Skate to Where the Puck is Going to Be

#LetsGetSmart – Skate to Where the Puck is Going to Be

 7th July 2017    Mary Keough

John SherryJohn Sherry, Director of Client Services at AMP Technologies,
a cloud-based real estate asset management platform based out of San Ramon, California, focused his talk on how mobile applications, more commonly referred to as “apps,” are transforming retail.John is a colleague of Craig Wood , who also spoke at #LetsGetSmart.

John began his talk with a quote from the great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky once said of his strategy on the ice, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” John said that for retail, this quote encompasses the idea that apps need to be focused on the future. It is imperative that business team members today think outside-of-the-box as they work to meet consumers’ changing needs. John believes that above all else, apps need to be simple and easy so that every consumer can access them.

John cited one example of a colleague who was in San Francisco when he met two app developers who created Partender, an app that allows people in the bar and restaurant industry to get the full inventory of an entire bar by using a smartphone camera.  In speaking of thier success, John said that these two developers, “didn’t think outside of the box, they created their own box,” adding that “that’s really what you have to do today because there is so much competition.”

John cited apps like AirBnB, HotelTonight, and Chewy as being successful because of their simplicity and efficiency.

He went on to discuss a statistic that indicated a huge market for apps such as these, stating that “this is the best, most exciting time for apps that retailers could ever have.” On a daily basis, the average person uses eight apps; in a month, the average person uses about thirty. Thus, the opportunity certainly exists for retail industries to capitalize on the popularity in general of smartphone apps. John said that for retailers, the key is thinking about what consumers need and how to deliver it to them before they even realize their own need.

John discussed one app, PricePatrol, that allows a person to look for a product in his or her area and compare which retailer has it closest and cheapest (with the goal being to make the product more accessible to the consumer than even Amazon’s 2-day shipping could). John applauded this app as something that is quick, simple, and easy to use.

The big retailers are trying to differentiate themselves from a social media standpoint, working to get millions of users in touch as they post about discount items. As John said, “the mobile shopping revolution is going to be here to stay, and retailers can either beat it or join it.”

John also believes businesses should strive to use apps as a way to enhance the customer experience. BestBuy, for example, has created an app that allows the consumer to scan QR codes, compare prices, and track purchases in a simple way, thus improving the customer experience through an app.

Likewise, the Target app allows customers to set up registries for weddings and baby showers by simply walking around the store and scanning items that they would like. In this way, John believes Target is creating an experience for customers that is simple yet fun.

When asked what his favorite application is, John pointed to PipeDrive, a simple, easy-to-use app that can track all of a company’s deals, contacts, and communication. He also cited HubSpot as a favorite, noting one particular aspect of the app that allows users to schedule emails that need to be sent in the future so that the user does not forget about them.

In conclusion, John said that in this day and age, companies need to be mindful of creating cohesion within their platforms. “All the channels matter so it’s just not going to be apps that matter, it’s going to be store, online, and mobile,” John said, echoing the same ideas of the other speakers from #LetsGetSmart17.

Watch John Sherry’s talk at Let’s Get Smart:

Mary Keough is a recent graduate of University of Virginia, where she earned her bachelors degree in psychology and her masters degree in teaching. She is looking to pursue a career in elementary education. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Data Must Drive Customer Engagement

#LetsGetSmart – Data Must Drive Customer Engagement

 28th June 2017    Mary Keough

Craig WoodCraig Wood, Vice President for the Western Region for AMP Technologies focused his talk at #LetsGetSmart on using digital technology to improve the retail sector.  AMP Technologies,  is a cloud-based real estate asset management platform based out of San Ramon, California. Craig has been working on the technology side of retail for nearly twenty years. Before joining AMP, he worked with AT&T on the partner side of the business helping early stage companies.

Craig began his talk by discussing the idea that although many people have recently made claims about the decline of physical retail, it is by no means a “dead” industry; rather, it is merely changing as our society moves from an industrial one to a technology-based one.

While Craig credited some companies like Amazon for making online retail fast and convenient, he also points out that humans are by nature social creatures and that many researchers are coming out with studies that point to the negative effects of sitting in front of a computer for hours on end.

In fact, Amazon itself is working on creating physical retail in addition to its online presence, recognizing that while shopping over the internet is convenient there is no replacement for the social interactions a shopper gains from going into a physical retail space. Thus, the challenge for businesses today is to figure out the optimal balance of online retail and physical retail.

Craig used the example of the changing look of physical retail to transition into one of his main points: in a technology-based society, the real key for businesses is data. “What matters the most is who has the most data, who has the greatest insights, and most importantly who can execute on that data the fastest,” Craig claimed.

