Last week, I stepped out of my sweats and de-wrinkled my blazer to attend the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo (RetailX) in Chicago, Illinois. RetailX is a conference designed to connect industry experts as they share insights on how digital and physical retail work together to create amazing customer experiences – and creating amazing customer experiences is one of our obsessions here at Loop, so we had to attend. 

From magicians to life sized stuffed animals, brands held nothing back. Some brands made their booths look just like a living room with fake fireplaces and all, and others set theirs up like a real storefront. But, one thing that most had in common was coffee.

That’s right. If you’re a caffeine addict like me, the sheer volume of coffee stations throughout the show was both overwhelming and exciting. Drawing people in with coffee was a clever play for brands, because accepting coffee was synonymous with accepting a product demonstration. 

It’s safe to say I watched a lot of demos. 

It wasn’t all fun and games; some of the world’s largest brands like Amazon, Target, and Ford came together to share practical tips on how to improve the marriage between digital and physical retail, which was the real reason I attended with a few fellow Loopers (the coffee was just a nice add-on).

If you didn’t get a chance to attend, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. 

Here are a few takeaways from my trip to RetailX:

Virtual cannot replace in-person interactions.

Although there’s convenience and innovation that comes with virtual work, there is nothing quite like that personal face-to-face interaction that can only happen in-person. Whether it’s meeting a coworker for the first time, or connecting with potential prospects and loyal customers, there’s something about in-person conversations that enable you to build stronger relationships. We can certainly attest to this; it was wonderful to interact with the real people behind these iconic brands throughout the show.

Don’t assume anything; use data analytics.

Throughout the show, there were multiple breakout sessions where experts spoke about their experiences building a brand. In one instance, we listened to one of our merchants, Rich Fulop from Brooklinen, speak about his journey in the industry. The main takeaway was to never assume you know who your customers are, and to use data analytics to back up your decision making. Without strong data, brands wouldn’t be able to accurately predict what merchandise customers are seeking, let alone where good physical locations should be opened.

Learn from your customers.

We also had the chance to hear from another one of our merchants, Alvey Faulkenbery from Alvey’s Boots, as he discussed his customer retention strategies. He put it simply: Ask your customers questions. Find out where they’re going. Talk with them, send surveys, and learn from them first-hand. And that’s a philosophy that can be integrated into your brand’s culture. If you expect employees to communicate openly, honestly, and frequently with customers, then you’re not only more likely to gain insightful feedback, but also make happier customers.

It’s safe to say that we learned a lot, and after all the face-to-face interactions, discussions, and networking we just experienced we’re so excited to be back at live events. 

Thank you to RetailX for putting up such an incredible event – we can’t wait to come back.

We’ll be at Grow NY July 19-20, and we hope to see you there.