Podcast

Retail Wrap-Up 2020:
Stop saying omni-channel

With so much activity in the retail space this year, it will be easy for brands and retailers to feel the need to quickly react vs. being intentional with strategy and tactics.  In this second podcast of a multi-part holiday retail series designed to analyze the changing holiday retail environment and support intentional thinking, Kristin Demel, Retail Strategy Director at Callahan talk with Mark Tribble, VP of Brand Management on why the phrase omni-channel is outdated as part of a discussion on the top five holiday retail tactics that are likely to see drastic changes this year including:

  • Door busters and In-Store Only offers will be replaced
  • Free shipping is no longer the ultimate convenience offering
  • Biggest Sale of the Year might not be the largest driver of urgency
  • Will In-store Santa be on vacation this year?
  • Omni-channel is no longer optional

Listen here:


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Other podcasts in our Retail Wrap-up 2020 series include:


Welcome to Callahan’s Uncovering Aha! podcast. We talk about a range of topics for marketing decision-makers, with a special focus on how to uncover insights in data to drive brand strategy and inspire creativity. Featuring Kristin Demel and Mark Tribble.

Kristin:
Hi, good morning. I’m Kristin Demel, the Director of Retail Strategy for Callahan, and you’re listening to Uncovering Aha, a Callahan podcast. A couple of weeks ago Joe Cox, our Director of Communication Strategy and I started a conversation around holiday 2020. This holiday season is sure to be unlike any other, and we talked about things like consumer uncertainty and the fact that consumers lives are just playing different this year, and all of the change and impact and stimulus that’s happening out there in the environment that retailers and brands are reacting to.

Kristin:
We shared that we’re going to be with you this holiday season, discussing what we see, strategies that are out there, tactics that we see happening. And man, is there a lot going on. It seems like every day, if not every hour, depending upon the day that we’re in, there are new announcements for retailers about sales, about plans they’re putting into place and things that they want consumers to start engaging with.

Kristin:
So with so much activity, it can be really easy for brands and retailers to feel the need to quickly react this holiday season versus intentionally planning their activities or staying the course of their strategy. So with me today to continue this conversation around holiday 2020 is Mark Tribble. Mark is our VP of Brand Management. Hi, Mark.

Mark:
Good morning. How you doing?

Kristin:
I’m doing great.

Mark:
Well, hey. It’s great to join the podcast series. This is my first time, so please be kind to me when this is all said and done. But we love to talk retail. Just, Kristen, you and I both grew up in the retail world. I was a store manager way before I became an ad guy. So this time of the year just really gets my juices going. It’s just fun to watch what’s happening out there in the world. And you know, in this crazy world we’re living in with COVID and everything else out there. I think this is going to be a holiday season unlike any you and I have been around in our lives, and I just think it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

Mark:
So, as you and I were talking, we already started coming up with our five things we already think are going to be changing this year, and stuff that you and I just saw that was just such a tradition, when we think about the store environments we grew up in and the retailers we’ve been around. So I’d love to kick it off if you’re okay with starting with the first one, I think you and I have talked a lot about, which is just this idea of doorbusters, the old stack it high, let it fly idea.

Mark:
I just read yesterday that Target has already came out and said, Black Friday, we’re going to open at 7:00 AM just like normal. We’re not going to do it early. You can even come in and you can register your spot online. Right? Forget the old ideas of tickets. Remember when we used to be at stores and people were wrapped around the store at midnight, waiting to get in? That just isn’t going to happen this year, or if it does, that’s going to be six miles long, because you’re six feet away from each other trying to get in line when it’s all over.

Mark:
So it’s amazing when you really think about what doorbusters are going to, I think change this year in that space when you come to it. So I’m really fascinated to see how that space works and really what we use to drive business this year. Because that was always … in the days of Black Friday, when I grew up doing it for Walmart, it was all about what you could sell really cheap, really fast, and that you knew people wanted it, and I just think this year that’s going to be really, really different.

Kristin:
I think earlier, as you were starting to talk about this, you said tradition and Black Friday had become over time this almost kickoff to the holiday season and this tradition that families were looking forward to. I can remember as a kid with my mom waiting outside stores at 4:00 AM, and there was one year that we went to the mall, back when we all went to the mall, and we shopped all night. I just thought that was the coolest experience, that I was always going to celebrate that way. So I think REI was the first retailer this year that came out and said, “Hey, you know what, we’re not going to be open at all on Thanksgiving day.

