Retail Renaissance: The Future of Digital In Physical Spaces

Nov 9, 2022 11:00 AM12:00 PM EST

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Key Discussion Takeaways:

With major shifts to digital commerce, many people believe brick-and-mortar stores will soon become a thing of the past. However, experts in the retail space are seeing a boom in physical experiences and suggest that the combination of technology and in-person stores can boost a brand’s success if done correctly.

Instead of leaning more toward either the technology or the in-person realm, brands can thrive by bridging the digital and physical worlds. The future of retail isn’t about technology alone — it’s about using technology to facilitate in-person relationships and interactions. Technology is a key part of engaging with customers and giving them a seamless experience on the sales floor.

In this virtual event, Aaron Conant is joined by Sid Arigapudi of Vans, Jason McMann of Domino’s, Nicole France of Contentful, and Holden Bale of Huge. Together, they discuss how each of their companies is utilizing technology to enhance the in-person experience, why physical stores are still important for the success of a brand, and their thoughts on the future of retail technology. 

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Holden Bale explains how retail is transforming — and why in-person experiences are still crucial
  • The three keys to driving digital success in the physical space
  • Sid Arigapudi talks about Vans’ business transformation efforts and how customer expectations are changing
  • How Jason McMann and the Domino’s team use technology to improve employee happiness and the customer experience
  • How does company culture fit into technology implementations?
  • Tips for bridging the gap between technology and physical experiences
  • How will retail technology evolve in the future?
  • Why brand innovation should be focused on consumer experience rather than the next big thing
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Event Partners


Huge is a creative growth acceleration company, headquartered in Brooklyn with offices worldwide. With capabilities spanning strategy & growth, physical & digital experience, platform strategy & implementation, and branding & marketing, they're helping brands significantly grow their overall digital presence.

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Contentful allows organizations to launch digital products faster, create compelling experiences, store and edit content in one hub. Their Content Management As A Service: Their collection of APIs helps developers manage, integrate, and deliver digital content across all types of clients, devices, and platforms.

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BigCommerce is a leading Open SaaS ecommerce platform that empowers merchants of all sizes to build, innovate and grow their businesses online. BigCommerce provides merchants sophisticated enterprise-grade functionality, customization and performance with simplicity and ease-of-use. Tens of thousands of B2C and B2B companies across 150 countries and numerous industries use BigCommerce to create beautiful, engaging online stores, including Ben & Jerry’s, Molton Brown, S.C. Johnson, Skullcandy, SoloStove and Vodafone.

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Guest Speakers

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Sid Arigapudi LinkedIn

Director, Omnichannel & Retail Technology at Vans

Sid Arigapudi is the Director of Omnichannel and Retail Technology at Vans. He has over a decade of experience in executive and leadership roles, previously working for DTE Energy, Ascena Retail Group, Inc., and Macy’s. Throughout his career, Sid has worked to maximize ROI and increase brand value through innovative, customer-focused solutions.

Jason McMann LinkedIn

VP eCommerce Technology at Domino's

Jason McMann is the Vice President of US eCommerce Development for Domino’s. He’s been with the company for nearly a decade, starting as a Manager for Technical Delivery before moving up the ranks. Before Domino’s, Jason was a Software Engineer at IBM Security Services and a Web Application Developer at the University of Michigan.

Nicole France LinkedIn

Evangelist at Contentful

Nicole France is an Evangelist at Contentful, a headless content management system. In this role, she analyzes different ways of thinking about content and conjures up new approaches to company operations. Previously, Nicole was the VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, Inc., the Manager of Thought Leadership at Cisco, and a Senior Editor at ITSMA. 

Holden Bale

Holden Bale LinkedIn

GVP, Head of Commerce at Huge

Holden Bale is the Group Vice President and Global Head of Commerce at Huge, a creative growth acceleration company. In this role, he’s responsible for spearheading Huge and Elephant’s (Huge's sister company) global commerce practice, leading their perspectives, research, offerings, partnerships, and client work in B2B and B2C commerce. Holden is a corporate strategist and management consultant turned digital transformation, CX, and product leader. 

Event Moderator

Aaron Conant LinkedIn

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

Aaron Conant is Co-Founder and Chief Digital Strategist at BWG Connect, a networking and knowledge sharing group of thousands of brands who collectively grow their digital knowledge base and collaborate on partner selection. Speaking 1x1 with over 1200 brands a year and hosting over 250 in-person and virtual events, he has a real time pulse on the newest trends, strategies and partners shaping growth in the digital space.

Sid Arigapudi LinkedIn

Director, Omnichannel & Retail Technology at Vans

Sid Arigapudi is the Director of Omnichannel and Retail Technology at Vans. He has over a decade of experience in executive and leadership roles, previously working for DTE Energy, Ascena Retail Group, Inc., and Macy’s. Throughout his career, Sid has worked to maximize ROI and increase brand value through innovative, customer-focused solutions.

Jason McMann LinkedIn

VP eCommerce Technology at Domino's

Jason McMann is the Vice President of US eCommerce Development for Domino’s. He’s been with the company for nearly a decade, starting as a Manager for Technical Delivery before moving up the ranks. Before Domino’s, Jason was a Software Engineer at IBM Security Services and a Web Application Developer at the University of Michigan.

Nicole France LinkedIn

Evangelist at Contentful

Nicole France is an Evangelist at Contentful, a headless content management system. In this role, she analyzes different ways of thinking about content and conjures up new approaches to company operations. Previously, Nicole was the VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, Inc., the Manager of Thought Leadership at Cisco, and a Senior Editor at ITSMA. 

Holden Bale

Holden Bale LinkedIn

GVP, Head of Commerce at Huge

Holden Bale is the Group Vice President and Global Head of Commerce at Huge, a creative growth acceleration company. In this role, he’s responsible for spearheading Huge and Elephant’s (Huge's sister company) global commerce practice, leading their perspectives, research, offerings, partnerships, and client work in B2B and B2C commerce. Holden is a corporate strategist and management consultant turned digital transformation, CX, and product leader. 

