AB Tasty had the pleasure of welcoming Frank Rosenthal, an expert in retail, marketing and advertising with over 15 years’ experience, to speak at our latest event. We took the opportunity to sit down with Frank and ask him 7 of our most burning questions about where the retail industry is heading, what American retailers can learn from their Asian and European counterparts, and more.
Robin: You’ve traveled the world exploring how different countries do retail. What was the most ‘ingenious’ tactic you’ve ever seen?
Frank: In China, the brand Freshippo (part of the Alibaba Group), really understands how to combine different ways of consuming food. You can get a fresh product to go, or have it cooked at the store and bring it home with you, have it delivered raw or cooked, or even eat it right at their restaurant that’s adjacent to their store. I think this is the future of food retail.
Freshippo at the 2019 National Retail Federation Conference in New York.
R: You’ve written extensively about how France can be inspired by some of America’s retail practices. Could you sum up one or two practices that you think are most useful for physical retail locations? Digital?
F: The outdoor clothing brand REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) invites clients to participate in outdoor sporting events for Black Friday. In order to lead by example, they actually close all of their stores, their website doesn’t accept orders, and all their employees get a paid day off to participate in an activity outdoors. This campaign was really successful.
As for digital, I find DNVBs (Digitally Native Vertical Brands) inspiring. In the beauty sector, Glossier really understands the powerful influence of social media and how to put it to good use.
Nordstrom is an exemplar not only in terms of services, but also a great example of how to use Pinterest – their corporate account has almost 5 million subscribers.
R: Are there retail tactics or practices that the US could benefit from that are already happening in France or Europe? Asia?
F: Yes, many. Americans are very creative but don’t excel at everything. Some of their brands, generally those that don’t end up doing too well, are really out of touch with current business practices. Brands like Grand Frais, Picard or Yves Rocher, a few gems in the French retail industry, don’t really have an equivalent in the US.
R: Do you think that creating ‘personalized experiences’ (website personalization, or even product customization and similar tactics) is a growing trend?
F: Yes, this is an extremely powerful trend, this goes without saying, as much for personalizing products as for the customer experience. Again, I can cite Freshippo in China, that personalizes how we consume food.
R: How do you think AI will continue to disrupt (or not!) the retail space?
F: I think that AI will definitely improve the customer experience, client relationships and the purchase funnel, especially for e-commerce sites. We’re already starting to see this with the use of ‘assistants’ that step in to help you and answer any questions. This is extremely useful, since for e-commerce sites, it’s all about conversion rates.
R: What do you think is the biggest challenge for website or conversion rate optimization specialists working in retail?
F: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Completely different strategies are working today for Amazon, Walmart, Costco, Action, Leclerc and Grand Frais…proof that there’s no magic recipe for success. Which is why it’s essential to test, re-test and test again. To see what works best, what you like the best, what’s simpler, what makes your life easier…
One tip you can take into consideration is trying to find a way to better showcase your strong points, and also to not overestimate the attention span of your audience. You need to test this, too. This really is crucial, since there’s nothing worse than taking the time, for example, to offer free shipping at the end of the purchase funnel, if your audience never gets there – this clearly won’t work as an incentive!
R: Can you recommend any resources for CRO experts in retail who want to learn more about their craft?
F: You need to find the best. Those that have a reliable technology stack, good references, solid marketing and sales experience, and especially to test out simple things, and above all, test only what deserves to be tested!