Kristin:
And you know, when you take that stimulus that was put into the market and then everything going on with the pandemic, I think that’s really the trigger for all these other retailers to kind of step back and say, “Well, when do I want to start my sale?” And I think your Target example is so perfect. Hey, you know what, let’s keep Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving. Let’s try to control the flow of folks into our store by having a somewhat normal set of hours. And so to your point, I think it’s really interesting to see, okay, well now how are retailers going to make up that volume that they normally would have done late Thursday afternoon, wee hours of the morning Friday morning? And I know you have some predictions on how that volume is going to be comped. You want to share some of that with us?

Mark:
Well, yeah, I think as marketers, I mean, look what Amazon just did with Prime Day, right? I mean, they put it into the middle of October because it’s traditionally summertime, but they had to push it back because of COVID. I would argue that they were the official kickoff this year of the holidays. I think there’s a lot of people that started their holiday shopping on the 13th and 14th of October ahead of Halloween. So I think as a marketer this year, you really have to think about, “Okay, if I don’t have those door Buster deals to drive traffic to that little teaser I need to get you in, I’m going to have to really think about that differently this year in the marketing funnel. I’m going to have to think about how to tease you all along the way over what is ultimately now the next ten weeks of Christmas shopping, forget four or five.”

Mark:
Now you push that all the way into October. So I think it’s going to definitely take marketers to really rethink, how do I tease out certain categories? How do I really leverage those to get people into my store, or more importantly, to get them online or to get them in my app? I mean, let’s face it, we’re going to do a lot of shopping behind our computers here just like you and I are talking today. So I think that’s going to be really different this year.

Kristin:
An interesting statistic I heard was 25% of consumers are done holiday shopping this year. And when I read that, I was like, “Oh no.” My first reaction was as a consumer, “Oh no, I need to get shopping. I’m so behind the eight ball.” Then I had to pause and say, “Wait a minute. I feel like I might just be reacting to all the marketing messages that are out there. Am I as a consumer ready to start shopping now that it’s not even Halloween, or are the retailers and marketers out there telling me, ‘Hey, it’s time because we just lived through this weird spring. We don’t know what’s going to happen this fall, so you better get your shopping started now.'”

Kristin:
As I think about our next topic that you and I have been kicking around is around shipping being a big differentiator. So last year we heard lots of things around pre shipping and last day to shop online and that kind of set the tone for when you can stop shopping online and when you have to start shopping in person, and this whole idea of convenience was really defined around shipping being a differentiator. How do you see that playing out in the market this year? Do you still see … And I know I’m asking you a leading question because I know your answer, but what do you see as the new definition of convenience this year for shoppers?

Mark:
Hey, look, I think this year, the world of curbside pickup is the new game changer. I think what shipping was three, four or five years ago when Amazon first said, “We’ll ship it to you for free, but you got to be a Prime member,” I think this year curbside pickup’s the game changer. I think people are prepared and ready. They still want to shop how they’d like to shop, so they want to browse. They want to go online and look at their favorite categories. But this year you and I both know, we have friends in the business, shipping’s going to be a problem. If you think shipping has been an issue for COVID, imagine the volume that’s going to happen now with this holiday season.

Mark:
But you’ve got all of these brick and mortar stores that are becoming basically independent warehouses for every retailer, so all of a sudden here you have a warehouse … I’ve got a Walmart Super Center that is literally a block and a half from my house. You can’t tell me that that store isn’t going to be my DC or my distribution center this holiday season. So I think curbside’s going to be the game changer for sure, because I think we’re all going to realize I can’t ship anything, who knows maybe by early December I can’t even be guaranteed depending on what’s happening with the volume.

Mark:
So I think for us, I think if you’re a retailer, I’d have my curbside game be as strong as humanly possible. If I’m a marketer working through that, if I was setting as the CMO at Target or at Lowe’s or Home Depot, man, I would sure that I have got my staff trained. I’d be partnering with my operations teams, my store teams, because that’s going to be the new customer experience. Right? I mean, I don’t know how many times you bought groceries and went and picked them up in the back of the car, but my 80 year old parents because of their worry have not shopped in store for four months, but they still shop at Walmart. They just stop and pull in the line, lift up the back tail gate, and away they go.