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Aaron Conant

Co-Founder & Managing Director at BWG Connect

BWG Connect provides executive strategy & networking sessions that help brands from any industry with their overall business planning and execution.

Co-Founder & Managing Director Aaron Conant runs the group & connects with dozens of brand executives every week, always for free.

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Discussion Transcription

Aaron Conant  0:18

Happy Wednesday, everybody. My name is Aaron. I'm the co founder and Managing Director here at BWG Connect. We're a giant networking and knowledge sharing group of digital professionals who do exactly that we networking knowledge share together to stay on top of the newest trends, strategies, pain points, whatever it might be that shaping digital, whatever is top of mind for people. I tried to talk to 20 to 30 brands a week, that startup the fortune 100 up every vertical. And in those conversations, just saying, Hey, what are you interested in? A lot of times we go down, like, oh, you know, there's different pain points that are happening. And then other times topics like this pop up this idea of what's happening in the physical space as digital creeps into every part of our life. And so she's going to have a great conversation today. We've got some great friends, partner, supporters of the network over at Huge, and they brought in some friends as well. And so we're going to see and have a great conversation. But you know, a couple of housekeeping items, you know, we're starting four minutes after the hour. And just so you know, we're going to try to wrap up with four minutes to go as well, we're gonna give you plenty of time to get on to your next meeting without being late. There, I think we do want this to be as educational and informational as possible. So at any point in time, if you have questions, you can drop them in the chat, you can drop into the q&a, and we'll try to get to as many of those as possible. And with that, I think we just kind of do a quick roundtable here. Nicole, if you want to jump in brief intro on yourself and the organization and roll, that'd be great. And then we jump to Jason and Sid and Holden then kind of kick it off here with a round robin intro. Sound good?


Nicole France  1:45

Great. Thanks, Aaron. I'm Nicole France, I'm an evangelist at Contentful. We really are focused on all things content, and how that plays into all of the ways that organizations are trying to communicate with and engage their audiences. And you know, oftentimes, that's really focused on how you sell to your customers more effectively, how you build great, long lasting, durable relationships with those customers, as well. So I have a really vested interest in talking and thinking about the future of retail. And I'm super excited to be with this group, because it's always an interesting conversation, and I'm sure today is going to be no exception. Awesome. Jason gonna jump in.


Jason McMann  2:27

Yeah, great. Thanks so much for having me on the panel really excited for the conversation today. So my name is Jason McMann. I'm currently the vice president of our eCommerce and loyalty teams here at Domino's, focusing on our US online ordering business. So I partner with some great folks in our marketing data and operations teams to bring our online ordering Domino' and our mobile applications to life. And in some previous roles here at Domino's, I've also focused on some some store side technologies, things that customers used to bridge that omni channel experience between our online ordering ordering applications and their in store experience as well as team member applications and other things running in the stores like many boards and carry on displays and delivery tracking devices that our team members use. So yeah, thanks again. Looking forward to conversation.


Aaron Conant  3:21

Sid already Yeah,


Sid Arigapudi  3:22

thank you. So looking forward to the conversation today. Thanks for having me, subsidiary deputy director of omni channel and retail technology at Vans, so responsible for our customer experience, both digital and in our physical spaces. So you know really looking forward to the chat today. And prior to joining Vans, seven months ago, I was at reed in with Macy's and with a cena so nearly 20 years my retail career. So yeah, really looking forward to the chat


Holden Bale  3:55

today. Awesome. Holden and you've been great. Yeah, thank you. My name is Holden Bale. I lead the global commerce at Huge for growth acceleration agency. So over our sister company Elephant. My background is in the space of commerce and selling things digitally, physically. Pineapple under the seat at the manor. I've lived with Sid, through some very fun store technology rollouts. I've seen the early stages of clienteling be rolled back everybody do smart fitting rooms and stop doing smart fitting rooms and start doing smart fitting rooms again. So this whole like living at the intersectionality of of digital physical and now virtual was really home for me. And so super excited to just share some content and research that we have is pretty fresh out of the oven to tee up this great group a great group of speakers. Yeah, awesome. So


Aaron Conant  4:39

just a quick reminder for those who joined if you have questions, drop in the chat or drop into the q&a, but you know, oh, I'm not sure. I'll kick it over to you. I know you had some some slides you wanted to go through. So if you want to tell this up and we can kind of kick it off. Sounds good.


