customer relevance. It is at these events that marketing programs need to be aligned to influence the purchase behavior of the customer, so a new brand could be introduced or the customer can be presented with a suitable offer on a completely new product category. Path to profit goes through the milestones of customer relevance and endearment. If as a marketer we are relevant in the moment that matters, we are sure to stay in her mind longer. And, as we could see, customer all country brides leaves behind enough cues to enable us to recognize her desires, the trick is to pick up the hints and act on those before she changes her mind!