Mark:
So how could I make that holiday experience still a great one for them, right? I mean, am I going to dress my associates and elf costumes? Am I going to give candy canes to the kids in the car? I mean, it’s kind of like old school marketing all over, which I think is kind of exciting. We kind of forget that some days, and I think there’s some really cool grassroots efforts you could do in that space that I think could make that experience even more unique and different for the retailer. So I think there’s going to be an opportunity there for sure.

Kristin:
I think the whole buy online, pickup in store behavior, or BOPUS as I like to call it because I’m a true retail nerd, is super interesting. For years, consumers have been channel shifting. So they’ve been shifting from their in-store purchases to online, and that has started to create a strain on inventory. Because as a retailer, you need to have a full shelf to look like you’re in business, but then you also needed to have a full distribution center so that you could react quickly because shipping quickly was kind of the name of the game.

Kristin:
Then now let’s fast forward to the pandemic, then all of a sudden us as consumers started seeing buy online, pickup in store being a real significant option to how we wanted to get our stuff. Because we were living through this world where you placed an order on Amazon and you might not get it for two to three weeks, and buy online, pickup in store gave consumers this window to get it now and get what they wanted when they wanted it.

Kristin:
So it’s interesting as we now fast forward to holiday and buy online, pickup in store just is a natural part of my life as a consumer. However, my patience for it is wearing out a little bit. At the beginning of the pandemic with my favorite grocery store I was totally content to pick up my pickup in store day two or three days in the future, just so that I could hold my spot. But now if I can’t get my stuff in two hours, I’m finding a different retailer. Whole Foods just made their announcement this week, the last couple of days that their grocery will now be within an hour.

Mark:
Yeah, amazing, right?

Kristin:
And it’s amazing because if you think … to all the things you just said, if you think about the staffing that it takes, the technology, the real time inventory that has to be in place, you don’t disappoint customers, the algorithm behind the AI around what you’re going to substitute if something’s not there. And to your point about customer experience, how are customers even going to feel if you substitute or they place their order, they come to get it in two hours and you’re like, “I’m so sorry. I don’t have little Timmy’s toy that you picked out. Try again later. It’s just this interesting new world we live in around convenience and customer experience.

Mark:
Yeah, I totally agree. You’re not going to be happy in that experience if they’re replacing all the toys you wanted to purchase for your eight year old with options that they think you wanted. So the Barbie with the Kung Fu grip maybe out of stock when it’s all over. You’re not going to be real happy if you get a Ken instead of a Barbie. That isn’t going to work.

Mark:
So it’s going to be a big challenge for retailers, but I think it’s also going to be a huge opportunity. I think the ones that will win are the ones that really create that seamless experience and the ones that I think also really executed well at the curb. I mean, I just believe the curb is going to be the new game changer this year and I’m really anxious to see how they play that out. I think that’ll be really cool.

Kristin:
So let’s talk about the next item that we’ve been talking about a lot. So Mark and I have been around the retail game for a while and I have just personal family traditions tied into the retail experience, and Black Friday being the biggest sale of the year, that was the Pavlovian bell to kind of come out and start shopping. “It’s the holiday season, and you’re never going to find anything better than what you’re going to find today.” Do you think that’s true this year and how do you think that’s changing?

Mark:
Well, you and I have had this conversation. I think this year, again … and it’s really started in 2019. So I think 2019, we could all look back and say, “Okay, quite frankly, retailers all decided they better tighten up their inventory.” You didn’t want a lot left over for clearance sales come January. That would kill you from a profit margin perspective. And, right, you’ve been a buyer in your world. You’re always going to place a couple of bets. You’re always going to hope that, okay, again, I hate to always go back to my Walmart days, but we used to laugh at Walmart way back in the 2000s. They bought a six foot Nutcracker was one of the items that they had, and guess what? We didn’t sell half of the inventory we had hoped for. So what are you doing with a six foot tall Nutcracker in January, right? You are marking that down like you’ve never seen before.

