Yesterday, 250 leaders and innovators from top retailers, brand, and agencies gathered at Union West in New York for the eighth annual Criteo Commerce Forum.
The day was full of discussions and experiences that brought it back to our theme—how to unleash your data’s potential. Executives from companies like Best Buy, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Chobani, Lego, Peapod, Etsy, Forrester, and of course, Criteo talked about acquiring and activating shopper data to create hyper-relevant experiences for consumers on every channel.
Consumer behaviorist Ken Hughes was our MC for the day and kept everyone focused on what matters—the customer—while surprising us with four outfit changes. And our keynote speakers, including Sterling Hawkins, Forrester’s Sucharita Kodali, and Best Buy’s Frank Crowson, all gave valuable takeaways on how to be less transactional and more human when using your customer data for hyper-personalization.
And we made sure every guest had a personalized event experience: electric violinist Sarah Charness performed songs chosen by the audience, mobile coffee shop Hybrid Coffee served up made-to-order drinks with personalized sleeves, and Leftys Right Mind painted custom luggage tags.
Keep reading for four lessons we learned from the presenters at the Criteo Commerce Forum:
1. The next big opportunity is data collaboration
Retailers and brands can do a lot with their own data today. But when they form data partnerships, that’s when the magic happens.
John Roswech, Criteo’s EVP of Retail Media, kicked off the forum with a look at the state of commerce and explained that though retailers and brands are still very siloed, retailers are starting to share real-time point-of-sale data with their brand partners. This allows brands to see consumer activity beyond their own ecommerce sites.
Bill Noel, manager of digital media at DICK’S Sporting Goods, explained that retailers ultimately benefit from data collaboration, too. When brands have a complete view of the customer, they can execute campaigns more effectively and drive more sales through their retail partners.
In The New Rules of Retail panel, Linda Crowder, senior director of Peapod Interactive at Peapod LLC, agreed that the relationship between retailers and brands has matured—it’s less transactional and more about sharing data to fulfill the needs of the customer.
2. Customer data should inform everything you do
Retailers and brands are using data to personalize different touchpoints in the customer experience, but soon this strategy will be outdated.
It’s not about who does personalization well—it’s about who does data well, Sucharita Kodali, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, said in her keynote presentation. Data should drive marketing, merchandising, and operations; all of this together will enable retailers to get the gains they need to stay competitive.
In the Power to the Partners panel, DICK’S Sporting Goods’ Noel talked with Travis Clinger, LiveRamp’s VP of strategic partnerships, and Tim Rogers, Criteo’s VP of global strategic initiatives, about leaving behind simple forms of personalization. Every company should work toward becoming an entirely customer-centric organization, where data plays a role in every decision.
This approach helps DICK’S Sporting Goods hyper-personalize and provide value to every customer at every touchpoint. And it’s much more effective than crossing their fingers and hoping campaigns will resonate with consumers.
3. But don’t forget to humanize your data
Even though you can scroll through someone’s entire Instagram feed and see what they were up to three years ago, you wouldn’t bring it up in conversation. That’s exactly how retailers and brands should think about using data, Frank Crowson, SVP and head of US marketing at Best Buy, told us in his closing keynote.
Crowson explained that no matter how much data you have, in the end, you need smart people at your company to make human-centric decisions.
With so much focus right now on artificial intelligence and automation, it’s hard to fathom going back in the opposite direction. But you still need humans for the technology to do its best work.
Suju Rajan, SVP of research at Criteo and head of the Criteo AI Lab, hosted a fireside chat with Liangjie Hong, director of engineering, data science, and machine learning at Etsy. They talked about how new deep learning models are enabling better, hyper-relevant product recommendations.
But Rajan reminded us that AI is only as good as the data that fuels it. We still need humans to ensure AI is making decisions that benefit the end user.
4. It’s time to get “phygital”
After Hughes used the term “phygital” in this opening remarks, our presenters and attendees couldn’t stop saying it throughout the day.
Sure, it’s catchy, but more importantly, it represents the blending of physical and digital shopping in shoppers’ minds. Consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, don’t think about shopping on different channels—they just have one experience with your company.
Innovation expert Sterling Hawkins challenged our audience to think about all retail as experiential retail. When you focus on the bigger brand experience, retailers and brands can think beyond devices and channels and create one positive experience that runs through the entire customer journey.
He also reminded us that innovative experiences is not the same as using innovative technology.
Anna Kruse, senior director of the Best Buy Media Network, spoke on The New Rules of Retail panel and said that in the phygital age, every interaction with the customer has to great—even perfect—to keep people loyal to your company.
The most innovative brands today have a purpose, she said, and they make sure they fulfill that purpose at every touchpoint. Best Buy, for example, doesn’t think about digital vs. brick-and-mortar; they focus on helping people solve their problems with technology.
That’s a wrap! Thank you to everyone who made this year’s New York Commerce Forum a success.
To learn more about using data to create hyper-relevant experiences for your customers, download Criteo’s Ultimate Guide to AI-Powered Ads.