Macy’s has been reinventing the customer journey of late — and knows well enough to not travel it alone.
“Reimagining the customer journey through the lens of experience,” a popular session at NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show, featured Macy’s Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette talking with Beck Besecker, co-founder and CEO of Marxent, Vibhu Norby, co-founder and CEO of b8ta, and Rachel Shechtman, founder of STORY and brand experience officer with Macy’s. Each of Gennette’s guests shared how their organizations had been working with Macy’s to bring new strategies to life.
Marxent manages 3D representations of physical products, and Besecker spoke of changes already made in 60 stores. Billed by Marxent as the largest virtual retail rollout in retail history, the experience allows Macy’s furniture shoppers to “see” what furniture would look like in their homes using virtual reality, removing hesitation and risk. But it also increases order value and allows Macy’s employees to show customers a full range of furniture on a tablet without having to keep product on the floor. It is “a new way to problem solve,” Besecker said, one that’s significantly more immersive.
As for b8ta, Norby called it both a retailer and tech company. As such, it is working with Macy’s in its new pop-up concept, The Market @ Macy’s, to not only provide a landing zone for unique items but also measure how consumers interact with the space. Using a combination of cameras, sensors and staff, Norby said, the effort will measure impressions generated by each product each day, how many times consumers touch the product, and the like. Then, he said, “We can try to work around translating that experience into actually actionable measurements that brands can use.”
Finally, Shechtman spoke of the STORY partnership with Macy’s as a chance to scale the unique model. STORY, a concept store in New York, reinvents everything from its design to its merchandise each four to eight weeks, creating themes akin to the pages of a magazine. A wellness theme, for example, might tell its story through yoga wear, heart rate monitors and a panel on health and technology. Working with Macy’s will allow for deeper business models and brand partnerships.
ALONG THE ROAD TO DISCOVERY
Each spoke about their relationship with Macy’s as an exciting beginning on the road to discovery rather than a set course, with opportunities continuing to grow. But they also talked about being individually inspired, whether by the lessons learned in collaboration or their own retail experiences. Norby told of visiting one of his favorite stores while in New York in need of a shoe repair. When he went in, he said, the store immediately gave him a fresh pair to wear while his were being fixed; his own pair will be shipped back to his home in San Francisco. “I love that kind of experience,” he said.
In its own way, Macy’s is hoping customers will say the same about them.
“Every retailer needs to be maniacally focused on their customer,” Gennette says. “They need to understand the customer journey every step of the way. Today, customers have more choices than ever, and it’s up to each brand to be hyper-focused on their customer and to find their niche.” Macy’s knows its niche, Gennette says — and must give its customers a great experience at every touchpoint.
As for smaller businesses and startups hoping to connect with a retailer like Macy’s, Besecker gave some advice. The biggest lesson he has learned so far, he said, is to make sure there’s a clear understanding among all about where the handoff is. Startups must be prepared to assume every function as needed, especially in the beginning — even if that means performing installations, drilling holes and handling signage. Eventually those responsibilities may shift, but everyone should agree when that point should be. The road of collaboration can be one of rich learning and opportunity for all, no matter the size of the organization.