Mark:
So I think retailers have learned over time, I really want to sell what I got on the floor and when it’s gone, it’s gone, and I think I’m okay with that. So last year we saw that and I think this year is going to be the same. I think, especially when you go back to our first topic, doorbusters, if I’m going to eliminate all those stack it high and let it fly type items, then I’m going to tighten up my inventories. I think this year it’s going to be more about, if I really want it, if it’s a really hot item, do I buy it early? Because I don’t know if it’s going to be here at the end of the year, or at the end of the holiday season. And I don’t know if the deal will get any better, and I don’t know if it’s going to be any better than it is today.

Mark:
So I think we’ve kind of trained consumers over time, right? You and I have been around the business. We’ve always treated them to wait until the 23rd, wait until the 22nd, wait until the weekend before. That’ll be when the really, really, really best deal happens. It might. But I think the stuff that’s going to be on sale at that time is going to be the stuff that stocking stuffers. It’s going to be Tupperware. It’s not going to be the hottest of the hot items. I think those are going to be gone. Maybe gone before we even get into December. You and I have talked about that. I’ve got an example just from yesterday. I don’t know if you’ve seen this spot, but right. iPhone is coming out with their latest version, right? Always a hot holiday item.

Mark:
Well, look at Verizon as a carrier, or as a retailer, depending on how loosely you want to define them. They’re already advertising that new iPhone. Do you think if I want to put one of those in my daughter’s stocking this year as a big surprise, I better wait until December to buy that? I don’t know if there’ll be the inventory for it. So I really think this year is going to be less about sale, sale, sale, sale, sale. I think they’ll still have that, but you’re now hedging your bets on, as a consumer, do I think they’ll have it for me in a week, next weekend, in December? So I think the hot items are going to go really, really fast. I think they’re going to just be out of stock after that. You might get lucky and order one and be on back order, but I think that’s going to be, again, a different shopping habit for everybody in that space.

Kristin:
So this is going to totally make it so that all of our listeners know exactly how old I am, but the first big, hot item that I remember folks going crazy over in my world of life here was Tickle Me Elmo, and that was kind of the first item that made an impression on me around, hey, there’s going to be this hot item that not everybody is going to get, even if they want it. So thinking about all the things that might be influencing how a consumer is making purchase decisions from our past, we have these hot items we know we’re going to blow out, but then now let’s think about what the pandemic has done to our mindset.

Kristin:
So we know that there’s going to be holiday items and not everybody’s going to get that everybody wants. Then you’ve got consumers that have just now lived through a spring where they couldn’t even get basics like toilet paper when they wanted it and canned food. Just the things that you always took for granted that were going to be in stock, or if the particular Bounty paper towel that you wanted wasn’t there, you could find one that would similarly meet your needs. Then they were going into a store where the shelf was literally gone of all paper towels and all toilet paper. So you take that and you combined it with all of the inventory optimization and margin optimization efforts that retailers have been going through the last few years, it makes this interesting dynamic of how inventory and availability play into when a consumer chooses to shop. I’m going to say a word out loud to you and you’re probably going to laugh, because I don’t even think we’ve said it to each other, Super Saturday.

Mark:
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. Here we go.

Kristin:
When I planned holiday plans in the past, you’d have your Black Friday sale and it was going to be big and huge. But then in my pocket, I had my Super Saturday ideas which were going to be even better and really the biggest sale of the year, leading it as the last Saturday to shop before holiday, and as a consumer now, I don’t even know if super Saturday is going to feel relevant as the biggest sale, because I probably, for all the things we’ve talked about so far in this conversation around shipping and inventory availability in stock and all of those things, the biggest sale of the year, waiting till the last minute might not be where my head’s at this year.

Kristin:
So I loved your statement about, that might be Tupperware. That might be staples and basics. So as a marketer, you’re still trying to drive urgency and you’re still trying to drive, I’m going to do air quotes, “purchase traffic” because you might not be driving store traffic. How do you handle this and what’s your advice for how they should be thinking about this holiday this way?

Mark:
Well, I really think this year, if I was sitting in that marketer seat on the retail side, I’d really want to be attached to my merchandising team this year because I think this is, out of any year, one of those years I may hold back with your help if you’re my merchant team to say, “Hey, look, I can’t put all the best stuff out there on Black Friday,” or, “I can’t put everything out there on Cyber Monday.” You’re kind of, in some ways, I don’t want to say holding back a special or two, but I think this year you’re really thinking about, what’s the right cadence? What’s my right rollout? What do I launch in October now or November 1st in my pre, pre, pre-Black Friday ad, versus what am I going to have and how am I going to work with you to continue to drive traffic come December 15th, right?

