Digital Summit Los Angeles Promotes Efficient Customer Engagement

For the third year, Digital Summit Los Angeles brought together marketing leaders at the Skirball Cultural Center. On April 10 and 11, nearly 1,000 attendees networked and listened to experts explain how to successfully use digital tools to engage customers.

During his “Developing Innovative Solutions for a Better Customer Experience,” Scott Emmons, head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab (iLab), shared his insight regarding personalizing the shopping experience for customers. Emphasizing the importance of starting simple, Emmons advised attendees to think about how to bring business fundamentals into the digital age.

“You can’t always chase the shiny and new,” he said. “Sometimes innovation is part of just changing the basic way you do your business.”

Since 2012, Emmons has been working to enhance the ways Neiman Marcus serves its customers by introducing innovative technology to simplify shopping. An incentive to investing in a strong digital platform is the e-commerce growth that could occur through helping customers facilitate their shopping experiences.

“Our e-commerce business is worth about 33 to 34 percent of total revenue today, which is our biggest store, essentially,” revealed Emmons. “It’s a billion-dollar business for us. We think it’s going to be 50 percent of our business as that business continues to grow by leaps and bounds.”

Launched two and a half years ago, Neiman’s Memory Mirror allows customers to record videos of themselves trying on clothes through an in-store kiosk that includes a 70-inch screen. Customers can view multiple outfits from every angle and compare options without input from another person. If desired, these recordings can be shared with others via email, text and social media.

With its blended-technology initiative, Neiman Marcus is using innovation to make the customer experience seamless and enjoyable.

Be smart when building relationships

Retailers should also look beyond the apparel industry for digital inspiration. At the lunch keynote panel, “Consumer Behavior and the Future of Content Creation,” on April 11, attendees gained valuable insight regarding how to digitally cultivate meaningful customer relationships. The panel included Jessica Coen, senior vice president and editor-in-chief of Mashable; the cofounder of Netflix and chief executive officer of MoviePass, Mitch Lowe; and Alison Wyatt, president of Girlboss. Moderated by Hollywood Life President and Editor-in-Chief Bonnie Fuller, the session started with a discussion regarding how to reassure customers that their information is protected while explicitly outlining policies.

“The good news is that we’ve always complied with our terms and conditions,” Lowe said. “The bad news is that people don’t understand the terms and conditions, so we’re [developing this] effort of turning this archaic small print into video vignettes.”

When creating content, retailers must also remain cognizant of the ways in which their customers consume media.

“The platform matters,” explained Coen. “When we develop videos, we think about the method of storytelling first. Something that works on YouTube might have to be told in a completely different way for Instagram—or not told at all.”

Selling a message digitally isn’t simply about sharing media that sells units; it requires retailers to reveal the experiences that their products can provide to consumers. By using online tools in this way, retailers will show a genuine effort to understand the needs of their customers rather than just pushing a sales pitch.

“We’re firm believers that format follows function, so the way that we really think about video is that we want to make sure that it has a very explicit purpose,” Wyatt said.

Adding value through shared principles

During the final session of the conference, Emily Schmid, the director of digital content at Walmart, and Michael Wallen, the chief content officer of the creative agency Omelet, discussed going “Beyond the Shopping Cart: How Walmart Uses Its Brand Values to Reconnect.”

As part of Walmart’s campaign to gain more public trust, the corporation is highlighting its role as a responsible agent for positive change. Building upon its longstanding slogan, “Save Money. Live Better,” Walmart is supporting these words through action. With 270 million people per week shopping at Walmart locations across 5,000 communities, the company wants to help its customers live better.

“Shared value benefits our business but also everyone who intersects with us on a daily basis,” Schmid said. “Today, more than ever, that is really important. People want to know not just what you’re selling but who you really are, especially in the information age.”

Research has shown that 79 percent of consumers make purchasing decisions based on the level of attention they feel a brand devotes to their needs, according to Schmid. She went on to explain the reasons 89 percent of those surveyed will remain loyal to companies that reflect their values.

“Trust is more important these days, and talking about that in an authentic way is hard, but it’s worth it,” Schmid said.

With the rising popularity of podcasts, Walmart decided to engage customers by producing its “Outside the Box” channel, which discusses interests shared by and issues faced by consumers, thereby strengthening its relationships through building confidence.

“Perceptions are created when you don’t have the information,” explained Wallen. “Our ultimate goal is obviously to make sure that people understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and do it in a way that they truly engage with so those perceptions become understanding.”