Holden Bale  4:53

Yeah, awesome. Fantastic. And can you see my screen the question of the last three years? Yes, retail rounds. Yeah. So, you know, I just want to frame this conversation in these great speakers and sort of get everybody primed for kind of the right mindset of what we're here to discuss. And obviously happy to take questions from anyone. You know, I think many of us who have operated whether it is in retail, whether it's in QSR, whether it's in hospitality, travel, anything where you have physical brand spaces have seen this story. In 2012, people said physical retail is dead showrooming web roomin Amazon's gonna destroy the world, all of these terrible things are gonna happen. It happened again in 2016. Everybody remembers the Atlantic article, the retail apocalypse, right? And so there was har all these brands are going out of stores and all these shoes made brands are going out of business. To be fair, there's a lot of retail square footage in the United States, the rental companies that were over leveraged on debt, their worst door closing. And now of course, everybody's talking about the metaverse our transition to the worst of all worlds. So that's from everybody recently, our perspective is retail. Now more than ever, is genuinely undergoing a renaissance. And you may see it and many of the folks who are on the call right now maybe practitioners themselves, it is transforming dramatically, whether it's multi Echelon multimodal spaces, you see these things like Ponseti market in Atlanta or Showfield is incredible transformation. You see the injection of convenience, sort of seamless checkout with all the just workout technology, but everything from Eataly expansion to Google doing neighborhood stores as a concept to the relaunch for those of you who fly through the Guardia airports of the new LaGuardia space and people saying, Wow, this is amazing. physical space is a great connector. And we see that in true provable numbers, 16 years, 16 years. Right now, the US retail vacancy rates are the lowest they've ever been in 16 years. So retail is incredibly hot. And the transformation has been from, we sort of make this joke about a pristine inventory repository is the place that I'm going to go get a salad or the place, I'm going to go get a pizza or it's where I'm going to go get a shirt or a dress or buy a ticket to much more experiential retail, where it's living. There's dialogues that focus on experiences and interactions and extension of brand, not just a way to drive revenue. And really, you know, you look out across the marketplace, you can do this presentation per day, there's no shortage of amazing ideas. There's unexpected applications of formats from CPG companies to Delta announcing terminal four by opening a pop up space and Soho to Nintendo, nobody thought people would buy a switch in an airport before flight. Guess what a lot of people bought a switch in the airport before a flight unexpected partners this notion of competition target bringing Ulta Beauty and CVS to run part of their business, the amazing experiential partnerships between Nordstrom and a number of brands including Nike, you know, these companies are kind of indirectly competitors in many ways. But when they come together, they're able to unlock a retail value proposition that really drives benefits for both companies above, above the line. Unexpected experiences everything from exporting goods is doing with their concept stores to Rebecca Minkoff is known for innovation, just really immersive, rich, rich, texture rich tapestry of physical experiences. And of course convenient and amazing Jason on the panel. Domino's have been a leader in this for years, marketing around that the experience that the filament tracker, which I love the potholes that you fix around the country several years ago and amazing campaign to protect the integrity of pizza delivery, which was mission critical. But you see all of these things you might not traditionally expect. And so, you know, this, this, this notion of the digital physical divide, we all know it's kind of antiquated, but we're actually seeing the intersectionality of digital driving physical and vice versa. So opening a store inside of a DMA leading to eCommerce growth inside of that DMA, the store almost as a marketing vehicle and as an acquisition vehicle uplift outside of the physical retail channel, but also sort of the Starbucks approach, have you opened a certain number of stores, you get a certain amount of saturation, you actually uplift all of the stores in that region, and you uplift digital. And what that brings us back to and this is, you know, we run a research panel at Huge commerce research, study, physical or digital is for companies, not people, right? We can't even ask Gen Z consumers about channel preferences. They don't answer their questions, because they're always on their phone. But actually, that is true across age cohorts. And I would point everybody's at the very bottom right statistics. Many of the consumers that we serve a US shopping carts as a shopping list, or an in person trip. And if we asked most brands, raise your hand, if you see that on a report card abandonment, almost all of them see it as cart abandonment, so we're not attributed the right ways. That said, change is really hard. 50% of companies were scaled, stalled or abandoned transformation efforts. I sort of made the jokes about clienteling version one, version two, version three rolling back various technologies, organizations ranked operating model as their biggest impediment to death and customer centricity. And we see it with the stork that getting rolled back with the initiative getting rolled back with the a lot of heat right now about people who are sick of self checkout. We see you know, poor shopping experiences in department stores that are understaffed with overstressed workers, all the things that happened during COVID ARP perspective is to frame the successful deployment of technology to uplift customer experience. There are three planks and there are three planks that people often forget when they're deploying these things. The first is everything needs to be customer centric RFID came out how many people were like, oh, we need to find an application for RFID. That's the wrong way to be thinking. It's a solution in search of a problem. The question is, what is the unmet human need for what is the addressable human need right? Confidence in shopping, having self service and autonomy, having novel experiences getting value for money. So value and cost, luxury and service convenience is three vectors to think about. technology needs to be in service, of amplifying and delivering against that value proposition, not trying to figure out how to deploy technology for technology's sake. I think oftentimes, when you see business cases for rolling out technology or certain changes, it doesn't come from an underlying point of consumer research. It comes from some industry benchmarking report where somebody said, Oh, if you do this thing, it'll uplift sales by 7%. But no one knows how. The second point is notion of people centred strategy, the most important people for the success of physical retail, restaurants, hospitality, travel, people on the ground, and not the people in corporate, right? And so having a harmonized experience, where I'm not just, we see so many things, quotes from employees, there's like, oh, this rolled out this piece of tech, I have no idea what it's supposed to do to me. They didn't change my incentives, or align me to what I was doing things like omni channel fulfilment, why would I want to pick an order and ship it from here, if I don't get credit for the sale, right? Disconnected journeys, paid technologies unstable, I'm in a low Wi Fi zone, all of a sudden, I can't use my mobile point of sale. So realizing that employee adoption, is mission critical to the success in any case for technology and physical spaces, regardless of what the technology is. And then finally, it can't be a one size fits all approach. It can't be smart shopping cart everywhere, it can't be pickup locker everywhere, it has to be contextual, because retail is contextual. So different deployments, coming back to different customer needs, we believe is mission critical. Also calibrating even by the format, you may have multiple different strategies for technologies inside of the same brand. Sometimes it might be about incrementality, discoverability, self service replenishment returns, whatever the case might be, you would deploy a different technology and enablement strategy for all of those formats. So why just have one universal strategy for technology and stores. And so I'll stop it there to sort of leaving that as what we see as some of the three keys to success. And in really successfully driving digital and the physical spaces. It's never forgetting these three pillars, customer driven innovation, not innovation for innovation sake, making sure the strategy is really people centred, and then not being afraid to optimize not a one size fits all approach. So that's setting us up.


Aaron Conant  12:47

Everybody still hear me? Yeah. Okay.


Aaron Conant  12:50

But so I think it's a great time. Now normally, I kind of kick off the conversation. But in this case, I'm gonna kick it over to you, Nicole, I know you sit in this space. And I'd love to hear your thoughts as we kind of walk through this.


