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michael kovach and woman at the 2015 grma conference

Global Retail Marketing Association Forum: May 13th – 15th, 2015 St. Pete Beach, FL

May 20, 2015 - Business, VMBC - , , ,

Comprehensive Summary

Marketers arrived at the beautiful Don Cesar in St. Pete Beach, Florida, at the Global Retail Marketing Association’s (GRMA) forum ready for an impactful and inspiring event. As GRMA President Stephanie Fischer elaborated in her opening remarks, this year’s theme “Connect Today, Shape Tomorrow.” equates to collaborating with your community of peers today, in order to be better prepared to build winning strategies tomorrow.

At its core, The GRMA Forum unlocks leadership value for the world’s foremost retail CMOs by bringing new, unexpected and inspiring perspectives to challenge the status quo. Some of the topics for discussion this year included: leveraging data provided by your customers into an actionable marketing plan, transitioning from traditional marketing to digital and social, optimizing your strategies to engage and build loyalty among the newest generation of consumers, and leading your teams and optimizing their output during a period of constant change.

For the past 10 years, VMBC has supported the forum by being a loyal sponsor and has been its advisory board since inception. This year was the best conference we have ever attended and we congratulate the GRMA on yet another inspiring event. The notes that follow were taken by forum associates so that it may be memorialized and shared across many communities.


Opening Remarks

grma-blog-FischerStephanie Fisher, President & CEO, GRMA; Julie Lyle, Chairperson, GRMA

Stephanie reiterated the underlying theme is to connect today with the GRMA community so you can shape tomorrow for a better future. Retail is changing rapidly. It’s imperative to be future-oriented in our thinking and avoid the mistakes of retailers in the past (i.e. Borders, Blockbuster) whose business models were eliminated when they didn’t innovate. It’s the dawn of social media – your customers are talking about you! The customer experience is no longer an individual one – due to likes, posts and tweets, every experience a customer has with your brand is instantly shared, everywhere.


The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business

grma-blog-KoulopoulosTom Koulopoulos, Bestselling author, Cloud Surfing and The Gen Z Effect, Founder of Delphi Group, a think tank focusing on emerging trends – Twitter @TKspeaks

We enjoyed an insightful, awe-inspiring talk by Tom who authored 10 books. His latest book, The Gen Z Effect, discusses how generation gaps affect how we interact with each other and make connections. With all of his research, Tom leverages data to accentuate his points.

Restructure your Lens to Impact the Future.

We all build a lens through which we see the world, based on who we are and what we do. The problem is trying to view things from others’ perspectives. And you certainly cannot use the lens of the past to view the future. But even those who do see the trends impacting their business (and proclaim to be future-minded), still struggle to do something about it. Company behavior is a difficult pattern to break. It’s important to encourage individuals to champion the “cause” of disruption and help companies switch directions and adapt.

Tom, through vivid research and examples, helped reinforce the importance of “restructuring your lens” and being better positioned to view the entire world and engage customers based on their “lens”.


Hyper-connectivity addresses the internet of everything; we live in a world where people use billions of connected devices around the clock keeping them “always on…always connected”. Now everything connects to everything else. This is our new world where information is shared in “real-time” fashion.

Tom discussed a concept called Slingshotting – where everyone, not just techies, uses technology. Further, people are now going directly to using new technologies, rather than easing into it over time. This extends across generations who now work together via technology: grandma uses an iPad to talk to her grandson, and children are puzzled by the fact that they can’t swipe magazines (magazines are broken iPads).

It’s no longer about technology itself but the behavioral implications of the technology. Generations (or age) are not nearly as important as the behaviors across all groups.   As a retailer, it’s critical to capture and understand your customers through their behaviors.

Engaging with Post Millennials, Generation Z.

Tom introduced the Post Millennial generation, Generation Z (Gen Z). These individuals won’t take no for an answer. They demand transparency and expect you to align with their cause. They are looking for sincerity when engaging with them. Gen Z is not about a certain age group; however, individuals who choose a certain set of behaviors.

They are also innovators who invent things and then give them away for free! In a concept called Lifehacking, Tom describes the phenomenon of Gen Z’ers perfecting their inventions and then launching them to the world via an open platform. They see this as additive – it allows them to reach more users quickly and build value.


Exponential Disruption in Marketing

grma-blog-IsmailSalim Ismail, Founding Executive Director of Singularity University – Twitter @salimismail

Salim delivered exclusive insights into cutting edge technological advancements and the disruptive impact these devices will have on retail business. Innovation is all around us and exponential organizations are poised to embrace the newest technological advancements and leverage them for success. However, when you try to implement disruptive innovation in a large organization, its “immune system will attack you”. Organizations are built to withstand change…withstand risk; not embrace it.

Emerging Technologies.

Salim fascinated, and perhaps shocked the Forum audience with a glimpse of emerging technologies that will launch in the not so distant future. Virtual Reality through Google Glasses, Google Car and Drone delivery services will truly disrupt our reality of today. Are we ready to “drive” cars that don’t have a steering wheel?

Collaborative Consumption.  

