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Highlights from the CRMC Conference in Chicago

September 17, 2021

If I’m being completely objective, my hometown of Chicago is one of the friendliest cities in the nation. We love welcoming out-of-town guests and will furiously debate which is the best deep-dish pizza in the city for hours.

As any native will tell you, it’s the legendary Pequod’s Pizza. But that’s for a different blog post.

After 18 months of restrictions and lockdowns, it was phenomenal to see that Chicago friendliness in-person when we attended the Customer Relationship Management Conference at the beautiful Hilton Chicago. The Retail community is always gregarious but there was a palpable excitement and energy to be meeting colleagues, partners, friends, and fellow retailers face-to-face. Not on another dreaded ZOOM call.

As always, the CRMC put on a great array of provocative and engaging speakers.

Keynote Mike Walsh did not disappoint with his talk on “Transforming Retail for 2030 and Beyond” and many of his core messages rang particularly deep for us at Kognitiv. At the heart of it, Mike reinforced the notion of transforming our organizations from focusing on transactions when we should be obsessing over experiences. His examples of UBER, Netflix and Spotify well-illustrated his point.

From our vantage point, as we see the evolving conversation around data and data privacy start to hone in on zero-party data, building experience-centric organizations will be critical. Consumers have a finely tuned BS detector when it comes to sniffing out organizations that say they’re customer-centric from the one’s that truly are. Building on Mike’s eloquent point, we can’t expect consumers to willingly lean in and enthusiastically share their zero-party data if we haven’t earned that privilege in how we treat their precious data, and in how we use it to deliver a genuinely personalized experience.

If Mike’s projections and forecasts are to be believed, and we think they are accurate, the business landscape will be littered with organizations who failed to see this critical inflection point around zero-party data and hyper-personalization. This is a monumental opportunity to build market share, but it requires being fully committed to a new threshold around consumer data and how we gather, leverage and use data to create great experiences for our consumers.

Other presentations we attended doubled down on the crucial themes that Mike spoke about.

Michaels Stores touched on their ability to get really creative with their reward program, but it required having an eagle eye on the KPI’s that actually drove success, not just the ones that were easy to track. That was a timely reminder. It was equally fascinating to see the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts case study on driving hyper-personalization at scale. What once might have sounded like an oxymoron – personalization at scale – is becoming an inescapable reality for every business sector, not just Retailers and Hospitality giants. The Wyndham example was both eye-opening and inspiring to see what is feasible when an organization puts sustainable consumer relationships at the very heart of their business strategy.

These themes were reinforced at a number of the roundtable sessions we hosted over the conference. From homeware Retailers to Sporting Event convenors to Theme Park owners, the themes of experiences over transactions and building hyper-personalization were universal. Everyone we met saw this as both a challenge, and an opportunity.

The key question for all of us was how we could move at the speed of our consumers while recognizing what that might require of our organizations.

During the pandemic, the media has painted such a polarizing view of the sector – the unassailable rise of the large e-commerce behemoths and the inevitable decline of physical retail during lock-down – that it was refreshing to see the genuine optimism and positivity of this group of business leaders.

As an organization that believes deeply in the potential of peer-to-peer collaboration to accelerate business growth, seeing the lively conversations and energetic debates all around us was phenomenal. Being able to see our industry friends in-person was an added treat.

As always, we left the CRMC energized. Energized by the themes that the CRMC had surfaced and reinforced through a great set of speakers and sessions. Energized by the passion of this group around key topics like collaboration, partnership and data privacy. But mostly, energized by the ambition of this group to get their organizations back on the road to recovery.

Thank you CRMC for all that you do for the industry.

Now, where’s that delivery number for Pequod’s?

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About the Author

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Brendan Shaw
SVP, Advisory US

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