The Future of Retail CX: A SXSW Panel Recap
On Tues., March 14, I sat down with the chief digital officer of e.l.f. Beauty, Ekta Chopra; GM of new business at Poshmark, Adam Crouch; and vice president of customer growth and marketing of Albertsons Companies, Francisco Bram at SXSW to discuss the future of digital customer experience in a session called “The Future of Retail: The Winner CX Formula.”
Despite sitting across significantly varied categories and sales models, there were a resounding number of similarities in how these industry leaders approach the art and science that is customer experience design. All three panelists described the core of customer experience as creating a consistent, cohesive ecosystem of touchpoints to support consumers as they learn about products and brands. Crouch and Chopra elaborated, emphasizing the importance of building a community among loyal users, while Bram highlighted the role of customer experience design in moving the customer from transactional to trust-based exchanges.
While discussing the methodology behind building their best-in-class customer experiences, I asked the panelists to drill down into the key principles upholding the methodology. Everyone agreed that the ultimate goal in CX design is to devise the most convenient, easy-to-use shopping tools for consumers. Channels should minimize the mental load required of users while providing the optimal amount of information. CX is about being an invaluable resource for shoppers.
Consumer insights was also a frequently referenced principle in support of a winning CX. In fact, Albertsons Companies leverages a 14,000-person customer panel, where it distributes surveys and deploys focus groups to identify and test new ideas. Chopra shone a spotlight on social listening as a key consumer insights tool for e.l.f., while Crouch mentioned that Poshmark ambassadors get a direct line to headquarters in order to share their feedback with the brand.
There were some interesting nuances covered when panelists were asked what differentiators within their spaces must be taken into consideration. Due to the health and wellness-related nature of the Sincerely Health app, there are strict HIPAA regulations influencing capabilities and causing caution with data handling. For Poshmark, the fact that it’s a two-sided marketplace means there are two very different paths a user could be on. In beauty, there are assumptions being made about e.l.f.’s price point and the factors going into the term “clean.”
Though these factors vary greatly, the implications for designing the CX are the same — innovation has to evolve with consumers’ expectations of the brands, and communication is key in building trust along the way. In addition to category differences, there are also differences in how each brand’s shoppers use various channels. All three brands are leaning fully into highly developed app strategies because of how well the channel serves the user experience.
Active Poshmark users average 20-25 minutes per day on the app; 95 percent of e.l.f. loyalty program members prefer to shop on the app; and Sincerely Health is what Albertsons Companies refers to as a “Super App” because it rolls vaccine data, prescription data, grocery shopping data, recipes, and more into its experience. Poshmark values its website for sellers who want to mass upload a long list of items into their profile. Albertsons Companies appreciates its website for demographics that prefer it over smartphone access, but all three executives agreed that ideally, website engagement ultimately transfers over to app engagement.
No digital-focused session is complete in today’s world without a conversation on how digital facilitates physical. When launching Sincerely Health, Albertsons Companies rolled out an app-based in-store scavenger hunt, and the channel’s “store mode” ensures omnichannel usage. Chopra explained that digital channels are designed to reward e.l.f. loyalty program members however they want, regardless of which store they end up buying the brand in, thereby supporting brick-and-mortar purchase. Although Poshmark doesn’t have any physical stores, the brand has hosted monthly in-person “Posh Parties” where buyers, sellers, influencers and media can connect while they shop.
The “Future of Retail: The Winning CX Formula” was a lesson in cultivating the most intentional world for consumers to be both exploratory and mission-driven shoppers, depending on their desires. Best practice brands innovating in CX are committed to providing fun, yet educational shopping communities, as evidenced by e.l.f. Beauty, Poshmark, and Albertsons Companies.
Melissa Minkow joined digital transformation firm CI&T as retail industry lead after two years in merchandising strategy at Target; six years covering omnichannel, e-commerce and social commerce at Gartner; a short tenure in pharmaceutical market research; and the completion of a Kellogg MBA.
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Melissa recently joined CI&T as Retail Industry Lead after two years in merchandising strategy at Target, six years covering omni-channel, e-commerce, and social commerce at Gartner, a short tenure in pharmaceutical market research, and the completion of a Kellogg MBA. She is a retail futurist whose methodology is rooted in cross-industry consumer insights and innovation. She measures her success by how far out of the box she can inspire a client’s customer-centric solutions.