Salim’s discussion around collaborative consumption and the growth of this business through Airbnb, Uber, and soon to be launched hotel chain that doesn’t even own any hotels, got the attendees to think hard if this innovation will disrupt their own business in the near future.

Bitcoin Network.

The introduction of the Bitcoin Network in 2009 pronounced by Salim as the “most disruptive thing I’ve ever seen” is growing exponentially, totally resurfacing our payment systems throughout Retail and beyond. Bitcoin removes the middle-man (or the banking institution) for all transactions.


Entertainment Media at the Tipping Point…. Again!

grma-blog-ColeDr. Jeffrey Cole, Director and CEO of the Center for Digital Future, Research Professor, USC Annenberg School

Dr. Cole gave his educated perspective on the rapidly changing entertainment media landscape and how behavioral shifts are correlated to the “screens” available in our lives.   Per Cole, a familiar screen, television, is the screen that will change the most.

The Media Tipping Point.

Consumers are now empowered to view media whenever and however it is convenient for them. And, consumers are spending more time in front of screens, now an average of 47 hours a per week and it is expected to grow to 60 hours in the next 5 years! This is up significantly from only 16 hours per week in 1975! And teenagers are on their screens almost 24 hours a day. Did you know that 90% of teenagers actually sleep with their phones on their pillows?

Screens are Shifting as Are Our Viewing Habits.

The top screens today are TV, Computers, Smartphones and Tablets. But computers may be going away, replaced by tablets in most cases. Smartphones are becoming the most important, prevailing screen – the one that is most detrimental to your life if lost. Other screens are emerging such as the Apple Watch, but are not yet able to compete (short battery life and dependency on blue tooth connection to a phone). Television is the screen that’s going to change the most. And to survive, the viewer must be put in control.

Content is King.

More than ever, content is King and drives consumption than any other channel. We watch what we love. Via streaming technologies and media company partnerships, users can choose what they want to watch, when they want to watch it. In fact, during core TV viewing hours, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube represent over 60% of internet bandwidth. There will be a continued battle between the cable companies and streaming media. Finally, movie theaters will shrink in numbers and become more of a premium viewing experience.


Global Shifts Impacting US Economic and Retail Outlook

grma-blog-RoubiniDr. Nouriel Roubini, Cofounder and Chairman of Roubini Global Economics

Dr. Roubini revealed the near and long-term outlook of consumer behavior and discussed a world where Millennials will consume in a very different way, leveraging the “sharing economy” which could have a significant impact on several industries including housing, travel, retail and auto.

2015 Economic Outlook.

Q1 and April are softer than expected in terms of growth with 2nd quarter at best coming in at a 2% growth. This will keep interest rates down until September or perhaps through the winter. Overall consumption growth is predicted at 1.5% and oil prices will not increase past $100/barrel. Due to low inflation in advanced economies, it is expected that the dollar will continue to remain strong, stronger than anyone expected.

Impact of Technology.

Dr. Roubini touched on energy technology, information technology (including Big Data and social media) and manufacturing technology (including robots) and how they lend perspective on global economies. He noted we have too much supply of goods and services compared to demand overall in the world. Instead of inflation, we have deflation. As a result, the price of equity, like credit, is increasing.

Attitude and Spending of Millennials.

We live in a world where Millennials consume in a very different way. Young people are getting married later, starting families later and using their money in different ways. Why do they need to buy homes when they can use Airbnb? Why buy a car when they can use Uber or maybe even get a self-driving car someday? Why purchase expensive clothing when you can rent? There’s a collapse of demand when they can leverage these shared services instead.


A Short Guide to a Long Life

grma-blog-AgusDr. David Agus, Leading Cancer Doctor, bestselling author of The End of Illness, Professor of Medicine and Engineering at the Keck School of Medicine of USC – Twitter @davidagus

Dr. Agus gave his impactful perspective on what health really means and what we can do to avoid death – as he termed it, “a bad side effect of life”.

Data’s Impact on Medical Treatment.

Dr. Agus enlightened us with the power of studying data to guide the best medical treatment. He points out that doctors are great at saying things without data. Without totally understanding the data in front of you, the chance of fighting an illness rapidly decreases. There’s a fundamental problem of getting someone to do something today that will benefit them tomorrow, as there’s a lag time between action and outcome. Having more data behind these emerging medical approaches and treatments will only help drive change.

Eye Opening Anecdotes on Several Prominent Health Topics.

Growth Hormones and Testosterone – would you rather look good now or live to play with your    grandchildren? Growth hormones can take 10-15 years off your life. Testosterone or “Low T” treatments raise the risk of heart attacks, cancer and death by over 30%.

Exercise – the most important element to life expectancy. Agus states “the more you move, the longer you live”. The positive impact of an hour of aerobic activity will be 100% negated by sitting for 5 hours. Move, walk, or stand every hour if you are forced to remain seated for long periods of time.

Workplace Culture – Health in the workplace is the biggest way to impact change. We spend as much time at work as we do in bed.

Diseases – Don’t simply treat a disease. Look at the WHOLE body and how it functions in order to effectively treat the root cause of the disease.

Impact of Immunization/Supplements.

