Opening Keynote - Joyce
Mr. Joyce at the Opening Keynote

Today was Day 1 at the National Retail Federation Big Show here in New York City. I wanted to share a recap of the show so far. The overarching theme of the conference is pretty clear after the first day with almost every presentation I attended focusing on innovative ways to connect with the customer.

The morning keynote session featured Steve Joyce, CEO of Choice Hotels. Mr. Joyce spent time sharing Choice Hotel’s approach to building relationships with their customer base and discussed the changes they have had to make to their business as new customer segments and demographics become larger portions of their revenue. He mentioned Millenials demanding app-based features like remote check-in and said that 37% of Millenials that have booked at an upscale hotel have done so in part to share their experience via social media with their friends.

Mr. Joyce also mentioned that we live in an era of Big Data and the companies that know their customers the most will be in a position to develop their business for their best customers … something their competitors cannot replicate. He admitted they’ve had some very successful social media efforts where the engagement was off the charts but tying the results back to revenue was difficult. Mr. Joyce feels that social is critical to the brand and can help be one way they can communicate with customers in-between hotel stays. But it was clear he’s looking for direct linkage ROI and it’s been elusive for Choice Hotels so far.

Hershey’s presentation for the key note at lunch time from Michelle Buck, SVP Global Chief Growth Officer was very enlightening and highlighted the on the ways a CPG brand uses data and customer insights in collaboration with their retail partners. Ms. Buck explained Hershey’s key strategy of not being the largest confectionery brand but being the smartest. She talked about the ways in which Hershey seeks to boost the entire snack industry, search for synergies with other snack brands and working with retailers like Giant Eagle to create customer experiences that make an impression. Ms. Buck mentioned beacon enables store end caps that enable a grocer to help relevant shoppers find the snack aisle.

Later in the conversation, Ms. Buck was joined on stage by Doug Freud, AVP Data Science & Strategy and the discussion shifted a bit to focus on the role of data in the retail and CPG transformation. She shared Hershey’s experience that implementing analytics is really all about the ability to integrate and harmonize the data first and then having the ability to distribute it to the centers of excellence that can do the most with it. Ms. Buck talked about enterprise connectivity at Hershey and the need to share the knowledge in a systematic way. Hershey focuses on automating lower level analytics and making it available so their insights team can focus on more and more challenging business questions.

Ms. Buck and Mr. Freud
Ms. Buck and Mr. Freud

Mr. Freud from SAP also shared several provocative thoughts regarding the role of analytics in any organzation. He said, clearly speaking to the CIOs and CTOs in the auditorium that machines, not humans, should be the biggest consumers of analytics. Operations systems should be the consumers of predictive models. He also predicted that pictures, video and sound are the new data for retail.

Other highlights included a fantastic presentation from Cal Bouchard, Senior Director, ECommerce at The North Face on their Expert Personal Shopper Platform. Read about the capability here and try it out for yourself on The North Face website. Another obvious trend is in-store tracking and analytics. There are a lot of vendors that are providing this capability for retailers and as the technology improves to monitor a shopper inside a store, more and more of the retailer customer journey will be digitized.

The first day was full of thought provoking content. Come back tomorrow for my coverage of Day 2.

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