Nicole France  13:01

Well, first of all, hold on, I have very similar perspectives on all of this stuff. And what I really appreciate about this Hold'em is you've brought us back to the key pillars here that often get lost in this idea that we need to race toward applying technology, because it's magically gonna give us all the answers for how we run our businesses better when Ultimately, it comes back to the same fundamentals. It really is all about customers, and it's all about people. And it's about connecting those things effectively. You painted a really compelling picture, I think, of what is possible, and how that can look. Good. I'm gonna start with you talk a little bit about what the reality looks like on the ground in terms of combining physical spaces with technology and how you guys advance or are thinking about bringing that together? Yeah,


Sid Arigapudi  13:53

I think the reality is, there's a fast approaching deadline, where we want, you know, want to apply here, there's a roadmap that we're trying to deploy, and there's a timeline to hit that. Hit those objectives. And you know, what's old is new, and what's new is old again. So ship to store is something we recently launched. And we were like, man, like customers are going back to their offices and metro areas, maybe they don't want packages delivered to their homes. So let's launch ship to store again, and no, that's relatively easy. And we launched it with two or three stores and thought, a couple of outlier scenarios, no big deal. We can manage it, launch it at scale. Well guess what those outlier scenarios are not so outlier anymore. They become sort of the norm that we need to go resolve and our sales associates come up with creative solutions, oftentimes with customers in front of them for those problems they're facing. So it's the deployment of technology is deployment of, you know, just the time constraints that we have to get this technology out the door. So one of the lessons we've learned is really focus on training really focus on the materials that you're sending out to our stores talk about, you know, like, it's a business transformation effort right across our fleet. So I think that's where we need to spend some time. And, again, using technology to solve problems is one way to do it. But, you know, what is the actual human element here that we want to go? Fix, right? And just going through that journey takes time?


Nicole France  15:31

What is the customer perspective on this that you're hearing? What do you know about how Vans customers are? Maybe changing their expectations? How do they perceive what happens in those physical stores? And do they really see any distinction between what's happening through digital channels or virtually with what they expect when they walk into a store? Yeah, and


Sid Arigapudi  15:54

I think one differentiation is there's availability of product in our stores, that potentially may be sold out online. So we have brand new collaborations that come in, and we tried to protect our retail inventory, at least for the first few days of that launch, because we want to drive that foot traffic into our stores and create an experience for our customers. So we have stores with skateboarding displays, where you can come in, and you can build a skateboard and have that conversation and shop, that new collaboration that's come in with, you know, a new musician, or a skateboarding, you know, champion or sponsor, right. So, we want to drive those experiences. And we've seen our customers really, you know, react to that in


Nicole France  16:43

a positive way. We'll come back to this because there's more to dig into there. But Jason, I'm curious to get your perspective on this. Because, of course, you do have physical outlets all over the place as well. But a whole lot of your customer base doesn't ever really go directly to them. So what does it look like to bring the technology into the physical store, from a Domino's perspective? And how does that influence the relationship that you have with your customers? Yeah, and actually,


Jason McMann  17:12

that's changed a lot over the last decade or so where we do see a lot more customers coming into into the store. So looking back at Domino's, is brand got its start as primarily delivery focused, company, store presence. This was not key not technology focused, either. It was really about the 30 minutes or less and getting pizza delivered quickly. Back in the in the early 2000s, we went through a bit of a turnaround. And it started with product, new recipes and getting the pizza, right and acknowledging that, then we pretty quickly followed it up with a transformation of our stores. So we went through a brand re-imaging Getting the physical presence at our stores up to date, focusing on things similar to like the interaction with the skateboards, but we put in pizza theatres and nice class areas where you can see your pizza being made to step stools, for kids to be able to step up and see their pizza being made. And that was also quickly and at the same time, along with a very heavy investment in technology. So we built our online ordering applications we had the pizza tracker was a big innovation. So we made it easier to order the pizza, we made it transparent and easy to see the whole process, still a lot of delivery focused and starting to bring people into the stores. So I think now we also look at how we can use technology to improve that store experience. And it might even be technology. You see, sometimes I think that's the best use of technology. And how can we use technology to improve a team member in the stores day to day job. So they can focus on making that pizza so that they can focus on talking to the customers as they walk into the store that they can get the pizza prepped and ready to hand off more quickly without having to have a lot of communication. So it's gotten to the point where now carry out is actually a very large portion of our business. And people still think about Domino's is a delivery company, but actually the top carry out pizza company in the state. So really do see a lot of people in the store. I think technology is a key part of that.


Nicole France  19:20

Oh, it's interesting, because you almost see this kind of counterintuitive result. Right? And I can say, I know Aaron, you were talking about this, we were starting out you're a big fan of the Domino's app. I love being able to track my pizza. I have gotten a little nerdy about that. But it's it's almost ironic that that kind of closest that that you've been able to build with customers through technology tools that allow you to track your pizza almost drives more of that interest in going to the physical location and actually being there in getting takeout and that's not necessarily something that's, you know, classically been the The pattern that one expects are associated with dominance. So it's, it's almost like the interplay between what the technology makes possible, and how that, ironically perhaps, brings the personal relationships much more to the fore. Has that changed the way that you guys think about what the technology implications of staffing, your your store outlets are, what the expectations are for the skills and capabilities that you you have in pizza shops? Yeah, I think we look


Jason McMann  20:32

for two different ways of using technology in the stores. And I think Holden hit on a couple of things. One is just unexpected convenience. And how do you make it easy for a customer to have that transaction within the store when they do a lot, maybe it's being able to click a button and have that pizza brought out to your door, we've introduced pipe paths where you can check in ahead of time and see your name displayed up on a menu board and team members can get a heads up that you're walking in. So you can get that pizza ready, because people want to have a good interaction with a server, they don't want to sit there in line for 10 minutes, how can you get that experienced to work a lot more efficiently, efficiently. It's great for the customers. But there's also the side benefits of improved team member happiness, they can work more efficiently and they can do the things that they want to do. So one of the things we look for when we're looking to introduce new technology is maybe what are the what are the pain points of a job? How could we maybe use technology to make the daily practice easier, maybe take some of the hassle out of doing inventory? Maybe where can we take some phone calls out of the store so the team members can do the things that are a little bit more important. If you're a delivery driver, you want to be getting pizzas in and out as fast as you can, you don't want to be having long turnaround time in the store. So how can you use technology to smooth that experience out. And when they all work together? You you kind of get this this magical situation where everybody's days are a little bit easier, you're getting more pizzas out the door, but you're not necessarily thinking that I'm using different technologies, it just kind of magically works seamlessly together.


