During November and December, Aptos held Thinking Retail Forums in four major cities across the globe: Paris, Hamburg, Shanghai and New York City. Thinking Retail Forums are a series of intensive single-day events addressing the most important trends in retail planning.
Prior to the Thinking Retail road show being launched, there were no other industry events designed exclusively for planning professionals. As a result, the Thinking Retail Forums are now recognized as the event where retail planning experts and thought leaders gather to share experiences and knowledge, and to build relationships in a friendly and thought-provoking atmosphere. And, now in its fifth year, attendance at our Thinking Retail Forums continues to grow.
At our Shanghai event, for example, our number of attendees tripled from the prior year, signifying both the interest in retail planning practices by Chinese brands as well as Aptos’ growing presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
With the theme of “Customer-Centricity: Beyond the Theory,” the Thinking Retail Forums featured presentations from Aptos customers, partners and solution experts who discussed how merchandise lifecycle management can support retailers’ journeys to customer-centricity. A special thanks goes to executives from Atlas for Men, Adidas and The Finish Line, all of whom shared their experiences with retail planning and PLM implementations during the Paris, Hamburg and NYC forums, respectively.
Additional sessions included presentations by Aptos partners Roland Berger (Hamburg), Schunck & Associés (Paris), BRP (NYC) and Burgeon (Shanghai).
With the Thinking Retail Forums concluded for 2018, below are three critical takeaways we heard throughout these events on how to achieve customer-centricity. These are undoubtedly the topics and trends that will continue to shape retail planning best practices in 2019.
- Customer-centricity requires relevance: Building a genuine customer-centric approach means offering products that are relevant to your target audience. In the ’70s, retail focused on the “mass market era” of product and scale, with the focus shifting in the ’80s and ’90s to continuous innovation, followed by the new millennium placing stronger attention on the customer and building loyalty.
This approach culminated in today’s so-called relevance era in which everything is digitized and the focus is on personalization and experience. As several delegates emphasized, their efforts are focused on building assortments and new experiences that are tailored to customer needs and priorities. Customers look for brands that share their values and for products they feel proud to use. New research by Accenture finds that U.S. companies risk losing $1 trillion of revenue if they fail to maintain customer relevance, forcing consumers to seek alternative brands. Once gone, more than one quarter of the consumers are unlikely to return.
- Customer-centricity requires planned agility: Recent analysts’ research revealed that over 35 percent of U.S. women consider social media to be their main source of inspiration for apparel purchases. The digital world is disrupting the fashion ecosystem. Catwalks are no longer the only place where new trends are revealed; influencers are always dictating new outfits, usage occasions and creative combinations of styles. With greater frequency, celebrities influence the marketing and sales plans of big corporations, which in an agile but “planned” manner, need to meet new emerging trends and demand. Many retailers are strategically planning for “chase products.” Reserving some assortment as chase products allows for flexibility to emerging trends without disrupting the development of the rest of the line.
- Customer-centricity requires process integration: Streamlining and integrating processes is a top priority for the majority of executives who attended the Thinking Retail Forums. In order to build relevant assortments in a fast manner, retailers need end-to-end visibility of their processes; common goals; and a significant amount of orchestration, from design to merchandise and assortment planning, to logistics and the supply chain. Remarkably, the topic of process integration and, we would say, centralization, was particularly hot during the Shanghai event. China has come a very long way in a very short time. Retailers have done an excellent job of keeping ahead of their customers’ needs and delighting them when they visit stores. Growth has been unprecedented. Nowadays, building the process infrastructure to support this growth, increase visibility and, ultimately, speed in decision making, is simply essential to Chinese retailers. Technologies that allow end-to-end planning can obviously play a key role.
If you would like to learn more about Aptos’ Thinking Retail Forums or our solutions that enable customer-centric planning, please contact us or visit our Events page to find out where our retail and solution experts will be speaking next.