As the 100,000+ attendees of the DreamForce conference who’ve descended upon San Francisco this week could tell you, conference season is most definitely in full swing. At DEG, we cherish this time of the year as we take in the opportunity to share key insights and discover new concepts. 2014

One of the events that we have long seen as a valuable venue for discovering new thinking is the National Retail Federation’s Summit. This year’s summit, although somewhat different in its attendee make-up and its increased scale, was no different in terms of offering tremendous takeaways. For this author, there were three takeaways, in particular, which will certainly contribute to strategic recommendations in the near future.

Social and Mobile Experience

The first of those takeaways is the naturally intensifying link between the social and mobile experience. Put very clearly in three data points shared by Andrew Lipsman from comScore:

  • Total mobile engagement on social has grown 55% in the past year
  • Social networking on mobile has accounted for 31% of all growth in total Internet engagement in the past year
  • Social is the home of the No. 1 mobile property, Facebook, which accounts for 24% of all mobile time spent. The primary Facebook app accounts for 18% on its own.

The key takeaway here, from my perspective, is that as the divide between the mobile and social experience continues to shorten, brands have both opportunity and risk. The opportunity is to recognize the two channels, as increasingly connected, and ensure consistency in the experience along with increased connectivity between the two. The risk? That’s really an age-old risk met by every marketer: failing to recognize the opportunity to create a seamless experience from social to mobile now more than ever creates opportunity for friction in the customer experience.

Digital Experience for In-Store Customers

The second takeaway is perhaps the most core to what has become known to most as “the omni-channel conference.” This takeaway is more about the digital experience for in-store customers. The experience is undoubtedly still about discovery, but consistency is critical. Jerry Stritzke, President and CEO of REI, brought this concept to the forefront in his keynote, as he talked about what it means to REI that “47% of in-store customers visit the REI website during their shopping excursion.”

For REI, as much as any retailer, this presents a critical challenge. The company has long been considered a leader in fostering a unique, informative, and well-guided in-store experience. Recognizing the growing role of the mobile properties in that experience has become the key driver behind an expedited and intentional evolution of REI’s mobile experience.

This evolution, while defined and leveraged differently for each retailer, represents the most tangible and most meaningful inflection point in the progression of the mobile experience for retailers since the inception of m-Commerce. The next 12-18 months at REI will be marked as a major turning point for the role of mobile, but they are not alone.

The New Consumer Mind

Last, Kit Yarrow (@GenBuy), the award-winning consumer psychologist, author, and professor from Golden Gate University, struck the crowd at with a plethora of thought-provoking insights in her session entitled “Decoding the New Consumer Mind – How and Why We Shop and Buy.”

Most notable to me, though, was her discussion around the very real neurological changes that consumers have experienced in the last several years. In particular, and with great impact to the retail experience, consumers are taking in information much more quickly, and in a manner more likely to be considered “skimming.” Her research supports that recognizing these neurological changes and adjusting the presentation of content, as well as investigating and optimizing the level-of-effort in the e-Commerce/m-Commerce experience, can have a significant measurable impact not only on conversion, but also on repeat purchase.

In all, these key takeaways are actually very centered on the same subject of the impact of mobile on retail, but they represent three very distinct ways in which the mobile revolution presents opportunity for marketers. While held true to its reputation for great networking and electric atmosphere in 2014, I’d say this year’s summit represented a marked improvement in what was already great content.

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