APEX Speakers Offer Glimpse into the Future of Retail
By Adam Perrotta, Assistant Editor
The changing face of commerce will be among the hot topics at the All Payments Expo (APEX) March 21-23 in New Orleans, where top prepaid, payments and retail executives will highlight the key developments that will shape the future of the shopping experience over the coming years, including omnichannel, new payment methods and the rise of millennials as a buying force.
Featuring speakers and attendees from more than 20 countries, the APEX agenda includes keynotes from some of the biggest names in payments, along with panel discussions on the most important topics affecting the industry, from technology to regulation. Specific tracks will focus on prepaid, gifting and retail.
The future of the shopping experience will be an overarching theme across all tracks, with a variety of panels and keynotes dedicated to the topic. The retail track kicks off on Monday, March 21, with a panel entitled “Perfecting the Omnichannel Experience,” moderated by Chad Blodgett, senior vice president of omnichannel for e-commerce giant Rakuten. Looking ahead over the next few years, Blodgett predicts that brands and retailers will use emerging technology to create deeper, more personal connections with their customers across the marketing, shopping and purchasing phases of the retail experience.
“As data and tools become more accurate, companies will be able to better understand their customers more intimately and provide a truly seamless shopping experience, removing the hiccups that we all feel today,” Blodgett tells Paybefore. “As a result, personalization will be more integrated across the marketing funnel so retailers and payment companies can analyze and implement different strategies based on behavior.” Such an approach has significant benefits, he adds, noting that targeted promotion has been shown to boost consumer spending. “This effect will only increase with a better, customized experience,” says Blodgett.
Go Mobile—but Don’t Forget the Physical
The spreading ubiquity of mobile technology also will be a game-changer for retail, according to Blodgett—and it goes beyond smartphones. “Already there has been a shift in shopping behavior from desktop to mobile. But in the future, we’ll see brands unpack the possibilities as shoppers adopt new technologies like smartwatches, other wearables and virtual reality,” he predicts. “The most successful brands will be those willing to take risks to create a shopping experience that connects each of these touch points in a cohesive and meaningful way for the consumer.”
How to create a marketing and shopping experience that will effectively engage customers will be the topic of a Monday mid-day presentation by Sarah Quinlan, group head of market insights, MasterCard Advisors, who will present new research into consumer-centric thinking. “Today’s consumer is coming at merchants from all angles and channels, so the merchants who win will use a richer understanding of their consumer to deepen their engagement and be more relevant,” Quinlan tells Paybefore. “The separation between physical store and online is narrowing and will ultimately disappear as retailers curate their brand across channels.”
Monika Kochhar, CEO of digital gifting provider SmartGift, reiterates the importance of an omnichannel strategy—especially for reaching millennials, who will become an ever-more important demographic in the coming years. “Thirty percent of millennials use at least four devices per day and they check their smartphones between 40 and 60 times a day. So whether they’re shopping online or in-store, they are likely using their phones in the process,” says Kochhar, who will be part of a Monday afternoon panel discussion on revolutionizing the point of sale.
But the increased emphasis on mobile doesn’t mean retailers can afford to lose step when it comes to innovating in the brick-and-mortar space, Kochhar cautions. “Understanding how consumers navigate physical spaces, move through aisles and what triggers them to stop and interact with products will shape the store architecture of the future and our physical shopping experiences,” she tells Paybefore. Technology such as Bluetooth low energy beacons leverage mobile connectivity while shoppers are in-store, serving as powerful tools to drive revenue through personalized, location-based offers and promotions, she adds.
Gifts that Keep Giving
The power of personalization extends into digital gifting, a sector Kochhar says is evolving to offer new ways to pick out and deliver the perfect gift—whether an electronic gift card, or—in the case of SmartGift—a specific product. The company’s platform enables shoppers to buy a gift from a retailer’s Web or mobile site, then send a gift notification to the recipient via social media or email. From there, the recipient selects preferences such as size or color, or can exchange the gift for an e-gift card for that retailer. Giving recipients the option to customize gifts benefits retailers by reducing returns and boosting customer acquisition, Kochhar notes. For recipients, the technological meets the personal with a feature that enables them to virtually “unwrap” gifts by swiping their finger across their smartphone screens. “It’s all the tiny details that make it great: the ribbon, the wrap, the anticipation. It takes e-gifting to its next phase,” she says.
For retailers, it all comes down to leveraging the latest technology to figure out what a customer wants—then fulfill that need, says Blodgett. “The deep understanding of a person’s needs and motivators lets brands drive loyalty through more personalized interactions that show the customer he or she is understood and unique,” he says.
For more on the changing face of retail—and what that means for the entire payments value chain—register for APEX with Paybefore’s exclusive discount. Click here for details.