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Euromonitor International was pleased to attend this year’s Omnishopper conference, hosted at the Radisson Blu in Chicago.  Below are recaps of the major themes from each day of the conference.

Day 1: A new way of engaging shoppers

Emily Shannon, Director of Digital at the Mall of America, outlined how the mall is using digital tools to engage with shoppers. The social and digital team work closely together and have gotten the response time to social media inquiries down to two minutes. Furthermore, the teams rely on text messaging to communicate with guests. The mall responded to about 16,000 texts last year—many of the texts asked for dining recommendations.

Katie Paul, Associate Director, Shopper Insights, from Kellogg’s and Jim Brown, Vice President, Shopper and Retail Strategy, from GfK presented research on mobile shopping behaviors for grocery that helped inform Kellogg’s mobile tactics to engage shoppers. 47% of grocery shoppers used their mobile device while shopping, most commonly in the pre-store stage. The most common uses were to search for coupons, read ads/circulars, create grocery lists, search for recipes and download coupons to loyalty cards. Kellogg’s used these insights to craft different mobile tactics, one of which was a partnership with Target’s Cartwheel app to drive purchases of a new product instead of sampling. By drawing attention through the Cartwheel app, Kellogg’s saw over 50% higher lift and 40% more ROI than on traditional core brand programs. The company found that the partnership was more efficient for them than store demonstrations and drove better returns for Kellogg’s and Target.

Elizabeth Harris, EVP Strategy Director, and David Kuhn, SVP Research Director, from Leo Burnett presented a new research tool: The Buying Acceleration and Incentive Tool (B.A.I.T.). They conducted 17,000 surveys to analyze 186 promotional tactics to see how these tactics influenced brand affinity and purchasing decisions. The researchers were able to group the promotional tactics into five types with 11 subtypes. Of all of the promotional tactics, free shipping and free returns were the ones that were most popular with shoppers. To be successful with B.A.I.T, the company needs to know what the brand objectives are and use the correct B.A.I.T to meet those objectives. You can view the full presentation here.

Day 2: Digital must supplement the emotional

Day 2 continued with a top notch keynote by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize-winning contributor to the psychology of judgment, decision making, and behavioural economics. Presentations and panels afterwards covered a number of trends from the perspectives of retailers, suppliers, and researchers alike, and it was their forward looking nature that was the common bond. Analysis of the potential impact of new technologies, the importance of social media, and how to capture the increasingly important Millennial dollar were major themes. A transition from a period where stores rolled out fully-functional and nationwide programmes is being replaced by small-scale prototyping to see what works and what doesn’t.

For all the talk of how the future will look, it was refreshing to see an appropriate counterbalance peppered throughout the day. Ironically enough, it was a key component of the keynote, where Daniel Kahneman outlining the dangers of common biases and overconfidence, advocating a healthy dose of scepticism in regards to forecasting and stories that sound nice but lack adequate proof. Change may be a constant, but the same can be said for human nature.  And for all the emphasis on digital technology, a number of presenters praised the appeal of real-life events which have driven traffic at venues from Mall of America to Kroger. As the future comes bearing down and connectivity and digital adoption grow, it serves retailers to think about how to connect with people in a modern way. Despite our increasing reliance on machines, the importance of imparting humanity into the shopping experience remains.

Day 3: A focus on the consumer

Day 3 kicked off with two key sessions, one by Seth Shapiro of USC School of Cinematic Arts and another by Bridget Brennan of Female Factor. Shapiro’s session titled “Whoever Owns the Customer Wins: How Digital is Reinventing Retail” highlighted six factors: business model innovation, infrastructure, brand promise, experience, data, and story, and expanded on each to illustrate changes in the retail landscape. He concluded by highlighting convenience, price, selection, advice, trust, and habit as factors that will play an important role in digital retailing, and referred to Amazon as an exemplary retailer that is on the path to success.

In the second keynote session, Bridge Brennan highlighted top trends in marketing, and more specifically how these trends come into play as retailers seek to sell to women. Brennan emphasized the growing purchasing power of women as they are currently the engine of the consumer economy driving nearly 80% of all purchasing decisions. She highlighted some important trends about women shoppers that retailers must keep in mind, and concluded with action plans for retailers, which include retailers actively participating in women culture, studying marketplace trends as driven by women to identify what opportunities they reveal, and to strive for gender balanced teams internally.

The rest of the conference covered much content from the perspective of manufacturers. Many of the key findings speak to the changing relationship between manufacturers and retailers as more retailers implement omnichannel strategies. While the transition has led some retailers and manufacturers to seek increased collaboration with each other, it has also led some manufacturers to directly engage with consumers, changing the role of retailers. Both retailers and manufacturers are being stretched as they are met with new challenges to adapt and innovate.

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