Retail Council of Canada's STORE Conference 2018

Last month the Retail Council of Canada's 2018 STORE Conference took place at the Toronto Congress Centre. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this annual two-day conference brings together over 2,000 industry professionals and retail leaders to network and drive ideas to strengthen the retail, supplier, and consumer product industry.

Here are our top 10 takeaways from this year's event:

  1. The primary trend in retail, as epitomized by Story and its founder Rachel Shechtman, who appeared as a mainstage speaker, is that retail is evolving to focus on "customer experience," rather than merchandise. Stores should allow customers to engage with the space, take pictures, experiment, play, etc. Retail is now about discovery, not just buying things.
  2. Many brands are shifting towards direct-to-consumer sales, which means that bricks-and-mortar retailers selling national brands needs to offer something else equally as (if not more) valuable than just merchandise. This trend sees many retailers transforming into showrooms, playrooms, and order pick-up centres. 
  3. If you're not multichannel in 2018, with a robust online presence to match your in-store experience, you have some explaining to do. 
  4. Forget multi-channel and level up to omni-channel. You must strive to offer your customers a consistent experience both online and in-store. Offering personalized experiences on your website? Your customers will expect the same level of personalization in-store.
  5. When developing online shopping and discovery platforms, speed and convenience are key. Customers expect speed in loading times, and convenience when it comes to purchasing. 33% of online shoppers abandon their carts if not advanced in the first three seconds, and this percentage drops by 20% for each subsequent second. In this area, Amazon is king with load times under 1.16 seconds. 
  6. Ensure your mobile presence improves convenience for your customers – Google's data shows that mobile shopping helps increase customer conversion for bricks-and-mortar stores. Essentially, the likelihood of customer conversion based on that customer's proximity to the store increases with mobile interaction.
  7. Consider your resources when working to improve conversion. Why focus on all potential customers who touch your site when you can maximize revenue from your company's best customers? Identify those who are the most consistent shoppers and those who spend the most money, and direct the majority of your marketing efforts towards them.
  8. If you want consumer data, you have to provide your customers with reasons to share their information, namely value and relevance. In a nutshell, your company's return on investment (ROI) is data, while your customer's ROI is an improved experience.
  9. Know how you're handling the customer data you collect and treat it with respect and consideration. Discover how it's stored, how it's protected, and how it's shared, both internally and externally.
  10. What's next? AI will shake up retail in ways beyond letting customers "try out" so-called high-touch items like home furnishings and luxury clothing with their smartphones. AI has the potential to increase efficiencies across the supply chain, from production all the way to fulfillment.