In a marketplace that is changing quickly, Craig encourages businesses to streamline their data and assess how quickly they can access and respond to it. “I have come into the real estate world and the retail side of things from a technology background, and what has been most amazing to me is the lack of automation that exists in the real estate side of things.” Craig believes that many businesses can cut out manual data-sharing and move toward unified insights that allow them to access their data in an instant. Optimizing data in this way allows a business to quickly access the information they need, allowing them to be more nimble and efficient as they work to outperform opponents.

In general when it comes to handling data, Craig claimed that “those who can move fastest will win.”

As Craig concluded his talk, he opened up the stage to the audience members to ask questions, who focused their questions on how businesses can use technology to their advantage in today’s industries.

One member asked Craig how he thinks companies can continue to use data to improve, citing that Walmart has been using real-time data from its stores and warehouses for years. Craig explained that in this sense, an area that retailers will move toward is the “instant fulfillment” model; he predicted retailers will spend more money in the future on expedited delivery options (in a similar way to UberEats’ recent rapid delivery model).

Another audience member asked Craig more broadly how businesses can use technology to their advantage while competing in the market today. In response, Craig made three suggestions. First, he pointed out that businesses need to look at their data in-house and figure out how to optimize how quickly their team members can respond and collaborate within their platform. For example, businesses should look to cut down on emails and attachments and replace them with the collaborative tools available today. Second, Craig suggested that companies make having a successful online presence a top priority, especially in terms of boosting web traffic. Lastly, Craig suggests that businesses focus on and evaluate how all of the aforementioned aspects of their business come together cohesively.

Finally, Craig responded to a question from an audience member by discussing what he views as successful tactics from online retailers today. Craig discussed that smaller brands that focus heavily on consumer engagement are seeing some of the greatest successes online today, which can be a more difficult aspect of business for the larger companies like Amazon and WalMart. Lastly, Craig pointed out the importance of working against what he calls “cultural inertia” within companies, meaning that company leaders should continue to be open to new strategies and perspectives rather than get stuck in their old ways.

Watch Craig Wood’s presentation at #LetsGetSmart:

Mary Keough is a recent graduate of University of Virginia, where she earned her bachelors degree in psychology and her masters degree in teaching. She is looking to pursue a career in elementary education. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Smart Signs for Changing Times

#LetsGetSmart – Smart Signs for Changing Times

 25th June 2017    Mary Keough

Mike McClure

Mike McClure, senior account executive and image consultant for Ad Art Sign Company, was one of the inspirations for the #LetsGetSmart17 speaker series, according to host David Perlmutter. Mike is someone who enjoys not only talking about his craft, but also hearing about others’ insights into businesses and the future.

Ad Art Sign Company is an award-winning national sign company that is primarily based out of California, Nevada, and Texas. Mike started in the sign business as an apprentice sign installer more than thirty years ago.

Mike began his talk by discussing broadly how important it is for companies today to constantly adapt to the changing times. As an example, Mike cited Sears and how the company got its start. The Amazon business model is nothing new; he drew parallels to that model and Sears Roebuck’s model of ordering via catalogs and picking up your product from your local Sears store. Mike brought up this story to discuss the importance of adapting to the current conditions, citing Sears’ inability to do so as one of its greatest downfalls and the reason it is not a major player in retail today.

Mike spent time talking about how the information age has helped retailers to build better products, while also helping consumers make smarter, more informed decisions. Today, we are entering into a new era marked by machine learning, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence that Mike believes will impact the future of retail.

Another important change has come in the way that signs are used. Today, digital signs incorporate instant visual changes based on data, which can be done from anywhere across the world with internet access.

Mike believes that amidst these great changes, a successful business will be determined by who can adapt their technology to best satisfy the consumer need.

One major change that Mike predicted in his own industry is the increasing use of virtual reality. Today, technology exists that allows customers to use virtual reality to see, in real-time, what a clothing item will look like on them without even having to try it on. Mike believes this new technology provides an opportunity for businesses to adapt and better serve consumers.

Another area of the sign industry that Mike sees as an opportunity to adapt is in using data to inform sign displays. Retailers are working to create signs that can display tenant information, meaning that the display on a sign can be tailored to fit a specific audience.

Furthermore, Mike discussed near field communication and the effects it will have on the future of the sign industry. He explained how, through near field communication, future signs will be able to detect your recent purchases and subsequently display an ad for what you might be interested in.

With this consumer-specific technology, retailers must consider the importance of changing privacy settings on their signs. Though this was never an issue with the classic neon signs, retailers today must adapt to make sure that signs are password-protected and have software that allows only for administrator-approved changes.

In the future, as the sign industry changes, it will be imperative for businesses to be flexible and adjust accordingly.

