Creating Stories that Transform the Retail Industry
With his demonstrated skills in strategy, business planning, fundraising and sales management, George Christofis Neto has remained a pragmatic leader in the retail industry. His undying passion for entreprenuership and the desire to take the unchartered path has helped him carve a niche in the industry. A thorough people’s man, George values human relationships and places his employees at the heart of all things at his organization.
As the Co-founder of Mercafacil, the largest platform for managing customer behavior in Brazil, the entreprenuer is at the helm of affairs at the company. In an interview, he speaks on an array of topics – from the conception of Mercafacil to the challenges faced in the industry, from the sucess stories the company has witnessed, to his vision for the retail industry. Excerpts from the interview:
Mercafacil works on the belief that behind every purchase there is a story. Says George, “Information, combined with behaviors, provide the necessary directions for decision making in multiple environments. The digitization of behaviors can provide valuable insights for the correct execution of retail. We believe that above all there is a why. We believe we can create stories that transform retail.”
Conception of Mercafacil
George notes that he was born into a family which was into pharmaceuitcal business. “As a kid I witnessed difficulties faced by the typical small and medium retailers. Unfortunately, our family-run pharmacy had to be shut down since it suffered major losses.” This drove him to ponder over possible business strategies for small and meduim retailers, even at a very young age. “In college, I was into an engineering championship, and during that time, I conceived the first idea around starting Mercafacil. Since then, I partnered with Bruno Leal, an amazing and intelligent person, who started the journey with me. Now, with more than thousands retailers and customers, I believe that if Mercafacil existed 10 years ago, the story of our pharmacy would be different” chuckles George.
As a leading customer behaviour platform in Brazil and with thousands of customers who generates more than R$30b in sales per year, Mercafacil aims at boosting retail sales through the best shopping experience (offline and online). The company is also creating a new category in retail called ‘Consumer Behavior Management’, which helps retailers easily manage their consumer churn, offering the best purchase experience based on their behavior in a ‘phygital’ (physical and digital retail, together). As a complete omni-channel solution that aims at transforming the way retailers sell and relate to their customers, the company provides the best shopping experience, that is highly recommended by its customers too.
CBM – Benefits and Features
With Mercafacil, retailers can identify and learn consumer behavior (GDPR compliant) and use it to market the products to customers in a personalized way, thus, increasing revenue by finding the best cluster to advertise products. It also helps organically adapt marketing strategies based on previous campaigns results and offer a PHYGITAL experience (physical and digital store integrated) and use it to: build an e-commerce integrated with the physical store, create stores into marketplaces, understand behavior through different channels, stores, e-commerce and marketplaces, offer a re-buying experience based on behavior and cross channel and help create personalized campaigns for brands based on behavior using trade marketing budget from industries.
Building a Strong Customer Base
“Customer Management is directly linked to the quantity and quality of your base. With Mercafacil’s promotional intelligence, we help you build a robust database with all the necessary information so that your company can manage customers focused on results.”
Artificial and Behavioural Intelligence
With a robust database in hand, Mercafacil’s platform provides analysis and insights into the behavior of its customers, which help them make the best decisions and also drive sales. Through the solutions offered by the company, new opportunities could be created, that could be aimed at increasing revenue.
Chosing the Right Product
Equipped with the right purchase behavior information and exact analyses that determines consumer behaviour analysis, the retailers stand a chance to be more relevant and assertive in its commercials, communication and relationship strategies with its customers. “This acts as a strong startegy to attract new customers, while retaining the old ones.”
Stressing on the need for an integration between the physical and online stores, George notes that the latest restrictions imposed by the pandemic caused a consumer-shift between channels, consequently impacting their shopping preferences. “According to data from GFK, the growth in sales of retailers that have a physical store and also an online store was up to four times higher than of the pure player (physical or online), which makes it clear that the new shopping journey demands, more than never, integration between the physical and online store.”
“Returning to a normal life, the representativeness in physical store sales will rise again, but it is clear that the consumer journey has turned, into PHYGITAL (physical and digital store integrated) and it demands being ready to offer this shopping experience in different levels of digital maturity. The integration between channels (digital and physical) is able to capture much more value than a single channel, whether it is in the physical store (much sacrificed in the pandemic) but also, pure digital operations failing to generate the same experience as the physical channel.” George observes that the traditional sales strategy of salesperson waiting outside the stores for customer should be avoided as the relationship between a customer and retailer will never be the same again.
