What's in store for shoppers: The Retail Roundtable

In-store experiences. Customer connections that bolster brands. Becoming a part of customer conversations. Retail communicators gathered in Minneapolis at this Carmichael Lynch Relate-hosted roundtable to discuss how to get the biggest bang out of their marketing buck.

The Panel

-Eddie Baeb, PR lead, Target
-Sue Golden, SVP/GM, The Mars Agency
-Eric Hausman, retail practice chair, partner, Carmichael Lynch Relate
-Paul Maccabee, CEO, Maccabee
-Ellen Moreau, SVP of marcomms, Sherwin-Williams 
-Emily Shannon, director of digital, Mall of America
-Megan Tamte, founder and CEO, Evereve 
-Bill Thorne, SVP, communications and public affairs, National Retail Federation

Hausman (Carmichael Lynch Relate): There’s opportunity for brands to empower their employees to respond in social on behalf of the brand when it’s appropriate. A lot of brands are scared to do it, but that’s a more authentic way to have conversations.

Baeb (Target): You need your experience to affirm to a customer this is what your store is all about and also confirms to them this is what they wanted. They’re getting ease and convenience, and the experience is the differentiator. But it has to be true to your brand.

Golden (Mars Agency): The store has the potential to become the place during the shopper journey for consumers to "experience" the brand. There are certain emotions that only an interaction with a real human can offer. We must not forget that.

Maccabee (Maccabee): It’s not only a positive experience that retailers have to give. It has to be unexpected and surprising, so much so that a customer – perhaps a millennial – might document it on social. And delighting in an unexpected way fits social so well. 

Moreau (Sherwin-Williams): Your connection with consumers and being top-of-mind and having a good brand image - that is what really ends up making someone shop with you and not the fact you have a promotion for 20% off. 

Shannon (Mall of America): To be able to have conversations on social in real-time has required us breaking down tons of silos. It truly has brought everyone to the table. In the last couple of years we’ve had conversations that we weren’t previously having. But you must have the right organizational procedures in place to be able to handle that conversation. 

Tamte (Evereve): I spend a lot of time thinking about our 1,200 employees. How do we engage in the mobile space with our employees and share tips? It’s about helping them understand what we do and why we do it.

Thorne (NRF): Content is so important, but we get so focused on it that we produce too much content and don’t drive people to where we want them to go. They get lost very quickly. We’ve got to make sure that the content is relevant, true, and compelling.

Click here for an extended version of this roundtable, including our panelists' predictions on retail sector game-changers in the near future.

What's in store for the retail sector

When asked what factors they deem most important, retailers’ first answers are rarely reputation and talent.They should be given more consideration, though. So says Bill Thorne, SVP of comms and public affairs at the National Retail Federation. Below are just some highlights of the thoughts he shared with a live audience prior to the Carmichael Lynch Relate-hosted Retail Roundtable:

-The biggest challenge retailers face: "The number-one thing they talk about is attracting, keeping, and growing talent. It’s a very transient industry. The price points they have to pay for talent and where they have to find them is just an amazing story. It is a very real consideration.

-The importance of reputation-building: "Reputation impacts sales. Period. Retailers large and small must talk about the services they offer, the people they employ, the stores they build, the communities they serve. Our Retail Across America campaign helps tell these stories. Companies that have a good reputation outperform on the S&P 500.

-Millennials’ impact on the retail sector: "Millennials are truly impacting the way other generations behave. My mother, 90, uses her iPhone in store to compare prices. If she doesn’t like the price, she’ll leave. She bought a refrigerator online. I was shocked. And when it comes to giving back to the community, millennials really care about that, perhaps more than any previous generation.

Click here for an extended version of PRWeek’s conversation with Thorne, where he additionally discusses virtual reality, goings-on in Washington, and Amazon – "the great equalizer."

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