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Emerson Industry Day highlights fast-changing retail environment

BY Mark Hamstra

Amazon’s increasing power as a retailer and the need for brands to have effective digital marketing and e-commerce strategies were among the key topics at the Emerson Group’s 11th annual Industry Day event, held Sept. 26 in Philadelphia.

The theme of the conference, “Time is Now: The Power and Impact of Immediacy,” reflected the need for speed in today’s retail environment, where 56% of CPG sales growth is being driven by e-commerce, said Sam Gagliardi, senior vice president of e-commerce at IRI, in a presentation.

“We do this to invest in our community,” said Scott Emerson, CEO of the company. “There are just so many great people to work within our industry and we want to do all in our power to bring everyone together in an informal setting where they can get to know each other a bit better.”

Added Patrick Gibbons, the company’s founding partner and vice president of operations: “This helps us all understand the industry in a different way. By bringing our partners together is this type of setting, we hope to develop relationships that may not have happened otherwise.”

Although Walmart has lately been investing heavily in digital technologies, Amazon has a big head start and appears poised to continue its dominance. Nearly half of all U.S. households are now Amazon Prime members, and these online shoppers skew young, Gagliardi said. More than half — 55% — of online product searches currently begin on Amazon.

Meanwhile health and beauty care brands, in addition to strengthening their digital capabilities for the new retailing environment, also need to focus on some emerging technol-gies, such as voice-based ordering, automatic replenishment and genetics-based healthcare solutions, said Brian Owens, VP of retail insights at Kantar Consulting.

“I believe voice will change healthcare,” he said, noting that he expects voice-based order-ing to become an increasingly important buying platform for healthcare consumers.

Stephanie Leffler, CEO of OneSpace, a virtual workforce platform, agreed that voice-based ordering should already be an important consideration for health and beauty product marketers. Companies seeking to market their products on e-commerce platforms need to think about how voice-based ordering systems will respond to the verbiage that is posted in e-commerce product listings.

One of the most anticipated speakers at the event, which drew more than 400 attendees to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, was former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. The retired U.S. Army general detailed the leadership lessons learned from the battlefield and discussed his transition from the military into political leadership.

He said he advocated much of the foreign-policy direction under President Trump, such as taking a stronger position against North Korea and China. He believes many of the alliances the U.S. has with other countries are “stronger than ever,” despite Trump’s sometimes over-the-top rhetoric.

Other speakers included former professional football player-turned-magician Jon Dorenbos, who gave an inspirational talk about forgiveness — his father murdered his mother when he was a child — while performing feats of illusion.

In addition, sports agent Molly Fletcher talked about business lessons learned from her 20 years representing high-profile players and coaches, and Scott Stratten of UnMarketing talked about creating a brand, the emergence of Millennials and the value of engagement through digital marketing.

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