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Retailer's Paradox: 4 Trends Worth Talking About

Retailer's Paradox: 4 Trends Worth Talking About

Here are four of the most fascinating retail and consumer goods trends coming out of Connections '19.

More than 12,000 Trailblazers gathered in Chicago for the digital marketing, commerce, and customer service event of the year: Connections ‘19. With over 500 keynotes and breakout sessions, it’s easy to feel like you missed out. To ease your FOMO, here are four of the most fascinating retail and consumer goods trends from the conference that caught my eye.

1. Be exactly where your customer is (and your customer is everywhere)

Consumers are engaging brands across a myriad of emerging touchpoints. Shopping is increasingly happening at the edge of brands’ properties — whether that’s on website, social, messaging, or even gaming consoles, consumers have declared that retailers must “be where I am!” While these fragmented and embedded experiences are complex, the omnipresent consumer also presents significant opportunity for new engagement. 

For example, Party City showed how they’ve seized the opportunity to provide a seamless experience using a couple of cool tactics: 

  • First, they synchronized with Pinterest to serve up personalized party decoration recommendations based on past pins and preferences. 
  • Second, they leaned on Einstein Visual Search to help party planners identify products within reference photos. 
  • Third, for those who prefer in-person consultation, Party City built an appointment scheduler accessible online, making it more possible to truly “be everywhere your customer is.”

2. Respect my privacy, but make it personal

With data breaches and privacy scandals dominating headlines recently, it’s no surprise that 73% of customers say trust in companies matters more than it did a year ago. But that doesn’t leave retailers off the hook for personalizing experiences: 64% of customers expect tailored engagement based on past interactions. The stakes for not doing so are high. Here’s why: 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services – up from 80% in 2018. 

So how do you walk the “retain my privacy, but make it personalized” tight-rope? 

  • Be transparent about the data you need and why. 92% of customers will more readily trust brands that give them this control. 
  • Go beyond simple segmentation to true individualization. Upscale clothing brand INTERMIX uses over 60 different attributes to analyze customer behaviors.
  • Embed artificial intelligence (AI) into the user experience for truly personalized recommendations. Trailblazers like adidas attribute 35% of its revenue to predicted recommendations done well. 

3. Celebrate Thanksgiving, globally

It’s only the middle of June, but attendees were eager for holiday insights to ready them for the most wonderful time of the year. And this has become a global phenomenon. Despite Thanksgiving being a holiday only celebrated in America, Black Friday was the number one shopping day around the world. 

Even countries like the U.K. and Australia that traditionally celebrate Boxing Day (historically the number one shopping day in Commonwealth countries) experienced more revenue growth the day after Thanksgiving. What does this mean for retailers? Global consumers are embracing U.S. holiday shopping habits. While Thanksgiving is only celebrated in the U.S., Black Friday sales are celebrated worldwide. Conversations with international attendees confirmed these numbers. I spoke with an executive from Brazil and a director from Australia who both noted a huge uptick in Black Friday sales in their respective markets. There’s clearly consumer appetite for Cyber Week savings far beyond the U.S. market, so make your holiday marketing a global effort by priming international audiences for the deals to come. 

4. Bots humanize experiences

With 4.2B users on SMS, 1.5B on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, 1B+ on WeChat, and new platforms sprouting up seemingly overnight, keeping pace with customers’ preferred service channels can feel like a superhuman undertaking.

Salesforce unveiled new Service Cloud capabilities that helps deliver personalized engagements with bots — powered by AI — that tackle rote tasks. A new channel menu lets customers choose their preferred chat channels like SMS, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Why is this so cool to us retailers? Because it frees us up to spend time getting to know the customer, while the AI suggests articles, responses, and other products in the background.

It was clear that brands are amidst a massive digital transformation, and Connections was the spot to collaborate, learn, and get inspired. To hear real-world examples of how e.l.f. Cosmetics, Tapestry, and ASICS deliver modern experiences, check out my webinar this Wednesday. You’ll get an in-depth look into the top six retail and consumer goods trends, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at Salesforce’s newest innovations. See you there.


Rob Garf VP and GM, Retail

With 25 years of global retail experience as a practitioner (Lids, Marshalls, Hit or Miss), an industry analyst (AMR Research), a strategy consultant (IBM), and a software leader (Salesforce), he is no stranger to the industry and the challenges retailers face. Rob is also a frequent industry speaker and a member of NRF’s Digital Council.

More by Rob

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