Mark:
So this year out of any, I think you have to step back and really work with your merchant partners and try and figure out, “Okay, how are we going to do this together? Because we’ve got to cover eight weeks of traffic driving.” And if by the time I get to week seven, to your point, all I’ve got is socks, underwear and Tupperware, that’s maybe a problem. That could be a big problem. So I think you’re really working hard to think about that. Still worrying with your merchant team that I also don’t want to have a bunch of that stuff left come December 26th. But man, in today’s world, I think you have to think of that differently.

Mark:
And this is going to be kind of, again, we’ve said it already when we think about store operations or ops, now we’re talking about merchandising. This is truly the year that I think, again, all of the folks that said inside a retailer and your agency partners, you better be talking a lot. There better be collaboration and weekly calls and different dialogues because you’ve really got a plan this year. You’ve really got to think about how to bring that to life for the customer experience, which is actually a great transition to the next one you and I were talking about. Think about the world of experiential retail, right? You and I have grown up with, again, Santas on every corner at the mall. We used to laugh because you and I have told stories about PetSmart, the fact that we had a Santa at PetSmart to take pictures with pets, right? Who’s going to do that this year? Is anybody?

Mark:
Bass Pro puts together a Winter Wonderland that is this amazing interactive experience that they really bring that to life I think really well over the course of the last several years. You going to do that this year? How are you going to control traffic? What are you going to let people interact with? So I really think the experiential side of retail, as what I love as a consumer, right? I mean, some of us love to shop at this time of the year, because it just gets us in the season and it’s fun and it’s joyful and you’re thinking about people you love and gifts. It’s going to be a really different in store setting this year. It’s going to be really different.

Kristin:
Well, Mark, let’s just put Santa behind plexi glass and spray them down with some cleaner between children on his knee. All kidding aside, as a consumer with two six year olds, it makes me so sad to think about, how am I going to replace that experience in that tradition for my family? But then I quickly can’t get escape my retailer side and go, but wait, that drove so much more traffic. That drives so much impulse buying, really influences your retailer of choice as you think about where consumers are going to go stock up for their holiday gifts.

Kristin:
Now not to mention, consumers when they’re shopping during the holiday season, yes, it’s to get all the gifts, but it’s also to feel the joy and to feel the season, hearing the bell ringer outside your store door, just kind of puts you in that holiday spirit, hopefully puts a smile on your face and doesn’t make you into the elbow throwing Black Friday shopper.

Kristin:
So I think retailers are going to have to think about, “How do I deliver that holiday experience? I still want to reward shoppers that do leave their house and choose me as an experience that they want to have this holiday season, not just a shopping experience, but just an experience in general.” And so where does that responsibility lie to deliver that holiday experience? Do you think that’s on store operations? Do you think that’s on the marketing team? How do retailers bring this to life as they think about holiday experience?

Mark:
Well, again, I think it’s partnerships, right? I think you’re working together with your teams. If I am a store manager at the Super Target, I’m trying to make sure that I’ve got a staff that’s motivated, I got a staff that’s excited. Because honestly, the other part of it, right, we’re all stuck behind masks. I can’t see if Kristen’s smiling at me or not smiling at me unless I get lucky and I can see her cheeks go above for her mask when it’s all over.

Kristin:
Maybe I have cut out masks.

Mark:
So I think when you look at that, it’s going to be a combination of effects this year. I can’t help but think, right, the last five years we’ve talked a lot about cleaning up the store. How many conversations have we had about over signage, too much signage, pull back. There’s just too much clutter in the store. We’re keeping the consumer from really seeing the environment. This year, do we take a step back to where we were? I remember doing giant signage kits or Rite Aid, and you would think, “Okay, a pharmacy’s doing a holiday signage kit?” Yeah, absolutely. Actually a 22 piece signage kit when it’s all over. But do you bring that back alive this year? Because I think you’re going to look for visual cues to tell me, it’s Christmas, it’s holidays. It’s my favorite time of the year.