Nicole France  22:08

So maybe making them barrier to using the staff really, really low. And then the level of intuitiveness really, really high. It sounds like


Jason McMann  22:17

yeah, and of course, you know, it's critically important that those things work. And it's definitely hard. But I think that by doing the hard work up front, it makes it easier in the long run, if you want it to seem like it was easy, knowing that there's a huge iceberg underneath, a lot of that's kind of goes into at


Holden Bale  22:33

that point about enablement and freeing, you know, freeing your people up to do that, like really strategic value added activities, whether it is production, whether it is running the business, firing the pizzas, whatever, or whether it's engaging with consumers, I feel like, you know, you dream up an idea of a technology or deploy, you take it to the first time to like the regional managers or the field team or whatever and they see it. I feel like you could draw a straight line between their reaction and how it ends up going. If when they're in that room, they're like, Oh, my God. Reverse is like, oh, I can be kind of good. Yeah, you now know you've already implemented you fast forward into the future, you already knew what happened, right? And I think so often, there's that divide. And that disconnect between what we think conceptually is a good idea because we saw a presentation or remodeled laid out, or we did like some high level resonance testing with users but didn't actually dig into the implementation detail, and how it actually rolled out for the people who understand and I think, actually building that bi directional feedback loop, not just ROI for the customer, Voice of the employee, like really 360 Is is a huge unlock for a lot of businesses like Domino's, like ban to figure out what's fit for purpose in terms of technology and physical spaces.


Nicole France  23:47

You know, hold on, you're anticipating what I was going to ask you, which is, it's one thing to think about what might be a really cool application of technology and turning it around in terms of how does that help you advance some priority that you have for what you want that customer experience to look like. But you're really hitting on the key issue in my mind, which is, it's really about how well you are able to anticipate what the impact is going to be and the various points at which he tests out along the way from the very earliest conceptions of the ideas, all the way through to what rollout looks like, and how you make that how you open up that opportunity to improve and tweak along the way, said you and I have talked about in the past something that I think is a really crucial aspect of this. And I'd love for you to talk a little bit about it, which is this idea of culture. Because ultimately what you're really trying to drive as a business is a culture with your staff, because that's what drives the employee experience ultimately, talk a little bit about what your experience has been in getting the culture right and how that relates to this kind of approach to implementing technology because we can have the best intentions In the world, but that doesn't necessarily always end up being what happens when we first start taking stuff off. And as you said, things like shipped a store didn't necessarily go as anticipated. Yeah,


Sid Arigapudi  25:11

and from a culture standpoint, it's giving our associates time back to focus on what's important, which is the customer in front of them, because they just love the skate culture, all of our associates do, and they want to have those conversations with our customers. But we make it harder by saying, hey, if a customer wants to know if this product is available in your store, and you have to pick up three devices to see if that's reality, you're taking away from that interaction. So one of the points that Holden made, which, you know, I'm a firm believer in is having those conversations upfront. And when we're developing the technology going through the discovery phase to say, Well, hey, that's a five step process. And we already have, you know, four different technologies that we're trying to leverage. And that adds up to this many steps, right? Is there a way we can crash that? Is there a way we can make it simpler for associates? Is there a way we can reduce the manual work that's required in this process? Because we want to get in front of our customers, we want to have those conversations. So focusing on that culture comes naturally because again, the Associates we hire and work for man's just tend to be part of that skateboarding culture to start with lifelong fans, and they want to have those conversations. So my job is to really give them that time back to do so. And when we go to our stores, when we launch new technology implementations we really dig into understand, right? How much time is it taking away from that? If I send you a manual where the feedback is, wow, I need to put aside two hours to read that that's a non starter, right? Let's step back. Let's How do I simplify


Nicole France  26:49

that for you? It's interesting, because this is something we spent a lot of time thinking about Contentful as well, because our whole mission is to make sure that there is that continuity of content, and that we're really helping to drive that, that reuse, and making sure that you do it once and you leverage it as much as you can everywhere. But part of doing that is really making it easy to put stuff in context. And I think this is this is a really crucial area when it comes to certainly the employee experience, because you want there to be a high degree of consistency between what customers see and what their expectations are, and what staff have access to in terms of information. So they know what customers are expecting as well. And they can really quickly and easily get access to whether it's supporting information coming from commerce systems about what the stock is, and where it is, or how it's getting to a customer. What the customer sees from that perspective, so they can really quickly anticipate and answer questions. But it's also things all the way through to how we're tying what happens with online and email promotions, to what happens in physical stores. And that continuity of the brand experience, but also how that ties to the customer experience. And I'm curious if you guys could talk a little bit about and maybe hold on, I'll give this to you to kick off here. How we think about what's digital, and what's physical, and how we bridge the two, because it is increasingly hard to say something is a purely digital or purely physical experience, because we do have so much and Jason, you talked a little bit about this, we do have so much that is honestly really digital content, digital experiences in stores. And that's without getting to the part where customers are always on their phone. Alright.