Watch Mike McClure’s presentation at #LetsGetSmart:

Mary Keough is a recent graduate of University of Virginia, where she earned her bachelors degree in psychology and her masters degree in teaching. She is looking to pursue a career in elementary education. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Data Insights Drive Sales Productivity

#LetsGetSmart – Data Insights Drive Sales Productivity

 15th June 2017    Ben Perlmutter

Andrew Bermudez

Andrew Bermudez flew in from California to talk at #LetsGetSmart about how data insights can drive sales productivity. Andrew is the CEO and Co-Founder of Digsy AI, a commercial real estate tech startup. Andrew began his career as an agent with Lee & Associates in California, and Digsy evolved from tech tools he had developed to enhance his own practice. Andrew took it a step further with Digsy AI, using data gleaned from thousands of deals to extrapolate best practices for driving sales productivity, and it’s applicable to virtually any industry.

Andrew began his talk describing Digsy AI. The company examines data to influence companies’ behavior. Digsy integrates directly with technology that its users already employ. With the data from these other sources, Digsy gives users information they need to be more productive. As Digsy collects data passively in the background, it eliminates approximately 95 percent of data entry, according to Andrew.

Digsy addresses a problem that plagues the commercial real estate industry, and all other industries that do sales: most people hate their customer relationship management (CRM) software. Because of this, many CRM deployments fail because of lack of adoption. In contrast, Digsy does away with all the tedious data entry that deters adoption.

With all the data Digsy collects, Digsy has learned some surprising insights about the commercial real estate industry.

Andrew spent much of the talk revealing these insights to the audience.

Andrew told the crowd about a “hack” to get people to respond to inquiries. To get the best chances of a response, people should leave a voicemail and send an email saying that the voicemail has been sent. The recipient of the email and voicemail can just respond to the email, not having to leave a voicemail of their own. This hack plays on the fact that people hate the prospect of having to leave a voicemail in response to the inquiry. It is much easier for them to simply respond to the email.

Another hack Andrew told the audience about was to get a phone call with a potential client, rather than leaving a voicemail or email. Even though it may take a few calls to get the person on the line, it is worth it because people respond better to the sociality of a phone call compared to the impersonality of voicemail and email.

When a voicemail is necessary, Andrew recommended that the optimal length for getting a reply is 18 seconds.

From here, the conversation shifted to millennial employees’ distaste for phone calls. Andrew said that millennials prefer more modern, impersonal forms of communication like texting and email. Many members of the audience strongly agreed and voiced their grievances at their millennial employees. This is problematic because data indicates that phone calls are better for getting a response.

Luckily, millennials are also very responsive to data, Andrew reassured the audience. So, when they see that phone calls get higher response rates than email and text, they adjust their behavior accordingly.

Conversation moved to how brokers can get clients when the prospective client already has a relationship with a broker. For this, Andrew recommended that the best way to get a client who already has a broker is to build trust over time. Trust can be built through occasional discovery calls and friendly interaction. With a relationship in place, the broker may have opportunities to do deals for the client.

Using one’s pre-existing personal network is a good way to get in touch with desired clients, Andrew explained. A customer is four times more likely to buy a product if it is personally referred to them by someone they know.

Andrew went on to explain why Digsy has been so successful compared to some other CRM platforms. Digsy has four times the adoption rate of traditional sales systems. This is because Digsy “removes friction and adds value.” Digsy removes friction because people do not have to change their behavior when using the program, as it passively collects information in the background, and it of course adds value with all the information that it provides users. 

“People don’t have to be data scientists,” Andrew said, “the [Digsy] system does it for us.”

The talk then turned to the question and answer portion. Once again, the audience was curious about millennials. Andrew noted that he is chronologically part of the millennial cohort, but he does not consider himself a millennial in terms of behavior.

One audience member was frustrated with how her millennial employees tend to leave their company sooner than she would like.

Andrew responded that millennial employees want to believe in the company they work for, its mission, and its impact. Millennials are less about making money as being part of a culture that they agree with, according to Andrew. These young employees will not move companies if they love their job.

Andrew gave an example from his own experience at Digsy. Some of his millennial employees took lower salaries to join Digsy when it was in its startup phase because they supported its mission. These employees wanted to personally grow with a growing business, not just do a task robotically.

If a company wants to retain its employees, it needs to really care about its people. Plus, this strategy makes economic sense because it is easier to hire from within the company rather than bringing in outside talent. 

