A View from CRMC 2018

The retail marketing world keeps changing, and in order to change with it, marketers gather each year at the CRMC conference, an event designed for retail marketers to work together, hear about and explore new trends and technologies at the forefront of successful consumer marketing strategies. This year’s theme was “The Sweet Rewards of Intelligent Collaboration” and SPC returned for its eighth year as a Platinum-level sponsor.

We absorbed informative presentations from DSW, Express, Hilton, Nordstrom, Starbucks, Wayfair and Ulta, some of the retailers investing in far-reaching technologies like AI ‘machine learning’ to deliver valuable customer insights. Retail marketers agree that brands cannot be customer-centric without being data-centric. But these marketers also point out that machines learn what we tell them to learn, so the goal is to combine machine learning with HUMAN intelligence and personal interactions, to deliver personalized experiences that make an emotional connection between customer and brand.

Artificial Intelligence Still Needs Human Understanding

A great example was Ulta’s use of machine learning to identify frequency of product usage like mascara to send personalized replenishment messages to their best customers. Ulta also trains retail store associates to meet customers in the moment and listen to the voice of the customer in order to shift from transactional to emotional connections with the brand. The customer model is updated after customer interactions and observed customer behavior. In this way, human intelligence enables retailers like Ulta to code for better outcomes. Combining human intelligence and AI creates a process of continuous learning designed to optimize customer interactions. The results enable delivery of personalized customer experiences and communications which will ultimately change the way the brand is perceived. We also heard how retail marketers are using electronic devices and mobile apps to drive interaction, create frictionless experiences and create stronger connections between customers and the brand.

Nordstrom’s mobile app facilitates convenient curbside order pick-up at store locations. The Hilton Honors app enables guests to create a ‘digital stay experience’ with all the expected functionality – booking a stay, choosing a room, checking in, unlocking the room—but it also can also be used to customize the room experience, controlling lights, room temperature and television. Many other retail brands are reimagining the consumer experience and augmenting these same experiences and marketing with the rich data collected from such experiences.

Gil Bathgate talks with Dave Sims about Nordstrom’s retail loyalty program.

Evenings of Marketing and Mingling

Members of the SPC team took every opportunity to meet with leading retail marketers in our sponsor lounge area, during networking events and at the exclusive Orbital dinner event we hosted at Cindy’s Rooftop Restaurant. Our spectacular views of Millennium Park and the lakefront served as the perfect backdrop for a relaxing evening of networking, thoughtful discussions and great food. A good deal of discussion at CRMC centered on advanced personalization, and we had a chance to talk specifically about our new addition, the Canon Océ ProStream inkjet press, the latest in cutting-edge variable 4-color, roll-to-roll digital printing technology. The ProStream’s incredibly high print resolution and speeds of 250 feet per minute support our customers’ efforts to leverage their CRM and deliver full-color content that better connects audiences to their brands. All of these experiences added up to what is one of the most stimulating and beneficial marketing conferences of the year. We look forward to even more for next year’s CRMC!

Gil Bathgate chats with Christi Stewart, Loyalty Marketing Manager for La Quinta Inns and Suites during SPC’s Orbital Dinner at Cindy’s Rooftop Restaurant.


Gil Bathgate
Vice President, Loyalty

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