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It was my honor as a relatively new member of the American Apparel and Footwear Association’s board to moderate a Q&A session with Jeff Gennette, Chief Merchandising Officer at Macy’s, after his keynote presentation at our annual Executive Summit.

As Senior Vice-President of Retail Sales at SAP, it’s always a pleasure for me to listen to industry leaders like Jeff talk about a growth strategy focused on keeping customers at the center of everything they do.  For Macy’s, like SAP, “customer engagement” isn’t just a marketing catchphrase: it’s at the heart of everything we do, and here’s why:

  • The global middle class will more than double in size to almost 5 billion by 2030.  This demographic, with an annual per capita expenditure ranging from US $3,650 and US $36,500, will come from Asia.  European and American populations, meanwhile, are projected to shrink to 22 percent of the global middle class.  Nevertheless, the market potential this surge in potential customers represents is of incredible importance to the global economy.
  • There are now more mobile devices in the world than there are human beings.  Global mobile data traffic is projected to grow 13-fold by 2017, creating a borderless digital world parallel to our own that is always on and always connected to virtually every scrap of information this planet has ever produced.  Our consumers’ appetite for news, entertainment, fashion trends, and deals is insatiable.  Not even ten years ago, it would have been unheard of for a customer to waltz into a department store like Macy’s, photograph a jacket they admire, send it to their friends for feedback, and shop around for a better deal – all from their phone and all within the span of a few minutes.  This is our new reality.
  • One out of every seven inhabitants of this planet is on a social network.  If Facebook were a country, its population would be the third largest in the world.  The implications this has on customer-oriented organizations cannot be understated enough.  Last year, the Harvard Business Review published a blog discussing how to counter a customer insurgency.  It’s an interesting choice of words that draws attention to the speed and size at which a “hyper-connected” and “super-empowered” customer base can grow and threaten an organization’s brand or strategy.  More than ever, we need to plug into what our customers are saying about us and participate in that discussion in a way that validates and channels their feelings into productive action without undermining our long-term strategies.

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My Q&A with Jeff Gennette (right), Chief Merchandising Officer at Macy’s

To create a real culture of customer engagement, you have to walk the talk.  In 2012, Macy’s did just that by pushing their omnichannel strategy forward, implementing  localization services that connect shoppers to the products they want, and engaging customers directly on the floor. 

At SAP, we continue to execute our mission by sitting down and listening to our customer’s needs, co-innovating with them, and delivering solutions that make them – and their own customers – run better.


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