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Author's profile photo Mohamed Amer

Bricks and Bits: Physical Gets Digital at

Colorado Convention center.JPGThe storm rolled in dropping temperature and rain aplenty, but that didn’t dampen the mood among the 4000 onsite attendees of the annual summit at the Colorado Convention Center in Downtown Denver. Tagged as “digital retail’s most influential annual event” it had to meet some high expectations. The show delivered on multiple fronts and most folks I talked to were eager to come back next year; It was a success by any measure.    Adding thousands more to the already robust onsite attendance, arranged for live streaming of the keynotes.  The available mobile app helped me keep track of my schedule, gather information on speakers and sessions, and one click away from providing feedback on the sessions- It’s all quite appropriate given the focus that this organization has for all things digital in retail.

The agenda over the two full days was packed with several keynotes and relevant tracks dealing with not only trends but also challenges and real-world solutions to digital retail, mobile, customer experience, strategic marketing, and creative and branding.  There’s also a lot of good insight in the blogs leading up to the annual summit, as in the interview with Crocs Chief Marketing Officer, Andrew Davison taking on the brand’s laser-like focus on engagement with their customers.    Several additional blogs posted during and post show added to the experience, provided at the end of this blog.

Days One and Two:

Opening remarks by NRF’s Matt Shay set the tone on the importance of digital in bringing innovation to retail and retail’s contribution to jobs growth in the economy.  Highlights from day 1 keynotes were Toys R Us CEO Jerry Storch painting the retail industry as similar to Star Wars Episode III “The Stores Strike Back” touting the importance of OmniChannel retailing in which the physical store is the heart of the model.   Also in his role as an investor, Michael Zeisser, SVP at Liberty Media Corp., offered three conclusions from his study of online commerce since the early 90’s to today: 

  1. There are no second chances (how many online businesses have succeeded in a turnaround?)
  2. Product is king (whether it’s a website, technical, or experience – don’t mess with it if it remains relevant)
  3. It takes management 2.0 (from optimization to constant innovation, from command & control to iterative, from conformance & obedience to imagination & problem solving, from hierarchy to community, from control to collaboration)

Vicki Cantrell opened day 2 with a call to action on getting involved in the organization.  She also highlighted The National Retail Federation (NRF) announcement in early August a central ‘go to’ source for mobile retailing by the launch of Integrated Mobile Initiative and a dedicated site under her leadership.  Jamie Nordstrom, President of Nordstrom Direct, was the first keynote shared the secret to that retailer’s success and longevity in their singular pursuit of these three words “improve customer service.”  In addition to having a customer service culture, he emphasized that store technology can and has transformed store experience.

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Some key takeaways:

  1. Retail’s exact future trajectory is hard to predict, but technology (think social sentiments, Big Data, In-memory technology, ubiquitous mobility) will be the major underlying driver enabling future retailing models
  2. The future is a Multichannel, CrossChannel, and Omnichannel  World – the terms were used almost interchangeably by several speakers but most can agree that today’s customers are already using multiple channels as they pursue products and services and retailers need to catch up from systems and organizational perspectives to deliver on the brand value promise across all channels.
  3. Decision horizons are shrinking while available data is exploding
  4. Today’s business practices will not get you to where you need to be in a connected world of retail
  5. New measurements and KPIs (internal and external) are needed to manage the new retail model (irrespective of what label you give it)
  6. Don’t delay your journey, no need to pursue perfection, take action now and keep on refining – the longer you delay, the steeper the hill ahead will be

Blue Bear courtesyof @artemisAEB

Upcoming Retail Forum (October 1-3):

The benefits of getting retailers and experts together in an offsite can help generate a lot of good ideas and craft paths to success as many experienced at  A similar environment can be had at the upcoming North America Retail Forum in Dallas, Texas.  You can also take a look at the agenda for the upcoming Retail Forum, make sure to reserve your place (register here) to listen to experts, collaborate with your retail peers and take back something concrete to get started or continue your journey.

Some inks to help you get the more out of the summit:


Neiman Marcus:

Crowdsourcing 101:

Interesting Discusson on RetailWire regarding Toys R Us CEO keynote:

On Twitter

And a selection of tweets from the keynotes.  You can find more through the #shoporg12 hashtag.

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Matt Shay, CEO National Retail Federation

Jerry Storch, Chairman and CEO Toys R Us

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David Walmsley, Multichannel Development Director at Marks & Spencer

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Jamie Nordstron, President Nordstrom Direct

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Scott Williams, EVP, CMO, Chief E-Commerce Officer at Cabela’s

Chris Ladd, EVP and Chief Digital Officer at The Finish Line

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Milton Pappas, VP E-Commerce Customer Experience at Toys R Us

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Good write up!

      What is interesting about online retail - all of the non-store channels - is that it is not new.  The est. growth metrics, etc. are not that amazing because the channels sit in an area of technology and shopper expected behavior that the performance and growth are a "given".

      This is the way many shoppers like to shop or pre-shop so be there for them - or suffer the consequences.   These shoppers see none of this online stuff as new - it is a requirement if you want their loyalty.


      Author's profile photo Mohamed Amer
      Mohamed Amer
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Tom.  I like that "be there for them - or suffer the consequences."  Don't fight the trend!


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      This is great post about online retail! Very relevant.  I have also written a couple of blogs on this site and would love some feedback from you! 


      Anuja Gaikwad

      Team Groupsoft US

      Author's profile photo Mohamed Amer
      Mohamed Amer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Anuja,

      Thanks for the kind words. The entire annual summit was phenomenal and really brought home the future of Retail!

      I'll reach out to you on your blogs!