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A former C-level executive at luxury department store Neiman Marcus, Steve Dennis is a noted strategic consultant, keynote speaker, and writer on innovation in retail. A retail tech influencer, we asked Steve about his retail consulting firm, SageBerry, how Neiman Marcus leverages technology, and the pitfalls retailers should avoid in 2019.
Tell us about SageBerry Consulting. What kinds of services do you provide to retailers? And what sets you apart from other retail consulting firms?
We help inspire and catalyze retail, luxury and social impacts brands to create remarkable business strategies to thrive in the age of digital disruption. What sets us apart is our unique perspective and the balance of design and implementation work.
Prior to launching your retail advisory firm, you were the Senior VP of Strategy and Multichannel Marketing at Neiman Marcus Group. What was your vision for Neiman Marcus at the time?
Our three biggest challenges during my tenure were to break up our organizational silos to get focused on delivering a more harmonized, digitally-enabled customer experience, better leverage customer insight to deliver a more personalized experience at scale, and develop new pathways to growth since the business was maturing rapidly.
Today, Neiman Marcus is leveraging retail technology – like ChargeItSpot phone charging stations – to enhance the customer experience. What do you think of this strategy and how do you think retail technology is helping retailers?
There are three fundamental ways technology helps retailers: first, to eliminate a major pain point. Second, to create parity with basic functionalities that everyone’s come to expect. The third is to create real competitive advantage by creating a memorable experience, which occurs at the intense customer relevance, uniqueness, amplifying a “wow” and being scalable.
You’re also a Forbes contributor. Your most popular article is called Physical Retail Isn’t Dead. Boring Retail Is. How do you define “boring” retail and what is the future of retail?
Boring retail is retail that is unremarkable, which most often occurs when brands get stuck in the middle and fail to offer either efficient, value-base buying or more experiential and unique shopping.
In your Predictions for Retail in 2019 article in Forbes, you mentioned the somewhat ironic growth of brick-and-mortar locations for digital-first brands. We also touched on this subject in our blog. How can physical retail be an asset for e-commerce brands?
Generally to reach customers they otherwise would not, to increase CLTV with the current customers, to lower acquisition costs and to lower returns.
What are some of the most common issues your consulting company advises retailers on? What pitfalls should retailers avoid coming into 2019?
This is a really broad question, but what I can say is all retailers should understand the customer journey far better and prioritize their actions to eliminate the most impactful pain points and to create memorable experiences where it matters.