March 28, 2023
A jam-packed Monday at Shoptalk is now in the books, and some of us at Zipline were lucky enough to nab a front-row seat to cutting-edge conversations about the intersection of retail, technology, and talent. Here are some of our favorite takeaways from Monday’s sessions:
Marc Mastronardi, Chief Stores Officer at Macy’s, spoke at length about how the brand is leveraging its employees – which Macy’s calls “colleagues” – to deliver a differentiated customer experience across their stores.
Their secret? A completely new – and simplified – way of segmenting their store workforce. “We’re now thinking of our labor force as simply ‘front of house,’ or customer-facing, and ‘back of house,’ or on the operational side,” explained Mastronardi. Before this change, Macy’s employees had “deeper discipline expertise, which ended up preventing us from meeting customers where they needed to meet us.” Now, “everybody who is in either the ‘front of store’ group or the ‘back of store’ group is in a generalist role.”
Today, store teams are being asked to do more than just a single job. On the “front of house” side, cashiers and fitting room attendants are now also personal stylists. In the “back of house,” colleagues must understand the inner workings of processing shipments, along with packaging BOPIS orders and fulfilling same-day deliveries.
While the outcome certainly means more complexity on the job, Mastronardi noted that it also opens up incredible opportunities for colleagues’ career growth trajectories. “Now that they’re exposed to different parts of the business, I hear colleagues say, ‘I didn’t know I could do this well, and I really like it,” he said.
Ultimately, the number-one beneficiary is the Macy’s customer. “We now have a better capability to not only answer a customer’s questions, but also provide operational services that are fast and convenient,” said Mastronardi, “and that shows up in a differentiated customer experience.”
Advances in AI and automation are helping retailers unlock efficiencies and deliver a better customer experience while also enabling store employees to focus on more fulfilling tasks. Case-in-point: Nordstorm’s use of AI in supply chain management.
Nordstrom’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, Alexi DePree, spoke about the role AI and automation plays in helping employees have more meaningful contributions to the business. “Supply chain challenges have been incredibly complex over the last three years,” she said. “A huge part of where automation is helpful is how we continue to take the ‘not-value-add’ tasks and solve those so teams can put their energy towards ad-hoc, one-off problems. Instead, they can think forward, and help us continue to create better customer experiences.”
To DePree, this type of technology isn’t a nice-to-have, but a requirement. “I think employees are expecting us to use this type of technology at this point,” she said. “It’s how they run their lives, and they want the same technology at work… Everybody wants to be successful, and we’re using this technology to empower our employees and give them the chance to be successful each and every day.”
Joanne Crevoiserat, CEO of Tapestry (the parent company Coach, Kate Spade, Stewart Weitzman), talked about the company’s commitment to building its three iconic brands – and how their store associates help strengthen those brands’ emotional connections with customers.
“Some of our most passionate brand advocates are our associates,” said Crevoiserat. “Our associates are our secret weapon. They provide a tremendous experience in our brick-and-mortar stores that is second to none. They are reaching out on digital channels to engage with our customers, which is a change that has happened in just the last few years. They’re styling our product in their own unique style, and that authenticity has been resonating with consumers.” Customers aren’t the only ones who are benefitting from the creativity of Tapestry’s associates – “We’re actually putting some of their content on our brand website, too,” she continued.
As for the role of brick-and-mortar stores overall? Crevoiserat is bullish, especially now that Covid is not a major concern: “A store is important for that touch and feel experience. Customers have come back into our stores to engage with the product directly. They want styling tips, they want gift-giving tips, and there’s nobody better to provide that service than our associates in our stores.”
When it comes to opening stores, Canada Goose might seem a little late to the game. The performance luxury brand, known for its sumptuous winter jackets, didn’t open a standalone store until 2016. Today, Canada Goose has 51 stores around the world, with plans to grow to as many as 150 over the next five years.
“Our stores have to do a lot of things right now,” said Canada Goose President Carrie Baker. “Of course, they are a marketing vehicle, but they also need to be profitable.” And though Canada Goose stores haven’t been around for a decade yet, their formula seems to be working – thanks to the perfect blend of technology and people.
Baker gave an example: “There might be a line to get into one of our stores, and right from the minute you arrive, we want to make sure you’re experiencing us in a powerful way. A brand ambassador will greet you in line, and if you’re looking for a particular product, they’ll use a handheld device to do a stock check to make sure you’re not wasting your time.”
It’s all part of Canada Goose’s antidote to the “intimidating and austere” environment often associated with luxury brands. “We’re trying to define a new type of luxury. We want to be warm, welcoming… and very Canadian,” laughed Baker. “Building a relationship with customers is key. “
“Our brand ambassadors are the ‘experience bringers,’’’ she continued. “Technology is there to make their jobs easier, whether that’s a queuing system or a mobile POS. Their experience is highly valued, and we believe that’s what makes the difference between a traditional, staged, luxury experience and the warm, welcoming experience at Canada Goose.”
Zipline is how retailers bring brand strategies to life in stores – combining frontline communications, task management, resources, insights, and more to #KeepTodayOnTrack.
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