NRF big show 2016

Sales people can be annoying, especially when they're pushy, won't take no for an answer or simply don't listen.

But at the National Retail Federation's 105th convention and expo in New York City this week, vendors offered options to change that — and even to help retailers create meaningful new customer experiences.

Microsoft, for example, is capitalizing on location-based marketing options. It's showing retailers how in-store technologies such as beacons, near-field communications and Wi-Fi networks can track customers’ movements to provide product information or even tailored discounts on demand.

Crowd Insights In-Store

L’Oréal Paris, an early adopter of Microsoft CRM, Azure and analytics, has a Yelp-like app feature. It's designed to so shoppers can benefit from real life insights on its products.

The next evolution of the tool, according to Tracy Issel, general manager of Worldwide Retail at Microsoft, will use Power BI to generate data reports so L’Oréal can learn more about visitor concerns and transformations.

New Partnerships

Sean Bunner, VP of new business development with HSN, and Tricia Nichols, global lead of consumer engagements and partnerships for Gap discussed mutually beneficial brand relationships: partnerships to reach customers in new ways while still achieving a return on investment.

Virgin Hotels, for example, has given the Gap a place in its app. Lucy, aka “your personal comfort assistant," manifests as a service that can help you get what you need via a few finger taps.

Say you’ve packed nothing but New York black for your time in Charlotte, N.C. and feel like out of place in a world of pastels. All you need to is go to Lucy and reserve the goods in the store. No time to pick them up? No problem. The concierge will retrieve your order, hang it in your closet and put the cost of the clothes on your hotel bill.

HSN recently partnered with Ford on an initiative that included multiple touchpoints for consumers: including original content, product placement, dedicated experiences, games and digital integration, all culminating with three hours of dedicated programming. It also offered preferred price for HSN customers to sweeten the deal.

It’s Not Brick and Mortar vs. Digital

Shopping is an omnichannel experience. It’s rich in touchpoints and can use many, many screens. Salespeople who choose to be of genuine service can enrich that experience in ways that technology can’t.

As Chris Bye, design entrepreneur and customer experience strategist for Bye Design, stressed during the event, “Customer-centric companies win.” 

To be successful, retailers need to understand not only what their customers do but also why they do it — and focus less on pushing a message out than on drawing people in.