Macy’s Makes Another Play In Technology & Redefining The Department Store

June 15, 2018

It’s clearer now than ever that just product isn’t enough to make physical retail enticing to today’s consumer. But what has also become clear is that an “experience”, which has become perhaps too much a focus, isn’t enough either – at least, not on its own.

Retailers are finding that the answers to their complex questions around brand versus product versus experiences, are enlightened when the strategy starts with the customer. Answering customer needs, above all else. And not only the desire for new and interesting experiences, but also the desire for convenience and, “what’s going to make my life easier”.

And now, retailers are beginning to hear, and act on that message more clearly. This week, Macy’s took another step in a focused path to redefine itself, in a world where department stores have been struggling for some time. Over the past year, they have placed tremendous attention on transforming the experience in their stores, which has challenged them to maintain a balance of the Macy’s brand that everyone knows and is familiar with, with the future-facing retailer that they are working to become. They’re trying to reestablish themselves as an authority on fashion and product, but recognize that getting consumers closer to product – and, more importantly, getting closer to the consumer – requires great technology working both up front and behind the scenes. Technology allows them to be customer-centric, rather than simply product-centric.

It’s really about keeping customers engaged, which gives retailers the chance to collect data and better understand what makes their customers tick.

Macy’s, like many retailers as of late, has placed a tremendous bet in tech, particularly if you look at their moves over the past year. They’ve developed new in-store solutions, like the “At Your Service” counters in select stores, and “You Cam Makeup” at their beauty counters. Just this week, they named a new Chief Technology Officer, Naveen Krishna, which is another reflection of their continually growing vision for better digital and in-store experiences that are powered by technology-focused solutions.

The recent b8ta acquisition is another leg of their journey. B8ta has an edge with early adopters, which could give Macy’s increased exposure to those kinds of shoppers that are otherwise relatively nontraditional to the average department store shopper. But it has to feel authentic to the consumer. Macy’s needs to continue to create an environment within its Market@Macy’s concept that doesn’t just feel fresh and new, but a place where people are getting exclusive access to try some truly innovative product. The space they create needs to blend well with the experience enabled by b8ta technology.

We’ve seen technology investments as a reoccurring theme, even when you look just at the department store space. Earlier this year, Nordstrom acquired BevyUp and MessageYes, tech companies that focus on personalizing the customer experience – ultimately enabling the human touch, and interactions with store associates to extend beyond the physical store.

It’s really about keeping customers engaged, which gives retailers the chance to collect data and better understand what makes their customers tick. But more importantly, it’s about knowing how and when to use technology to address genuine pain points, driven by customer needs. These technology investments need to be evaluated in that lens, with strategic vision behind them; otherwise, it might be challenging for them to have any kind of meaningful impact.

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