The physical store continues to dominate omnichannel shopping

NEW YORK—"Sixty percent of all consumers want to shop in-store and consumers spend six times as much in-store as they do online," said Bal Dail, chairman of the board and CEO  of JDA Software, as he kicked off Sunday afternoon's keynote session at NRF's BIG Show. The focus of the address, which showcased an energetic presentation by James Curleigh, president of Levi Strauss, and surprise late-comer Bill Simon, former CEO of Walmart (NYSE:WMT), was the importance and continued popularity of the physical store, or "Brick is the New Black."

Dail warmed up the crowd by stressing that the retailer was no longer in charge, but could only survive by following the lead of the consumer. And what does the new consumer want? Seamless integration of omnichannel offerings. "Successful retailers of the future can merge omnichannel across online and in-store," said Dail. "Digital and mobile are enhancements, not separate channels to the physical."

Simply restating that omnichannel was going to continue its importance into the new year, Dail introduced a charismatic James Wright, senior partner at Lippincott, who entered the stage singing the Beatles lyrics, "You say you want a revolution."

Curleigh's message focused on marrying the innovative with the tried-and-true methods of running a retail business. "Focus on the core and do more," he said. In order for retailers to thrive in 2015, he said they would need to expand and push boundaries, citing that for Levi denim only makes up maybe 8 percent of a consumer's closet, so the brand had to push other ideas in order to keep customers, or "fans" as he called them.

And though he did not enter the stage singing, the crowd was surprised to see Simon, who announced he was leaving Walmart in July and was succeeded by Greg Foran in August. Simon opened by stating that "with pure-play e-commerce, we're starting to see a peak." He also spoke to the crowd about the one-dimensionality of seeing a product online and how true growth, in any channel, lies in the physical interaction of retail. The catalogue business as it is now online, he continued, lacks a sensory and social interaction. In fact, the retail winners in 2015 will be those that learn "to use technology to try and deliver great products at great prices and great customer service."

During the follow up Q&A, it seemed the panel was mostly focused on technology driving the physical experience and ensuring a seamless integration of online and offline retail. So while the physical store is by no means dead, its role is certainly evolving. Though most retailers are already aware of this consumer-driven track for 2015, what was surprising was the implication from panelists that most retailers still had a long way to go in order to reach this goal of creating a seamless shopping experience.

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