Baby Asprin: Agus’ perspective is that the most impactful reduction in the risk of cancer, heart failure, etc. is taking a Baby aspirin, what he phrased “the 2,000 year old wonder drug”.

Leave the vitamin supplements behind: There is no data to support their impact on your overall health. In fact, there is data that supports the use of supplements actually shortens you lifespan

Don’t use Melatonin: To keep from shutting down your immune system, don’t use Melatonin.

Immunizations are crucial as there is no significant data to prove harm in getting them and the negative implications from the resurgence of eradicated diseases will be detrimental.


The Power of Habit… Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

grma-blog-DuhiggCharles Duhigg, Bestselling author, The Power of Habit and Pulitzer Prize Winning Business Reporter, NY Times

Charles discussed the universal principals that govern our lives and how challenging it is for people to change their habits. He also revealed how to leverage positive behavior from habits to be successful as a leader and marketer. It’s critical for marketers to know their customers keystone habits, look for opportunities to piggyback off them and find rewards that deliver emotionally.

Habit Loop.

Like rats in a research lab, we take cues, follow routines, and search for our rewards. Doing things by habit almost causes us to turn off our brains and do them automatically. As a result, trying to change the habits of your customers or associates are difficult to influence. Some habits yield easily to analysis and influence. Others are more complex and obstinate, and require prolonged study. And for others, change is a process that never fully concludes.

Keystone Habits and Marketing.

Some habits, called keystone habits, matter more than others and finding the “reward” that will have an impact is key. Duhigg used exercise as an example. These habits are so influential that they often spur additional positive behavior (e.g. when a person exercises, they’re more likely to clean their dishes and spend less money on their credit card). Charles gave strong examples where marketers needed to better understand what rewards were actually rewarding to consumers (e.g. Febreze makes cigarette smoke go away) and the importance of appealing to the right habit (Target baby product ads – “don’t remind me I am pregnant) in order to deliver effective messages.

The Appeal of Emotions.

Above all, the most powerful rewards contain emotions. In fact, Charles argues an emotional pitch is 7x more effective than a common transactional pitch. An emotional payoff will drive human behavior; Charles shared relevant stories of Starbucks (and how companies can influence the willpower of their store associates) and the willpower of children having to resist eating candy (and how that willpower can also be a metric of their future success!).


Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change

grma-blog-GrennyJoseph Grenny, Bestselling author, Influencer and Crucial Conversations, Twitter @josephgrenny

From the time we are infants, we’re social scientists at heart. The most important capacity we possess is the ability to influence behavior – that of ourselves or that of others. Joseph argued that our job is not to be marketers but to be influencers in the world by asking two fundamental questions: 1) why are people doing what they’re doing 2) how can I get them to do something different?

The Power of Influence.

Joseph walked us through and entertained us with a variety of social experiments on how best to influence behavior. Examples included consumer behavior on food lines, Nippon Airline’s challenge of getting people to use the bathroom before boarding, a University of Michigan call center’s appeal to emotions, solving traffic problems with mimes, getting people to use stairs rather than escalators, and how he used influence to stop his son from throwing water balloons into oncoming traffic.

Six Sources of Influence.

Make the Undesirable Desirable

Surpass Your Limits

Harness Peer Pressure

Find Strength in Numbers

Design Rewards and Demand accountability

Change the Environment

Joseph detailed his “Six Sources of Influence” which describes the challenge of balancing consumers’ motivation with their ability to change behaviors in a personal, social and structural environment. We should strive to make bad behaviors harder and make good behaviors easier… and more obvious. Easier said than done!


Turning Big Data into Smart Decisions

grma-blog-WeigendDr. Andreas Weigend, former Chief Scientist at Amazon and Founder of the Social Data Lab, twitter @aweigend

Dr. Weigend gave both insightful and humorous perspective on Big Data. What is big data? It’s a mindset that there’s an abundance of data to use. It’s the ability to turn “mess into meaning”. Of course, the data is almost always wrong. But it’s still useful, particularly to run experiments


There are several kinds of intelligence: Artificial, Business, Customer and Data or Decision Intelligence. Customer Intelligence is from the perspective of the customer so it is the most important aspect to creating better strategies. How a company then uses this data (Decision Intelligence) to create a one-to-one relationship with their customer will pull you apart from the competition.

Rules on How to Use Data to Your Advantage.

Start with a question and not with data – Many people start with the data and mine it to make decisions but it is imperative to start with a decision you need to make and use the data to support this decision and make it stronger. Make sure your decision is written through a customer lense vs. just a business lense.

Make sure your company has a ‘fitness function’ and base it on metrics that matter to the customer. Your fitness function will allow you to assess how best to use data to solve a problem that is meaningful to the customer.

Ask yourself two questions when using data for your advantage: i. Does the customer understand the value they get when they give you data? ii. Does our product or service get better over time with data?

Embrace Transparency.

Make it easier for people to connect with each other through the Social Data Revolution. Amazon changed the way a billion people think about purchases. Google did the same for information and Facebook for identity.

Be sure to visit www.youtube.com/socialdatarevolution to view Dr. Weigend’s YouTube channel with content and experiments from his classes over time.

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