Pandemic resulted in many retail chains losing out on their major chunk of sales and thus creating a demand for a new hybrid way of selling. Mercafacil worked closely with many retail giants to revamp their sales during the pandemic.
The company helped Armazem 3, an upscale super market located in Florianopolis, Brazil change the product mix, adding more day-to-day food items, while discontinuing higher cost items purchased only by tourists. It also focused on selling products, now consumed by customers cooking at home fueled by a #HappyHourAtHome campaign on digital marketing channels and direct marketing. Through ‘GrabAndGo’, it targetted senior citizens living in Jurere and nearby neighborhoods, allowing customers to place orders online and get the purchase at the parking lot. Mercafacil’s association with the brand also ensured increased mix of beverages, particularly beers and spirits, to capture consumption that earlier happened inside bars during pre covid times. The program also mooted the retailer’s status to a major participant of the local program to donate food to lower income people. “Focused adverting on direct marketing and digital media, repositioned the stores as the best alternative for high quality products at affordable prices.”
Lealtex, yet another leading bed and bath retailer, saw all stores closed due to the advent of the pandemic. Mercafacil’s demographic and historic sales data helped them design product promotions. “Each salesman called their customers making offers and directing interested customers to stores, processing orders and delivering products. Customers’ acceptance was above expectations.“
Zaffari, yet another leading Brazilian wholesaler/supermarket, who operates out of South Brazil sought help from the company to boost its sales including enhancing of customer analytics and customer behavior management. The retailer that owns two brands and 28 stores, fostered the advantages of customer analytics that became a core capability, as the analytics team participated in key promotional decisions. Various campaigns were drawn for the retailer, aligning with marketing, purchasing and pricing departments. “Direct marketing campaigns received a larger share of the marketing budget, thus, boosting results. Thousands of personalized messages were also sent to customers on a daily basis.Result-oriented campaigns were carefully crafted to reach evaluated and continuously results.”
George reinforces that the tecnology market is super heated, and retailers should take advantage of the moment creating a culture to test startups that solve big problems. “From data to operational problems, there are a lot of startups in the market that can make retail more profitable.”
Establishing a culture based on true values, that put people first and provide flexibility along with empowerment has made Mercafacil one of the best companies to work for in Brazil. “Good partners, predictable manage, risk taking and focus on growth, will make your journey tough, but amazing.”
As a resilient, visionary and a pragmatic leader whose decisions are based on data and rationality, George urges all new entreprenuers to test their hypothesis, in an agile and scientific way. “There is no problem in failure, the problem is to NOT FAIL or stay too long doing the same mistake without learning. Build trust with your team and believe in your progress, failure it’s a choice.” He also suggests that entreprenuers follow uncomfortable situations that would lead them to the desired success.
Situ Live : Converging Digital & In-Store Shopping Practices
Warren Richmond, Founder & CEO, Situ Live
Situ Live-Converging Digital and In-Store Shopping Practices
Warren Richmond is a passionate storyteller, an ardent retail enthusiast, a progressive leader, and an innovative entrepreneur. Throughout his entire career span that mainly focused around retail industry, he has been driven by a desire to deliver the best possible customer experiences. As the founder and CEO of Situ Live, an immersive physical and digital shopper destination, Warren has remained an advocate of creating highly motivational environments and causing disruption in markets that need it. In an interview, he speaks on an array of topics. Excerpts:
Conception of Situ Live
Warren notes the existence of many trailblazing products in the market and the need to better airtime those cannot be truly demonstrated online, as reasons behind founding of Situ Live. “During my time setting up and growing field marketing agencies, I saw first-hand the problem lifestyle and technology brands have, showcasing innovation products through traditional retail and e-commerce. That’s why I founded Situ Live, an immersive shopper destination that brings products to life through experiential theatres, live demonstrations, and a digital discovery platform.”
“The first venue will open at Westfield London this September, showcasing a world-class collection of brands from the likes of Maserati, Oculus, Fitbit, and Bosch to cutting-edge companies with innovation you won’t find in other stores.”
Situ Live Product Experience Platform
With an aim to deliver an exceptional shopper experience, that engages customers long after they leave the store through an online community, Situ Live strives to create an environment that isn’t just about sales tactics, but about genuinely helping people discover and choose products that improve their every day. “This experience should also encourage the engagement and loyalty that empowers both consumers and brands. When people come through our doors, they’ll get the best of both worlds.”
