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Chicago

Arc’s Nick Jones Talks Retail Innovation

Nick Jones, EVP and retail practice innovation lead at Arc, is our go-to guy for all things retail. From what’s hot now to what will be happening next, Nick’s got his finger on the pulse of retail.

We sat down with Nick to hear what he has to say about how social media platforms are intersecting with retail and what that means for consumers and marketers alike. Catch the extended Q&A below.

Learn more about Nick’s panel “Welcome to the Future of Retail” happening during Chicago Ideas Week on October 12 at chicagoideas.com. Be sure to also see Nick at the 2015 Shopper Marketing Expo on October 15 for his talk “Must See Innovations: A Collection of the Best for 2015” and check out our Tumblr to learn more.

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Nick Jones
EVP, Retail Practice and Innovation Lead

What are three big trends in retail innovation?

We’re seeing some really exciting and interesting things happening in retail at the moment. The first one that comes to mind is what we would call “frictionless” commerce. So the idea is we’re going to see any and all impediments to purchasing taken out of the way. Think of the dash button that Amazon introduced this year, where it is actually there for you the moment you realize you might need something, and all you need to do is literally touch that dash button and it is automatically shipped to your home without you even giving it a second thought.

Another really big trend I think we are going to see more of is personalization. We’ve seen brands like Shoes of Prey being born in the last year or two, where women can go online and choose from various materials, heels, buckles and colors to create their own personal shoe, and everything they create is truly unique to them. Also, we’ve been experimenting with a technology with IBM using their Watson computer that takes your Twitter handle and goes through your last 200 tweets and looks for keywords and phrases. It then uses that to identify you as one of 52 personality types and will tell you, in this particular test, which bike is right for you and matches your personality type. So that kind of fun way to use personalization will be more important going forward.

We also see things in terms of location. For a few years we’ve had GPS on mobile devices, so there has been the ability to use location as part of the marketing mix. But it is just now becoming more important and more usable. When you think about the arrival of beacon technology and being able to see where someone is in real time and be able to deliver an offer to them based on their proximity, I think that’s going to be really important.

How is technology impacting the way we shop?

I think the way that technology is starting to impact the way we shop is really about empowerment. We as shoppers today are more powerful than ever because of this massive computing technology that we carry with us at all times. We at Arc are coining the term "me-commerce." We are surrounded by information and opportunity, so we’re seeing more and more of people being able to shop in an omni-channel way, where they can be referencing things they have seen online but also on their mobile device, then when they’re at the store. Smart retailers and marketers are finding ways to keep in touch with what shoppers looked at online and be able to bring that experience across to the actual bricks-and-mortar world.

What new tools do retailers have for getting people to visit their stores?

I think the most obvious would be beacon technologies. Beacons have arrived on the scene in the last couple of years and use Bluetooth as their primary way of reaching smart phones. So, imagine you put a beacon in a particular location inside a store and it is casting a radius around it looking for smart phones that are open for contact. That means that if you are in proximity to a store that you like or that you have shopped at before, that beacon can reach out to you and give you an offer or tell you about new products that are available. I think that beacons, in that they are about proximity and location, are becoming more and more important. We’ve already seen that brands like Target have put beacons in many of their stores and we are just going to see them become more and more ubiquitous and that’s going to be the way that retailers reach out to their shoppers in the real world.

How have shoppers’ expectations changed in terms of speed of delivery of goods? And what does the future of delivery look like?

We’ve been spoiled in recent years by the speed in which products are delivered to us. We’ve seen UPS and other carriers moving to a situation where they can bring things overnight, and now we’re seeing Google Express come into the market. We’ve got Amazon Prime now and these are things that are offering people products within the hour. How could you even try to beat that speed?

I do think this is a foreshadowing of a future that is not too far away, maybe in the next five years or so, where intelligent appliances will be ordering things for themselves. Think about your refrigerator or your pantry, it can actually know what products have come into the refrigerator and which ones have been taken out or are getting low and actually order them before you even run out. So we’re getting into a situation where shopping is not done in a matter of hours but is predictive, and you can have products arrive before you even know you need them.