Holden Bale  28:52

The goal of technology should always be to be ambient. Right technologies in your favor, didn't work out too good. And so I oftentimes, I think, for everybody who's you know, on the phone or watching, you know, you're in the middle of 1234, or five different tests, or experimentations, or rollout, the big enterprise change or technology, one of the KPIs around it. And when you break down adoption, because I really hope that adoption is one of the KPIs. What do you practically mean by adoption? Is it customer sees that? Doesn't like them giving you a survey after the fact of how did you feel about that experience? Is that the hard performance metric of? Oh, no, we're seeing the opposite, that we expect that the if you are reformation, and you're doing these sort of like novel applications of smart fitting rooms that feel way more advanced than what people were doing 10 years ago, you're calling for the 5g dream, whatever. are you increasing the cell through of all the people who are going into the fitting rooms and find a way to do you have a baseline to begin with to prove it? You know, and so I think a great deal of it is there has to be a holistic measurement framework around whatever implementation here Doing and adoption can't just be about is 20% rolled out it's 50% rollout, it's 90% rolled out if there's not a multi sided view, but a 360 view of employee KPIs and consumer KPIs. It's possible you could be successful. Like, it'd be a great idea that does awesome. But are you really going to learn? What about it did awesome? How can I make the next thing also do awesome? I'm just going to extend that as a criteria is doing awesome on all of your technology rollout? And is there anything to learn to refine it for next time? And I think that so often that is lost, and we sort of ended up, especially with story technology, like you talk. I mean, I've done panels with associates with like, every day, she feels like something's been thrown at me. We test, we say we do test and learn a lot of times we just test.


Nicole France  30:49

But I would say, yeah, so beyond throws about Jason, I know, you've got thoughts on this, jump in.


Jason McMann  30:56

Yeah, I think that the rolling out of in store technology is definitely very different from from customer facing technology. And you can establish all the KPIs in the world. But one, you have to be not afraid to admit failure and roll things back and stop doing things. I think it's important to roll out in a responsible way. So we'd like to find people that are going to be good, good champions, and early adopters. So we set those KPIs upfront. But really, there's a kind of an unspoken, little bit of an art to it as well. And I think there's a point when you're rolling out team member technology, where you might have it in a pile and then all of a sudden a different employee hears about it, or different stores, I want to use that I heard about this test, it sounds like it's great. Employees have a way of talking and figuring things out that just a little bit different than than typical consumers. Once you start having other employees start to say, hey, look, it might might not be ready, or maybe they're using it for a different use case than you originally intended. But some sounds great, they love it I want to my store, then you start to have kind of a natural adoption, that becomes much easier if people are hesitant, and they're hearing bad things about you know, something's not quite right. And you might need to pivot and


Nicole France  32:14

adjust. It makes me think of experience as a consumer and also having having worked with Best Buy in a past role. The really interesting challenge they had when they started rolling out the ability to track inventory online for customers. And there was a window there where the store associates were behind because they didn't have access to the same system that customers did for what inventory was in the store. And so they actually started using the consumer app for a moment in time before that situation, fairly quickly rectified. But there's a whole interesting set of challenges that come and again, back to this idea that you can anticipate a lot of stuff and some things you just really don't know until they make it into the real world. And you you start seeing all the ways in which things work as anticipated, and absolutely not as anticipated.


Jason McMann  33:09

And it's just so so different than in a lab environment. And you get into a physical space, and you have different noises. And it's not just one applications running, it's a team and the phone is ready, and you've got a line of customers in the store. So how that technology works is totally different in that live environment. So it's really important to get that early feedback, having people physically present to to see how things are working. And not just that maybe a slow period of time, but also a busy period of time and different things that happened during the day. So that that type of physical interaction and seeing how it works in the real environment is just invaluable.


Nicole France  33:44

Said what for you guys has been the biggest lesson learned and how you roll out technology into the stores? Because I know there's there's this issue that that in a sense that associates sort of become the point of integration for all of the stuff happening. You mentioned, you know, the need sometimes to go to multiple devices to find the various things that they need. How does this inform and picking up on what Jason talked about there? The idea that there's communication going on between staff as well, like when they hear about good stuff, they want to use it? How are you thinking about this? And what for you has been the biggest, biggest lesson in tackling deployment of technology in store that really is ultimately about the customer experience, but starts with what the experience of the associates in store is.


Sid Arigapudi  34:30

Yeah, absolutely. I think it's really about plugging into that employee network of you know, what is the communication that's happening amongst our store associates and we have a hub for that. That's a little bit more formal, but informally, you know, for me personally, it's about visiting our stores and really getting under the hood. glimpse of what's happening. I know when we spoke previously I mentioned our associates are very creative and takes me a while to get to a point where they start to express you know, the true feelings about how technology is working because they're number one, you know, for better or worse, their mindset is, hey, I'm going to get through this, and we're going to serve our customers, which is fantastic. But my job is to really help you help make it easier for you right to do that, because as I think about KPIs, it's not necessarily just, you know, hey, what's our cancellation rates, you know, how quickly our associates able to receive an order and actually fulfill it time to fulfillment, it's the brand perception that the customer is going to have as well, which is a little bit more challenging to measure because I think about this as if I come to a store to do a bulk purchase order. And it takes me 15 20 minutes of standing around to for the associate, to go find the order because our backroom process may not be as efficient. You know, those examples? I mean, as a customer, I'm going to be frustrated, right? So it's how do I make it easier for associates? It doesn't lead to that frustration? And, you know, at times, we think, wow, the customer is waiting 15 minutes? Could they be shopping? Well, no, they're probably, you know, a little annoyed that they're having to wait so long, I'd rather have them be efficient. And if they have time, right, potentially learn about our customs wall as an example. And is there a future purchase there because they had a positive interaction with bands. And that positive interaction is built upon our associates having the right technology, the right tools to serve that customer as quickly as possible. So it really it's connecting into that associated network and understanding what's working and what isn't working and getting them to open up to us early in the process, rather than, you know, oh, here's a net new technology, we're adding a while we haven't resolved all of this yet. Right. Before we add on. So continuing to have that conversation is critical for us.


