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How to Break Through the Dogma and Embrace the New Retail Reality

In Store Shopping Experience

The short-sighted strategy rarely works in life. In the case of brick-and-mortar retail, the ability to look long-term may very well make the difference between surviving and not surviving.

A successful long-term vision also requires a certain amount of risk. It means being assertive yet thoughtful, and signaling a sea-change  from the top down in how the business thinks and operates.

Chuck Luckenbill intimately understands this way of thinking. A long-time retail executive and consultant with household names under his belt including Carson Pirie Scott,  Kohl’s, ToysRUs and OfficeMax, Chuck’s focus has always been on the customer experience. This includes a wealth of expertise in space planning, visual merchandising and store design – and how to successful adapt and leverage technology within the retail space.

On March 27 in Las Vegas, Chuck will join several of his peers on a lunchtime panel at the Digital Signage Expo’s DX Forum, hosted by the retail and customer experience experts at HighStreet Collective. Moderated by HighStreet Co-Founder Ed King, The New Retail Reality – An Interview with Icons with explore how inspired retail leaders make innovation in the customer experience work. This includes how to successfully welcome digital disruptors into the boardroom, and break through the dogma of a stale, short-sighted way of thinking.

“Far too many retailers live for the quarter, and the reality is that you need to live forever,” said Luckenbill. “Customers don’t care about Wall Street and the quarterly report, and how analysts interpret those reports. They expect good service and quality products, and they want it when they want it – whether online or in the store.”

As Chuck sees it, brick and mortar retail executives are increasingly coming from outside the industry today, whereas 20-25 years ago the “retailers breed retailers” motto was strong. Many now come from finance and private  equity companies, and simply have a different way of thinking.

However, Chuck sees a lot of hope in changing that way of thinking.

“The biggest challenge is to educate our executives that no single silver bullet will make a difference,” said Luckenbill. “What they need to learn is how to guide their customers to the next great story . A company like Apple has created a loyalty with their customers that you rarely see in America, and it’s because they bring their customers what they want. The interior design and visual merchandising of their stores are unmistakably Apple.”

Finding that next great service means rethinking the customer experience, and supporting that with the store design and technology that will give the retailer a unique voice. Chuck believes that the digital signage vendors need to work more closely with retailers – and the consultants and systems integrators they serve – to develop stronger applications that allow shoppers to engage more directly with the tools they know best: their mobile phones.

“When I arrived at OfficeMax at 2007, our technology  vendors were pushing these sad on-shelf monitors that basically just told shoppers what they were looking at,” said Luckenbill. “This has been the same challenge with digital signage. Retailers are simply spreading that same on-shelf monitor strategy throughout the story to create more visual noise. Executives fool themselves into thinking they have an effective omnichannel strategy based on digital signage and perhaps e-commerce. They don’t.”

Chuck will share his thoughts on how retailers can evolve the customer experience inside stores and move toward a true omnichannel strategy by leveraging mobile technology.

“In the last 20 years, we’ve gone from almost no one having phones to everyone having a phone,” he said. “It’s an amazing leap that not enough of our digital signage suppliers have caught up with. We need to capitalize on his technology as an industry, and begin connecting the dots for the customer. It’s no longer about making things efficient for the retailer; to survive, it’s about making  life efficient for the shopper.”

Chuck will join two other panelists (Becky Snider of Mizuno, and Ronnie Kell formerly of Home Depot, JCPenney and Eddie Bauer) for The New Retail Reality – An Interview with Icons from 12-1pm on March 27 in Room S225 of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Brian Galante