Technology Vs Human Touch
Situ Live harnesses the power of emotional connections to help brands stand out in a competitive market, providing an economical way for them to present the true value of their products. “I think the main thing I want to get across is that while technology can undoubtedly enhance the retail experience, a human touch still matters. Modern consumers use a variety of channels, and so it is important for us to combine digital and in-store shopping practices in a way that suits them.”
Challenges Facing Retail
The recent lockdowns led to a surge in e-commerce and accelerated digital transformation and without a doubt, online sales will continue to rise, but that doesn’t mean people want the entire shopping experience to take place online, notes Warren. Businesses need to be investing in a seamless, omnichannel shopping experience and must be prepared to go wherever their customers are, and increasingly this is across a multitude of channels and spaces – both online and offline. “Unfortunately, very few businesses have been doing this, and there has been severe underinvestment in physical retail and customer experience. So, now is the time for brands to be bold, purposeful and evolve with the times, otherwise they will be left behind.”
Situ Live’s Westfield venue will showcase a range of products from premium, household names to emerging brands with ground-breaking innovation. “Each brand is charged a monthly subscription for inclusion in our fully managed experiential venues, on our online platform and for access to analytics. For established brands, it provides an opportunity to connect with a new audience. For instance, NordicTrack, who historically operated in the B2B space, are partnering with Situ Live as they want to increase their reach and sell direct to consumers.”
While for new-to-market brands – who may find it challenging to get into traditional retail stores – Situ Live is a flexible, low-cost entry point into retail. To find these innovative brands, the company recently partnered with small business support provider, Enterprise Nation, receiving over 500 applicants to its Spotlight initiative to find the next generation of high street entrepreneurs. “Ultimately the brands which benefit the most from joining us at Situ Live, will be those whose product value cannot be fully demonstrated online. Think VR headsets, sound systems, flat-screen TVs, and sofas” adds Warren.
“As a leader it is critical to set clear and consistent goals, and then to be persistent in achieving them. I need to have unshakeable self-confidence, particularly when faced with periods of uncertainty, and be able to effectively communicate this to my team. I would say I am authentic.”
“In my opinion, leadership and learning are intrinsically linked. I strive to learn something new every day. To do this, I surround myself with people with complimentary skillsets, and endeavor to learn through experience,” signs off Warren.
Tidel : Cash Management Optimization at its Best
Darren Taylor, President & CEO, Tidel
Cash Management Optimization at its Best
In the late 1960s, four Boeing engineers devised the very first time-delay cash safe. One of the engineers had a convenience store that was subject to robberies. When they installed their time-delay safe, the robbery incidences were dramatically reduced. This got the attention of 7-Eleven, the retail chain, who at the time changed their operating hours to a full 24-hour operation. Unfortunately for them, once they changed their operating hours, they faced an uptick in robberies. Once 7-Eleven saw the impact of the time-delay safe, they placed them in a few of their locations, and their robbery incidences dropped substantially. They then decided to roll out the safes into all their stores, and formed a division of their company to develop and manufacture them. Thus was born Tidel (short for Time Delay). “We were a part of 7-Eleven for many years, and in 1992, we spun out from them to become our own independent company,” says Darren Taylor, President and CEO of Tidel.
The company, today, uniquely provides cash management solutions for both small and large format retailers. They have greatly expanded their smart safe portfolio and introduced multiple new product lines including cash recycler solutions that help retailers automate back-office cash handling. “Today, we offer the broadest lineup of cash automation solutions for the retail marketplace. Our systems are designed to help retailers automate and secure their cash handling processes both at point of sale, and in the back office, allowing store employees and managers to focus on what’s most important – providing a great shopping experience for their customers, while simultaneously creating an environment based on greater security, transparency, and accountability” adds Taylor.
Supporting a Retailer’s Journey
Over the years, there has been an unprecedented demand for cash automation solutions to deliver step changes to store efficiency. Tidel helps support retailers on this journey with their cash management solutions that deliver a material and tangible benefit for multiple functions within the retailer. “Automation, and therefore redeployment of labor by these solutions improves the retailer’s cost of operation and, when combined with loss reduction for Asset Protection and cash flow improvement for Treasury, they deliver a cross functional gross profit increase to retailers,” briefs Taylor.