Holden Bale  36:44

Nicole, I have a question for you. Because you did an analyst, I'm just throwing it out there, you have no prep for this, you've been an analyst, like you've seen the forest level view. Right? Not to age it, but for a while now. For a while now. I mean, you know, the technology vendors, what the brands have tried across all the place, have you seen dramatic shifts? In the problems that we're talking about solving? And we're talking about, you know, the application of digital physical integration, has anything changed dramatically in the conversation? Or is it you know, largely the same problems, we're just trying to follow with new tech.


Nicole France  37:23

To some degree, the problems are always the same, right? If you really want to boil it down, it's fundamentally about how well you understand your customers and the experience that you're trying to give them. The ability to connect what your staff and your your frontline associates are doing to that experience that you want to deliver. And building that continuity across all of these different elements that might or might not be in a physical store. And increasingly, they are not, there's some, there's some weird and wonderful combination of all of these things. What I think has changed is an understanding of what those combinations actually look like me, I think an openness to realizing that we are at a point where there's some really significant evolution that is happening at a pretty rapid pace. So I think it's it's fascinating having this conversation with you guys didn't, Jason because I think both Vans and Domino's are really good examples of companies that have notably embraced technology as being a key part of the way that you engage with your customers. And in some cases, really, fundamentally changing. Certainly, for Domino's. This is this is a very clear perception, right? What the business is and how the business operates. Where I think it starts to get very different is this idea that it's not about massive sweeping changes, it's about having a clarity of vision for what you would like the customer experience to be, and a mindset of experimentation, but one that is not foisted on staff, but is done along with staff to help understand how we get to, you know, what is the next best thing? And I think, you know, the challenge is always is there's not a steady state, you know, there's not one perfect customer experience. Maybe there's a moment in time where we get it really, really right. But then things change, customer expectations, change, market dynamics change the art of the possible changes to and you know, maybe this is a good way of getting to how we want to round this out, which is what does the future look like? Because I think where we're getting to a point where the technology itself, and the way that we use it is getting so much better than it really is getting out of the way. So it's not about the technology, it's about how the technology facilitates the kinds of relationships and interactions that we want to have. And as strange as that may sound, you know sometimes the thing that feels like the most personal interaction is one where I'm not actually talking face to face to an associate but it feels like I am so you know, we're getting Closer and closer to that point. What I'm really curious to know from all of you is, what do you think is next? What is what is the next thing that we really need to be thinking about to continue to elevate and push the boundaries on those customer experiences in a way that's in line with with what your businesses really want to deliver to your customers? So said, I'll kick it over to you. I don't know what, what's top of mind for you about how you continue to build on this really broad interpretation of advanced customer experience? Yeah,


Sid Arigapudi  40:40

I mean, I think it's a competitive advantage for us that we have over 450 brick and mortar stores. And as I think about the future, it's, you know, making our customer aware of their local store and building that relationship. And, you know, it's a buy into our culture. And you know, obviously, bringing the customer closer to our product, but at the same time, allows us to unlock any logistics challenges we may have, you know, Amazon continues to drive the Hey, we can get it to you within a few hours now, right? Well, there's a store near a customer that the customer is aware of leveraging, buy online, pick up in store, leveraging same day delivery, are there options for us to make that connection even tighter and improve that experience for our customers who expects product relatively quickly.


Nicole France  41:26

Yeah, it's interesting, because it's almost like we were talking earlier at the start about the meta versus running in the opposite direction. We want all the advantages of having the stuff tied up on the back end, technologically, but we want that we want that personal experience. Jason, what about you? How do you how do you think about this? And what comes next? Yeah, that's a great,


Jason McMann  41:51

great question. I think that there's so many, maybe high level or pie in the sky type, things like robots and drone deliveries, and things like that, that get a lot of attention when you're thinking about future technology. But sometimes it's things that are maybe a little bit smaller in scope, but really allow you to or to use technology and new and novel ways to make just better internet connectivity, more available, faster cellular connections, more robust, cheaper tablets, and hardware that allow you to do things in different kinds of spaces. Like that. We all just are on our phones and able to plug our phones right into a car when we go to drive and then you plug it out. And so it's just kind of this continuous availability of the technology and applications and internet connections that can allow you to build new experiences in new ways that may not have been possible even a couple of years ago.


Nicole France  42:57

So yeah, go on. Sorry.


Jason McMann  43:00

Yeah, we're just continuing to look at ways of using those those things in combination to together to just make a more seamless experience. And then like we've talked about, it's not necessarily going for the big bangs, but just making them the foundation for how we do things day to day, and then gradually introducing these magical surprises that hopefully make each each experience a little bit faster and a little bit less stressful, and a little bit


Nicole France  43:26

more fun. Yeah, I like the more fun part, it kind of feels like that's what we've been missing. And all this stuff like we could get really, really serious about technology implementation and adoption. And you know, honestly, when you start looking at the level of investment, some seriousness is is merited, but like it really ought to be in service of making the stuff just a whole lot more fun. I like that a lot. It strikes me too, that this idea of making the experiment smaller, possibly in service of doing something a lot bigger is really kind of where it's at. I also think and this is certainly something that I see from my current vantage point, that there's a lot more focus and a lot more emphasis on really trying to empower everybody at the frontlines, so that again, they're they're more active drivers and participants and helping to define what a lot of these experiments look like, because let's face it, you know, they're the ones who see the problems firsthand every day, sometimes in the most clear focus, and putting them in a position of being able to identify and problem solve and giving them the tools that they need to do it. You know, like that seems to me, like a really fascinating trend. And I'm curious that I see you nodding this is something that this is something that you guys are looking at, in how you do this that man


Sid Arigapudi  44:55

Yeah, absolutely. You know, one of the things that makes my heart sing because if I hear Are my associate explaining to a customer the idea of a remorse period? And why they can't make up their bogus order that they see right there in front of them? Right? It's those aren't the conversations, you know, we should be having with our customers, let's bring the fun back into those conversations. You know, let's talk about the last time you landed your kickflip, or whatever, right? So yeah, I totally agree. And I also agree with Jason on the one getting the one on ones, right. I mean, for network in our store is slow. You know, the customer is going to bring out their cell phone and say, I've got LTE, I can do a lot of these things, you know, much faster than you're able to do. In fact, I have an email that says, My orders ready, why aren't you able to see that, right? So little things like that, that we just need to get right? Because it goes back to the underlying foundation of let's have fun in our conversations with our customers, again, no more talk about remorse periods and why we can't or why something went wrong. It's about you know, how can I product better


Nicole France  45:57

serve you? Hold on, I know, you've got a lot of views on this, but not just about how to make it fun. But what's your take on this balance between getting the fundamentals right, and thinking about where we try new things?