Mark:
So I think you’re going to actually see … maybe that’s the innovative part that if I was on the marketing team, I would want to go the other direction and say, “Gosh, this year am I going to try and bring lighting into the store? Am I going to try and really think differently? It’s not just going to be two-sided signage, but how do I recreate some displays that start to sing holiday back to my customers? So when they walk in there’s that breath of joy that comes in and you’re like, ‘Yeah, this is going to be fun and this is going to be great.’?”

Mark:
So yeah, I think it’s still going to be a combination of factors. I’ll be really interested to see how we tackle that as an industry, how we bring it to life as an industry, and in some ways those decisions were made all the way back in June, quite frankly, because that’s when your holiday creative is due to the signage folks to print it and make it and start getting it kitted and ready to go. So that ship’s kind of left the port, so to speak, but I do think there’s still going to be little things that I think great store managers will do. They will make their own displays. You and I have seen that in our lifetimes, the really good ones get inspired themselves and are putting things together. So it’s just not going to be the personal touch that Santa was in the past. So will we be creating new holiday traditions versus the ones we’ve celebrated for so long? Right.

Kristin:
So as you think about the holiday experience, we’ve talked just now about the in-store experience, I think that’s a good segue to think about. But what about that experience online, and how does the holiday experience transition between in-store and online? You hear so much buzz today around omni-channel, and I was thinking about what we going to talk about related to omni-channel today and kind of, sort of giggling to myself about the fact that so many retailers, big retailers, formal strategic strategy pillar documents include a pillar on omni-channel, and it just makes me kind of step back and go, “Does that mean that omni-channel is optional and differentiating, and is omni-channel even still optional in the world today in this blending of online and in store?” So I just wanted to pick your brain on thoughts around omni-channel and the retail environment and what’s going on there.

Mark:
Well, Kristen, you really hit on the last big one that we were going to talk about today, which is just the idea that I think omni-channel has finally found its place, right? But it’s now the norm. It’s not what we talked about 10 years ago when we were really starting this journey and retailers are starting to think about how do they make all the pieces and parts come together? I think this is going to be the holiday that we all quite frankly, probably quit saying omni-channel because now it’s just Target. Whether I want to interact with you on an app, whether I want to interact with you online, whether I want to interact with you at a store, that’s still Target.

Mark:
I as a consumer, if I were to go ask my wife or my parents or my neighbors, “Talk to me about Target.” They’d be like, “Oh yeah, I love Target. I love to go shopping. Yeah. I love their app. I use that all the time,” or, “Oh my gosh, yeah. I shop online and then I run up to the store and I go pick it up.” They don’t bifurcate that whole idea anymore. I think we in the industry want to believe that’s true, but I think the consumer today, the shopper, it’s just Target. It’s just Walmart. It’s just Bed Bath & Beyond.

Mark:
I was reading an interesting article this morning about Bed Bath & Beyond, they had their first profitable quarter since 2016. Think about that, 2016, first profitable quarter. But what they’ve talked about and what they’ve talked about turning around their businesses, the idea that they finally kind of got omni-channel right. They realized that it’s still an overall experience with the brand, so much so that they talked about their idea is now Omni always.

Mark:
So, that shows you the mental mind shift they had to make. It wasn’t that I needed to do omni-channel it’s that I need to do omni-channel all the time, period. It’s not an option anymore. Consumers want to interact with me on whatever device or screen or in person. I got to be prepared for that, so I think the last big prediction you and I have talked about is just, I think this is the year omni-channel just kind of finally becomes the norm and we just quit talking about it. It’s the new world we live in. It’s just that simple.

Kristin:
Yeah. It’s a table stake and an expectation of your consumer that they can engage with you wherever they are, whenever it is. If I wake up at 1:00 AM and remember that I hadn’t placed an order for X, Y, Z, then I expect to be able to get online and have just the same level of customer experience on that moment at 1:00 AM that I do anytime I would walk into your store. And I think putting it like, it is an expectation now. It’s not a differentiator. But man, can you turn somebody off. I won’t name the retailer, but my husband was online shopping and he ordered an item, and it’s funny even saying online shopping. My husband was shopping from our home and he ordered an item and then quickly got a note that the item was out of stock.