For instance, Abercrombie and Fitch, a lifestyle retailer, was facing challenges with inefficient use of their store labor when it came to handling their cash. Many store managers were away from the store, making bank runs or spending time in the back office preparing deposits. Moreover, they lacked visibility into their store transactions. “Our smart safes not only helped them reduce the labor involved with manual cash handling but they helped facilitate a more transparent environment propelled by real-time data,” points out Taylor. This enabled Abercrombie and Fitch to conduct discrepancy investigations much faster and respond to issues much more quickly. “They have a lot more data at their disposal than they’ve ever had before – making them nimbler, which is critical in the market in which they compete.”
People—the Greatest Asset
Being a transformational leader, Taylor believes in impacting lives. “I have always felt that the first step in developing people is to ensure I’m putting them in the right position to succeed, and then build processes that help them thrive.” For him, people are the company’s greatest asset, and it is important to hold on it as a leader.
Throughout his career, Taylor learned that, in order to accomplish great things, we need to build a great team, give them the tools and latitude needed to succeed, listen to their points of view, hold them accountable, show empathy, give thanks, and challenge and develop them. “Leaders do not achieve milestones by going it alone, they accomplish them via their people and, for that to happen, employees must feel enabled and empowered to perform their best each and every day they come to work,” ends Taylor.
Relationshop : Revolutionizing Supermarket Retail Shopper Experience
Galen Walters, CEO, Relationshop
Revolutionizing Supermarket Retail Shopper Experience
Galen Walters, CEO, Relationshop®, a leading digital shopper marketing company focused on the grocery retail industry delivers a retailer-proven shopper engagement platform to support personalized promotion and commerce. With more than 40 years of deep experience in the retail sector, he is creative, caring, authentic, and responsive. He believes that now is one of the most exciting times to be in the grocery retail industry, as it is undergoing a transformative shift from mass to 1:1 and analog to digital engagement. Relationshop, with its integrated, digital customer engagement platform, and easy to use, big-data, analytics solution & eMarketing services, is ideally suited to meet what’s happening now and coming next. Excerpts from an interview:
Relationshop – The Concept
Relationshop® partners with retailers to grow sales and increase customer engagement through personalized solutions. Galen notes that the company was the result of a rebranding of their original company, Go Think! Retail. “In 2019, our digital platform (that we created in 2011) became the driving force for our company, so we changed the name from Go Think to Relationshop®, acquired our development team in Vietnam, and focused 100% of our efforts on developing the future of the digital experience for the grocery industry. Go Think! Started in 2007 as a consultancy, and quickly turned into a software company at the request of our supermarket clients, and the rest is history.”
The Digital Experience Platform
“After the rebranding of the company to Relationshop®, there was a need to clearly distinguish the web and mobile platform we had developed, so we branded it as the Digital Experience Platform, or DXP”, observes Galen. DXP, a SAAS product, is a fully integrated web, mobile, commerce, eMarketing, and analytics digital platform. It manages the entire digital experience of the shopper for the retailer and is fully tied into their POS and loyalty systems, as well as pertinent customer and product data. “A light-weight personalization app (and there are plenty to choose from) can offer a shopper a coupon based on what they purchased historically, but can’t begin to address the broader digital journey, as our DXP does, to truly grow the relationship between the shopper and the retailer. That holistic engagement with the shopper throughout their journey is the future of retail.”
Retail Challenges Galore
According to Galen, the primarily issues being faced by the retailers today is related to their historical investment into their digital and data infrastructures. “So much attention is placed on POS, and rightfully so, that it is difficult for chains to find the talent or the time for their teams to focus on building a solid and sustainable digital infrastructure.” There is so much changing so quickly pertaining to data and cloud services, and so many chains are stuck in the recent past and not looking at tomorrow due to resource constraints (talent and financial). Secondly, a lot of retailers were trying to play digital through the lightweight integration of widgets and personalization applications, and now find that they aren’t integrated as a platform and cannot support the more robust personalization now demanded by consumers.
Current Retail Technology Space
“It is the most exciting time to be alive in retail. Never has the retail industry had the impetus to change like they do today but, I will add that it is a bit later than it should have been. Had the industry taken the purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon, or the purchase of Unata by Instacart for the signal of change that they were, digital infrastructure changes should have been happening back in 2018 (or earlier) as technology became available and the convergence was clearly visible,” notes Galen.
The Success Mantra
Prioritization, setting great goals around People, Process, Partners and Performance to keep us intently focused, buckled to leadership framework of Why, What, How and Wow, have created a seamless management infrastructure that we all turn to daily for business continuity, adds Galen. “The team members are key to the technology advancement, the flawless execution, and customer satisfaction. I care about and for the team members deeply, and they then care about the product and customers deeply. It just works.”