Holden Bale  46:14

Yeah, I mean, I think, although I don't, I'm not a fan of to speed it necessarily. I think you kind of have to have to speed implementation improvement, like you got to have forward momentum to get people excited about the new stuff. And you have to know that getting the brilliant basics in place are going to take a while having an eCommerce stack. There's so much more sophisticated in store tech stack is starting to kill companies. And it's exactly scenarios it's talking about people have like 5g phones, they can look up the inventory visibility faster, because this person was like tethered to, or they built around the store pod, they gave the associate a tablet, tablet, super great for visibility, but can't do any of the transactional stuff, you got to walk back to the pods. I feel like half of the clients we go to the amount of categories like pick pick a category, if you have a physical space can be a b2b company that gives lumbered a labor pros or whatever to go build houses. They're all approximately 174 years into what was supposed to be a two year POS rollout upgrade, you know? And so it's sort of like how do you advance and push beyond the infrastructural debt that you carry? While you're trying to innovate on top of it, and then eventually, there's gonna be some disconnecting, you have to harmonize it all back together. And honestly, if I knew how to solve that problem, I, you know, would be a billionaire living on my Moonbase. So, but I think it just requires intentionality, it requires focus, it requires super active change management, it's so easy to have change fatigue as an organization, especially me, Jason, you didn't do an amazing job at Domino's innovation. But I mean, 1000s 1000s of like the footprint, global, super Huge rolling out a big change can take such a long time. And if there's not the executive sponsorship, if there's not the clarity of vision, if there's not the capacity to pivot, you know, it'll fail under its own weight. But I think everybody can probably do their own little maturity audit for what the brilliant basics are, I think the important thing is when you're thinking about deploying that new innovations that are meant to bring fun and serendipity into it, if it's not, based on human centered insight and innovation need something that comes out of consumer research, if it's just oh, you saw that you thought it was cool? Nope, no, no, no, fix the basic first don't prioritize that, because that is something that's just gonna go far afield and break the foundations even more.


Nicole France  48:33

Yeah, it's, it's interesting to see the temptation to keep doing the next, you know, jump on the next shiny thing that comes by. And if you don't have good foundations in place, not only is it really hard to do that, but you're ignoring the bigger problems that are much, much bigger detractor than anything cool and shiny that you managed to get going. One of my takeaways from this conversation is that we're really at a point where we're trying to build the kinds of relationships and experiences with our customers and for our, our staff, and Associates and other employees that really make it easy to adapt and change as we're going along. So getting those fundamental building blocks in place, but building blocks that are adaptable, and not necessarily stuck in one rigid way of working because the stuff is clearly evolving really, really quickly. So that's a big one. I think what I see as well is the fundamentals really haven't changed. It is about customers. It's ultimately all about customers. And it's about how we create the environment for our employees to work effectively. To shape what that customer experience looks like in the all the ways big and small that come into that. And it's it's about thinking differently about how technology works in service and those ends, as opposed to being the thing that's magically going to solve whatever problems we have. And I always love when people talk about, you know, the technology that's going to create great customer experiences, because of course, that's not actually how it works. Um, any final closing thoughts? said, I'll start with, you


Sid Arigapudi  50:22

know, a great conversation. And, you know, I think it reinforces my, you know, notion of, Hey, make technology work for you, and not the other way around. And sometimes I think, we tend to aim for speed and we get caught up in, you know, oh, new technology, we'll put extra processes in place to make it work. But we really have to slow down and get our foundation and fundamentals right.


Jason McMann  50:46

Yeah, I really liked Holden's note about the technology being ambient. I think that we can look at successes, maybe at the end of the day, but maybe the customers and in the team members in the stores don't even realize they interacted with four different screens and all of the behind the scenes AI or various eCommerce systems that went into making everything work. And they just maybe remember the pizza at the end of the day and how nice the experience was versus all the technology they interacted with throughout the


Holden Bale  51:13

experience. Holden Oh, no, no, it's just wonderful conversation. Thank you so much. I'm so excited. I think, for those of you who are kind of lucky to live closer to cities or hubs of innovation, I think we can almost kind of get tired of like, oh my god, that was a cool thing. Or I can't believe they did this. I can't believe Domino's did that. I think the next five to 10 years of physical brand spaces across all consumer category. I'm just super excited to see what happens. I mean, everybody can wrap up their 142 year pause rollout, you know.


Aaron Conant  51:50

I'm just gonna jump in here. The Nicole I, you're awesome. I'll moderate 200 Plus events this year like this. And this was just fantastic to just sit back and watch another master work in the space. You just You crushed it. Love the conversation. Jason said Holden. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. And yeah, again, Nicole, that was that was so much fun on my side, learn the time. And with that, I think we're going to wrap this up again. We can send out slides afterwards more than happy to connect you with anybody on the panel today. We want to make sure we get as much networking done as possible. You know, Contentful and Huge great friends, partners, supporters of the network. Thanks so much for helping us put this on. With that. I think we're gonna wrap it up. Here again, everybody for dialing in look for a follow up email from us. We'd love to stay in touch. Everybody take care of stay safe and look forward to having you on a future event. Awesome.

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