Kristin:
So after getting on with the call center, the call center tells him, “Well, our inventory system is delayed by 48 hours, so when it said it was in stock, that was actually 48 hours ago.” And I’m sure when that system was put into place a batch process that translated inventory across the organization, that batched faster than once a week seemed amazing. But now this kind of simultaneous need to have inventory up to speed so that you’re you’re full, and I’m going to say for the last time omni-channel experience is seamless has put such a different pressure on retailers from a systematic and supply chain perspective as well.

Mark:
Totally agree. And I think we can’t forget that today omni-channel goes across so many different things. You and I talk a lot about it in the retail space, but how many times have you and I ordered from our favorite Chipotle via the app and went in to get it in the restaurant and walked right back out of the restaurant? So I have a good friend that works over at quick trip, a convenience store right here in the Midwest. One of the best I think out there. You can go order literally a fountain drink online and go into your convenience store to pick it up. Who would have guessed that a convenience store is going to have me order fountain drink. That’s crazy.

Mark:
So I just think our world we live in now is as consumers, we just … I want to interact with you anyway I want, and I expect any brand to be able to do that for me today. Forget just retail. So I think omni-channel, that’s going to be … we’re just living in that world now and it’s time to move on and just say, okay, we got to get there. And if you’re not there, good luck this holiday season. If you’re not strong in that game, I feel for you, it’s going to be a long holiday season for you, I think as a retailer.

Kristin:
I love that you brought in brands as a piece of this conversation. A lot of what we’ve been talking about is predictions for what’s going to happen in retail, but behind that is all of this change that retailers are going through creates change for the brands that they’re working with. New expectations, new timelines, new deliverables, potentially new cost structures as you start to think about omni-channel, and I’m sad I had to say it one more time, but as you think about delivery.

Kristin:
So for brands, I’ll give you some advice. My advice is this is the perfect time to build a stronger strategic relationship with your buyers and with your retail partners, they’re going through a lot of change on their end. They’re creating a lot of change for you, but in times of change and uncertainty, those brands that can deliver support and help retailers, as they think about how to meet the changing consumer expectations, are the brands that are going to have lasting relationships, ultimately secure their shelf space, have additional opportunities for promotions and placements, et cetera. So I think at the back of your mind as brands, I would tell you, just keep that in mind as a perfect time to grow your relationship.

Kristin:
But also, said out of other side of my mouth, I would also tell you to be evaluating your retail relationships. Who’s getting it right? Who’s not? Where do you see your growth happening? Consumers, patients, are slim, and there has been a lot of disruption to typical loyalty through the pandemic season. So this is a time for you to really also be thinking about your channel strategy and your partners and what that means for your future growth. Mark, do you have any advice for our brand folks that are listening today?

Mark:
Well, I think you said that so well, Kristin. All the stats, all the research says that today consumers are interested in trying new products, but if they can’t shop at shelf, how are you getting a new product in front of them? How are you intriguing them to try yours? How are you giving them the options? And I think to your point, that comes with great retail partners, but it also comes with some onus on the brand to drive people and to drive awareness and to get into the consideration set.

Mark:
So I think you have to be more aggressive in those efforts, and you really have to think about, who are you trying to disrupt? Why are you trying to disrupt them? And then ultimately, what are your benefits as a brand to be able to pay that off? So, 100% agree with that.

Kristin:
So this holiday is definitely going to be unlike any holiday that we’ve seen, which is definitely going to give Mark and I lots to talk about and analyze. And I can’t wait to hindsight the fourth quarter, I already said, I’m a retail nerd, and the hindsight process is one of my favorite looking back, digging through the data, understanding the consumer impact, et cetera. But you know what, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Are Mark and my predictions on track? Did we miss something? Is there something that you think we should think about or something that you want to hear us talk about in an upcoming holiday podcast? So drop us a note.

Kristin:
But, Mark, thanks for being on the podcast today. It’s always great to chat retail with you. We always ended up spending more time than we thought we were going to spend having these conversations.

Mark:
Great. Thanks, Kristin.

Kristin:
And thanks to the listeners for joining us, and we’ll see you next time. Until then, take care and be safe.

Mark:
Thank you.

 

You’ve been listening to the Uncovering Aha! podcast. Callahan provides data savvy strategy and inspired creativity for national consumer brands. Visit us at callahan.agency to learn more.