By Kiana Blaylock (’19), Chief Strategic Officer of Phin Communications
A recent roundtable discussion designed to examine the rise of technology and the fall of in-store shopping morphed into a conversation about the importance of authentic relationships.
The Jacksonville University (JU) Davis College of Business hosted a forum on innovation and its disruption in the consumer services industry as a part of its Panel Discussion & Luncheon Series. Students Marissa Davenport, Peter Steo, and David Hein organized this portion of the series with the help of Jack Parker, Executive in Residence at JU.
Guest panelists were chosen due to their success in the consumer goods and services marketing industry. Mark White retired as the Senior Vice President of Merchandising Services for The Home Depot in 2017. Jonathan Bennett serves as the Executive Vice President of Merchandising and Supply Chain of Total Wine & More. Matt Gutermuth is currently President of iControl Data Solutions and served as a senior merchandising executive at Sysco. “All of these people are great at what they do. Being a part of our advisory board made them great choices to speak to our students,” Parker said. “When you mix great public speaking with expertise, a successful event is born.”
Though the panelists’ expertise vary in different goods and services, they all agreed on one common disruptor of in-store retail – Amazon. Gutermuth compared consumers’ experiences with catalog shopping and online shopping. “Years ago, the Sears catalog said you can have whatever you want in two weeks. We were okay with that. Now, it’s ‘Are you kidding me? Amazon said I can have it in two hours.’”
White remembered the days of Macy’s being the one stop shop for major brands. Macy’s was where people could get anything they wanted and that was the only option. Consumers had little means for price comparisons and accepted those prices. Transparency in retail has changed that, according to White. Now, consumers can see all the prices from different stores on Amazon.
“To hear real-life examples about the concepts that students are learning in class is like a look behind-the-scenes and at their futures.”
The solutions to this obstacle, panelists all agreed, are relationships, authenticity, and engagement. Bennett praised Sephora, multinational chain of beauty and personal care stores, for having one of the best in-store shopping experiences. He recommended taking some pointers from the rapidly-expanding beauty store. “For us, it’s tastings, and with them, makeovers, but engagement and interaction is still key,” he said. “Right at the door, the consumers can feel the difference.”
Parker hopes the DCOB students understand that no matter the era and level of technology, it will always be about the customer and their experience. “This exposure to business leadership is priceless,” said Parker. “To hear real-life examples about the concepts that students are learning in class is like a look behind-the-scenes and their futures.”
For more details on future discussions in the Panel Discussion & Luncheon Series, contact Jack Parker at 904-631-6432, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business online.