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IRCE 2015: Springtime in Chicago

IRCEThe weather was beautiful in Chicago this week for the Internet Retailer Conference + Expo (IRCE) 2015: Sunny skies, moderate temperatures, and no humidity. But if you know the weather in the Midwest, then you know that you only need to wait a day – or sometimes even an hour – and the weather can change dramatically. Retailers have been weathering changes for decades: Changes in consumer needs, changes in business models, and tremendous changes in technology. Change was a common theme at IRCE this week, but so was focus, and both were well covered in a couple of the keynotes.
“We need to embrace change. It’s inevitable. It’s not a choice and it’s rapid. It’s about survival,” said Christopher McCann, president of in his IRCE 2015 keynote.  McCann’s company grew from a handful of flower shops in New York City through waves of catalog, phone, eCommerce, and mobile channels, ultimately expanding into multiple brands, all with a common purpose to “deliver smiles for our customers.” Who can say “no” to a smile?
1-800-Flowers hasn’t stopped to smell the roses (sorry, I couldn’t resist.) In 1991, they launched their first online store on dial-up pioneer CompuServe, then onto AOL, and were early adopters with Netscape in 1995. I believe that their success lies not just with this ability to change and evolve, but to do so in concert with a singular focus on their customers.  “We all crave a sense of belonging, in essence, we need a network of relationships. At 1-800-Flowers, we are in the business to connect with the people in their lives.” This dual purpose of balancing relentless change with customer-centricity is at the heart of successful transformations like 1-800-Flowers.
In his keynote on Wednesday, Target’s Jason Goldberger, president, and Mobile, explained how Target’s multi-channel success has rested on being “guest-obsessed, not channel-obsessed.” Since bringing in house just four years ago, Target’s digital transformation has produced two of the most downloaded retail apps (their flagship Target app and Cartwheel, Target’s digital coupon app) and continues to leverage their physical stores as the force multiplier for digital. “Customers who shop in store and in digital channels do so three times more often,” Goldberger said, “producing three times as much in sales as those who are store-based only. They represent more trips and more sales as they establish a deeper relationship with the brand.”
As a consulting partner to Target, I can say first-hand that the obsession on both their guests and on relentless change is also at the heart of their digital transformation. Target has also weathered a few major public disruptions, but each time has bounced back stronger as they have kept their guest commitments and simply continued to adapt. They are used to it. After all, Minneapolis is also a Midwestern town.

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Jim Hertzfeld, Principal and Chief Strategist

Jim Hertzfeld is Principal and Chief Strategist for Perficient, and works with clients to make their customers and shareholders happy through insanely great digital experiences.

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