Embrace the Transformation

At the 13th annual RIS Retail Executive Summit, held June 18-20 at the Grand Del Mar in Del Mar, CA, 60 retail executives from top retailers including Chico’s, Sears and Walmart shared first-hand experiences and advice on the “Retail Revolution: Digital, Personal, Decisive.”

The conference kicked off with an insight-packed day at the Store Experience Symposium, including presentations from Ken Silay of Chico’s FAS, Naomi Gross of FIT, Shelley Kohan of RetailNext and Sahir Anand of EKN Research. The sessions shed light on the future of innovation in retail, the importance of leveraging metrics in the moment and how retailers must think of innovation not as a technology, but as a mindset.

Sucharita Mulpuru, VP and principal analyst for Forrester Research shared insights into today’s innovate or die retail industry. “Retailers must understand the connected generation and look to innovation in fear of missing out on something great. There’s a big difference between cheap talk and real deal investment,” says Mulpuru.

Sears Holdings’ divisional VP Ted Rudman explained how the organization is using a Hadoop deployment, cloud and big data to empower its business units and improve business value, by engaging customers and driving loyalty. “Our mantra is to fail fast and keep moving,” says Rudman. “No project takes longer than three months – if it does it’s too long.”

To share findings from the 5th annual RIS/Cognizant Shopper Experience Study, Shannon Warner, consulting partner with Cognizant and editorial director Joe Skorupa took the stage. The findings focused on the benefits of bringing shoppers into the decision-making process and how it can strengthen the business model. “Your ROI is dependent on how well you deliver what customers today want – make it easy and make it seamless,” says Warner.

Ted Jackson, CIO and VP of IT for Sport Chalet, hosted a panel dedicated to the state of the retail industry. Joining Jackson were John D’Anna, CIO of Brookshire Grocery, Rajeeve Kaul, former SVP with Office Depot|Max and Christina Callas, SVP e-commerce with Hudson’s Bay. The retailers spoke openly about their challenges and opportunities with e-commerce platforms, creating a single view of the customer, integration efforts across channels, and more. “You need to rethink your DNA as a retailer today and act differently than you used to,” said Jackson. “You only get one go around, so grab it and go with gusto.”

Closing out the event, former VP of merchandising operations for Belk, Clay Parnell shared why it is necessary to tightly couple back-end systems, and how to evolve into the next-phase of customer-centric programs. “Steve Jobs hit it on the head when he said, ‘you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology.’”

The next major RIS event will be Engage 2014, taking place October 8-10 at the Ritz Carlton, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Visit for more information.