Browse the Future of Shopping with Retail Expert Erin Neer

Inside Flipboard / January 9, 2014

ErinNeer

If you’ve purchased anything at a brick-and-mortar store in the last few years, you know that many of the most important changes in retail aren’t visible as you walk down the aisle. Online commerce, app-enabled mobile devices and sophisticated inventory-management tools have transformed the retail industry — and the process isn’t finished yet.

From her home in North Carolina, MagMaker Erin Neer tracks retail trends in her Future of Shopping magazine.

FutureofShopping

The Future of Shopping is an eye-opening guide to the changes that are reshaping both merchandising and the consumer experience, so we asked Erin to tell us how her magazine has influenced her thinking about where the retail world is headed:

What inspired you to create your magazine?

I work for a large retailer, and I love to shop. I noticed there was no good place for me to go and learn about what is going on, either as a consumer or as a retailer. So I decided to use Flipboard to create my own magazine about the topic.

So what does the future of shopping look like?

It’s going to be unlike anything we’ve seen before, because retail has been turned on its head. In the future, shopping will be more personalized, and more fun. The customer will really be at the center of retail experience.

Is that really new? Hasn’t the customer always been king — or queen? What will be different?

Historically, when retailers said the customer is king, they were talking about setting prices, or honoring sales or coupons or deciding where to open stores. Going forward, the customer will play an even more important role in determining what products you actually sell in your stores. What will be on the shelves, or online? How do you distribute ads or marketing materials? How does the customer want to be spoken to, and what kind of content do they engage with most readily? Retailers are going to have to understand all that.

It sounds like part of the challenge will be figuring out how to balance personalization with the kind of over-familiarity that can feel intrusive.

Yes. Absolutely. There’s definitely some risk of that, so the best approach for retailers will be to leave it up to the customer. Some customers want intense personalization, and others would prefer to be more hands-off. You never want to scare people off. You have to be very careful.

What about quantitiative data? Beyond just tracking inventory or receipts, how are retailers gaining deeper insight about their customers?

That’s the big question. Compiling data on the web is straightforward, but how do you do it in a physical store? How do you know what customers looked at? What they did or didn’t buy? How do you track the difference between customer activity in the store and their purchasing activity at the cash register?  It will be fun to watch how the industry gets a handle on all that.

When you curate your magazine, do you have a specific kind of reader in mind?

It started out selfishly — just creating a reading list for me. But then it started attracting readers, and I realized that I wasn’t the only one who finds this interesting. That’s changed the way I curate, because it means it’s less about whether or not I actually agree with an article and more about whether readers might benefit from reading it.

Is there an aspect of  retail landscape that excites you the most?

My own vision focuses on creating amazing in-store experiences that flow seamlessly between the real world and online, via tools like moblie phones. That definitely influences the direction of the magazine, although the reverse is also true — curating a magazine has contributed to the evolution of my opinions.

You recently added co-contributors to The Future of Shopping. How did that happen?

Daniel Phan and Ryan Sprance joined me in December. I met them on Flipboard (with side discussions via LinkedIn and Twitter). Daniel and I have similar roles with major retailers, and Ryan works in retail with a technology company. I’d subscribed to two of Daniel’s Flipboard mags, which led me to also follow him on Twitter. I loved his articles and thought he might have some cool things to bring to the table for The Future of Shopping. Ryan I met through LinkedIn when he messaged me about attracting more subscribers to his Flipboard magazines.

Where do you go to find articles for your magazine? Do you have any favorite tools or tricks?

Quite honestly, I do love using Flipboard. I read the  Fast Company Co.Create and Harvard Business Review feeds regularly. If I’m on the web, I use the +Flip It bookmarklet to add things to my magazines. I also read several other reader-created magazines, including Retail Insights, Retail News Network, Trending in IT, and Digital U.

Read The Future of Shopping by Erin Neer on Flipboard