Watch Andrew Bermudez’ presentation at #LetsGetSmart:

Ben Perlmutter is a freelance writer and English teacher in Seoul, South Korea. He can be contacted for inquiries at [email protected]

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#LetsGetSmart – A Data-Driven Look at the Future of Retail

 13th June 2017    Ben Perlmutter

Pamela FloraPamela Flora discussed various trends in retail that her research has uncovered during her #LetsGetSmart17 talk at ICSC RECon. As the director of research at Cushman and Wakefield, a global real estate services firm, her work involves conducting general research that identifies trends in retail and publishing analyses of this information.

Pam began by  discussing the media’s negative coverage of retail. According to the media, the state of retail is dark: “it’s the armageddon, the apocalypse, and the world is coming to an end.” Her vivid description of the media’s take on retail drew laughs from the crowd.

Supporting the media’s reports of doom and gloom, Pamela noted that retail stores closures are at their highest since 2010. Four thousand stores closed last year and over 8,000 are projected to close this year.

Despite these dark figures, There are things to be hopeful for in retail, Pam reassured the audience. While many big stores are closing, there are many new concepts coming out in the food and entertainment sectors that are promising for retail.

Such changes are occurring because the economy is fundamentally moving in a new direction. The closures are not a reflection of mere economic cycles.

The United States has had an “over-retailed” market, according to Pamela. The country has significantly more retail space per capita than every other developed country. American retail stores consequently have the lowest sales per square foot.

The rise of ecommerce has fundamentally disrupted the American market. Online sales now account for approximately 30 percent of GAFO sales.

Some online retailers are even moving into physical spaces, like Warby Parker and Bonobos. This development further cuts away at traditional retail stores.

The categories that have taken the biggest hit are media, sporting goods, and hobbies. Over half of sales in these categories are from ecommerce. The video store chain Blockbuster is possibly the most notable retail store in these categories to have gone under because of the transition to ecommerce. People stopped wanting to go to Blockbuster to get their movies when they could get it more cheaply and easily online.

Ecommerce sales also account for 20 percent of sales for apparel and furniture.

The giant of ecommerce, Amazon, dominates digital sales.  Amazon has a market capitalization higher than the next top eight retailers combined, Pamela noted. Last year, Amazon accounted for 43 percent of online sales. Its dominance is only increasing, with 2016 revenues up 26 percent from the year before. Much of this growth is from selling products that they directly own.

Traditional retail is not without hope, Pamela reassured the audience of people almost exclusively involved in the retail sector. Stores like Nordstrom, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls are doing well. Shopping at these places is “like a treasure hunt.” Consumers go through all the racks to find what they need. Such sensory experiences cannot be duplicated online. If current trends continue, TJ Maxx could actually become the top seller of apparel within a few years.

Grocery and dollar stores are also growing. The top five dollar store chains have opened over 7,000 numbers in the past five years.

Different types of retail spaces will be affected differently by ecommerce. Neighborhood centers are probably going to fair the best because they have stores that are less susceptible to having business taken by ecommerce, such as drug stores and restaurants.

Power centers are probably going to have a lot of spaces opening as big box stores close. Between 1,000 and 1,500 big box stores are projected to close soon.

Many of these big box stores will be filled by entertainment stores, though. Dave & Buster’s has recently taken over the space of some recently closed Sears.

A large sector of growth will be what Pamela calls “Surban” places. These places are walkable and have an urban feel, but are in a suburban area. Urban developments are mixed use, with apartments and stores that the people in the apartments use like restaurants and gyms.

Food halls are also increasingly popular. The mammoth World Trade Center in Manhattan even has a food hall now.

Pamala also said that craft breweries are becoming more popular as anchors, with the caveat that their technical equipment requires an industrial-specific space. Many shopping centers do not have the facilities to house a craft brewery, Pamela cautioned. 

Pamela mentioned a few other experience-based stores that herald the future in retail. These include full service movie theaters, escape rooms, Dave & Buster’s, and bowling alleys.

In the question and answer portion of the talk, the audience wanted more of Pamela’s opinion of the effects of ecommerce on retail.

When the subject of malls came up, Pamela opined that people are going to the mall these days for food, entertainment, or to buy a specific thing. Gone are the days of old when people would make a day out of wandering around the mall shopping. Regarding people’s mall going habits today, Pamela surmised, “they’re not making the trip to the mall to buy the thing that they could buy online otherwise.”

The audience was particularly captivated by the question of why this revolution is coming to retail so fast. Pamela did not have a full answer to this difficult question, but she offered that internet sales have gotten much better and more accessible in recent years. These recent improvements in ecommerce have accelerated a trend that was already underway.

Watch Pamela Flora’s presentation at #LetsGetSmart:

Ben Perlmutter is a freelance writer and English teacher in Seoul, South Korea. He can be contacted for inquiries at [email protected]

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