Gearhart has been at the company for nearly 17 years, beginning with positions in visual merchandising. In this edition of "4 Questions For Digital Innovators," Gearhart explains why it’s important to combine the human touch with technology to enhance the customer experience.
What is the one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
To create a value-added retail experience that builds trust through a human and digital connection, individualized to each customer’s unique needs.
Why is this so important?
We need to meet the customer where they want to shop, experience, and gather information. Retail is everywhere the customer wants to interact with your brand. For us, it’s not only the traditional Web and our 600 stores nationwide, but national partnerships and 5,000-plus local and national event activations a year.
The power of experience is now table stakes to retail survival. If you recall the "Cone of Experience," human beings retain 20% of what they hear, 40% of what they observe, and 90% of what they experience. We can affect consumer behavior by maximizing the strengths of high-tech—digital—and high-touch—physical—experiences to create meaningful and memorable experiences and a life-long connection with the brand.
How will this improve the customer experience?
Consumers are searching for real benefits in products and an experience that is relevant, effortless, and personal. Successful brands look for ways to leverage an integrated physical/digital experience to facilitate meaningful human interactions, allowing customers to experience their unique product benefits. They maximize the strengths of digital and artificial intelligence for speed, simplification, and immersion and the power of their sales associates to build a one-to-one emotional connection with the customer.
That's the thinking behind our "Sleep Number Experience," which combines the in-store human touch with our exclusive IndividualFit 3-D imaging technology to demonstrate the benefits of our Sleep Number 360 smart bed. Customers can see and feel the bed adjusting in real time to their bodies, warming their feet to help them fall asleep faster and even raise their head to alleviate snoring.
How will this improve the effectiveness of marketing?
A seamless digital and physical experience drives both brand engagement and brand demand. Shoppers are more likely to spend more money with a retailer who offers a meaningful shopping experience. Customers also expect you to know them and deliver personal and relevant content wherever and whenever they want it. According to Accenture, 65% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name, recommends options based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history. In another report, 88% of U.S. marketers reported seeing measurable improvements due to personalization, with more than half reporting a lift greater than 10%.
Personalization is an expectation across each step of the customer journey, powered by rich data. This is key to creating a value-added retail experience that builds customer loyalty and, ultimately, brand love. Your customer is both your best advocate and repeat purchaser, lowering marketing costs and improving awareness.