6 Digital Strategies by Chico's Shelagh Stoneham

Keynote: Headwinds into Tailwinds

Welcome to the eTail Keynote Series, today featuring Senior Vice President for Marketing at Chico's, Shelagh Stoneham.

Shelagh opened her talk by stating that, despite being told for years that change is good, we must now shift our attitude to one that states change is necessary. The retail industry is facing many significant headwinds and those brands which fail to adapt are likely to find themselves in dire straits before long.


Competition is tougher than ever thanks to the global marketplace the internet has opened for customers. No longer restricted by geography, this has created a situation where small to medium sized brands are finding themselves competing with huge global corporations. Amazon is setting customer expectations regarding service and experience to an unprecedented level and retailers everywhere are feeling the pressure to keep pace - if keeping pace is even possible.

Customers today want increased transparency, such as being able to compare prices across different products. They want the checkout process to be quick and easy, with two or one click ordering, such as Dominos which allows you to order your favorite pizza, to your usual address, using your usual payment details, with a single click. They want delivery to be fast and cheap/free, with most not tolerating longer than one- or two-day dispatch times. Finally, they want brands to use data to personalize the experience and prove they really know them.

And retailer need to achieve all this, while keeping costs to a minimum and the shareholders happy. Budgets are flatlining and there isn't much cash floating around to make it all happen.


How then, can retailers try and meet these expectations?

More marketing across the maximum number of channels is a good place to start. Shelagh references a Microsoft study which found that humans today have an incredibly short attention span which means content must be plentiful and relevant, but also kept brief.

Brands need to get to know their customers and find out what their unmet needs are. Thankfully, internet-based tools such as Survey Monkey make it a breeze to conduct market research as long as brands are willing to sweeten the pot with a little incentive.

Competition must be viewed as an opportunity rather than an oppressive force. Entering new markets can be a good way to revitalize your brand. Canada is notoriously difficult to get into and is a significantly smaller market than the US, but we're seeing more and more brands do just that.

Technology can be used to, not only provide great customer experiences, but also support other strategic goals. For example, augmented reality apps which help customers try on makeup/clothing/glasses etc., can assist them in ordering the right product first time, which means fewer costs related to returns for your company.

Final Thoughts

All businesses face headwinds. However, by thinking strategically and making sure all your marketing and technology innovations are getting the maximum bang for your buck, you can quickly find your fortunes turning around and your brand setting sail for calmer waters.

For more insights, join us at eTail Boston, happening this August 11 - 13 at the Sheraton Boston! eTail is four days of action-packed stories, conversations, and connections with the top minds at America's most successful retailers. Download the agenda here for full details.

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