What happened when SPS Commerce went to IN>CHI18

by | Oct 12, 2018 | TeamSPS

For the next location in the series of events from SPS Commerce, members of our team set off for Chicago, Ill., right on the water at River Roast. The second networking event IN>CHI18 was held on October 2, 2018, and was co-sponsored with our partner ShipStation.

Forrester vice president and principal analyst Brendan Witcher was the featured speaker and moderator for the panel discussion.  Additional panelists participating in the conversation were Jeff Saxton, Director of Systems at tag; Scott Wilson, Manager of Wholesale Operations at Spikeball; Jivko Bojinov, co-founder of ShipBob; Andrew Goodfellow, CIO at Zoro; and Kevin Kline, Channel Manager for ShipStation. The topic was effective ways to make retail technology decisions, while ensuring customers have an exceptional shopping experience that encourages consumer loyalty.

SPS IN>CHI18 was one of our biggest and most well-attended events yet, and the atmosphere right along the riverfront was magical. Great food, delicious beverages and valuable networking opportunities kept the conversation going right up until the event’s end. For those of you that missed it, we’ve pulled together some of the most valuable takeaways.

Analytics gaining strategic popularity

We’re starting to see retailers becoming customer obsessed, something that I’ve been talking about since 2014. But how can they be obsessed about a customer they don’t really understand? Leading companies are getting into the state of being “data led.” Amazon, Fabletics, Sephora, and Home Depot are using data to be strategic about engaging with customers. They know the quality of their data about their business and their customer equals the quality of the experiences they can deliver. It is insane to think you can deliver great experiences and not understand your business and your customer.
– Brendan Witcher, Forrester vice president and principal analyst

Making better technology decisions

I let the business and the industry let me know what we need in IT. Different departments will see different software and different tools on the internet and just think it’s the greatest thing on the planet. I will look at it, review it with people, and go to my peers. I will require the company that’s trying to pitch it to me to give me real-world examples. You’ve got to hold their feet to the fire to do it because you’ve got to see it being used in action. Too much stuff is “Oh yeah, it’ll do this” or “Yeah, maybe it sort-of does it” but not really.
– Jeff Saxton, Director of Systems at tag

Technology decisions with an eye to the future

As we think about new technology we really need to take into account how fast our business is changing and growing. We have to make sure an investment is something that’s going to last for us. When we partner, we need to invest in something we will be a compelling solution for us as we think ahead. Also, the way we work and the way we go to market needs to mature. Because of how fast we’re growing, and the need to become better, we need to operationalize our business faster, we need to add more products, we need to scale very quickly in almost every area. Therefore, as we look at potential partners, their roadmap has to be compelling. It has to be future proof and advantage us in all areas to help us have the confidence we need, especially for those larger investments.
– Andrew Goodfellow, CIO at Zoro

Missed opportunities in personalization

The fulfillment process should not be an afterthought, you should try to personalize it. If you think about the iteration of a customer journey there are touchpoints along the fulfillment process that you can brand. Merchants can extend their brand to things like packing slips and putting your logo on the label of the box. When personalization is a factor, you can create and automate that personalization – you can put their name on the package and the products they ordered, include things in the box suggesting other items that they could possibly buy. Even the process of doing returns, for example, can be personalized. You can include their name, the product they bought, and the return address it should be sent to in the package. That’s really where I think it gets missed, because once people get the sale, they just think they need to get the box out the door, but there’s a lot of components where you can add personalization.
– Kevin Kline, Channel Manager for ShipStation

The clicks-to-bricks trend

We primarily work with eCommerce brands and now they’re getting into physical retail locations. That’s not what most people expected four years ago. They’re using pop ups as a way to test and create an experience for anyone who walks in, and it helps fortify their eCommerce sales. I think with real estate opportunities becoming available, it’s something that’s becoming more accessible. Some of the customers that we work with that have these pop-up locations are sometimes getting real estate together with other brands in the same space. So, for example, if you’re in furniture, you find someone who sells bedding and come together in one space in this store. The store isn’t necessarily where you buy the items, the inventory is kept somewhere else, but customers can see it, feel it, experience it. If they select to buy those products, you can deliver it to them very quickly.
– Jivko Bojinov, co-founder of ShipBob

Interested in attending one of the upcoming retail technology networking events to be held by SPS Commerce? There are more opportunities to learn how other businesses are making retail technology stack decisions and working to keep B2C and B2B customers happy. Check out the list of events where SPS will be next.

Subscribe to the SPS blog to get updates on which industry experts will be panelists at the upcoming New York and Los Angeles events.

Is the SPS Commerce roadshow not coming to a city near you? You can still talk to an SPS consultant and request a demonstration of our retail technology solutions.

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