Jérôme Hiquet (CEO of StratNXT): “Retail is in a tumultuous cycle” – Interview > Retail

You created the company StratNXT, supported by the Labelium group, a year ago, what is your activity and what are your missions?

StratNXT is the strategic consultancy of the Labelium group, which is a global digital performance agency present in 20 countries. We are trying, in 2022, to reconcile three fundamental dimensions of consultancy, namely the ability to identify a strategic and operational vision, business knowledge (digital throughout the value chain) and field experience – thanks to my past 20 years in different marketing departments. StratNXT brings together around thirty customers in France, the United Kingdom and the United States. The company acts a bit like a digital auditor, a justice of the peace in the face of the complexity of digital (orchestration or project acceleration) for large accounts, investment funds, but also SMEs.

You mention “StratNext touch” as a corporate identity, what exactly is it?

To define it, the best thing is to explain my desire to create the company that I would like to have by my side as director of marketing. Therefore, it brings together the three things I was missing: having strong convictions, an agnostic vision, focused on business and having support in day-to-day management. Thanks to our in-house tools, we can scan a company’s digital maturity in six weeks.

In your opinion, what are the next developments, or even innovations, in terms of using data to serve the consumer?

The first challenge for brands is to refine and unify consumer signals and intentions. So the end of the cookie will mechanically accelerate the value of retailers as media players. Because they will have a lot of unified and qualified data. All US players are taking a stand on this issue. Finally, managing the customer journey without friction, which means having a single customer repository, ability to orchestrate orders in an omnichannel manner. The necessary fluidity of customer journeys will drive topics around data.

“Covid made it possible to clarify the role of the store as a place of immersive discovery and omnichannel fullfilm”

How would you define the post-Covid “New Normal”?

The difficulty of the current context is managing opposing tensions with, on the one hand, frictionless customer journeys and the boom in hyperconvenience for consumers, in addition to pressure on margins. How can brands develop more services while controlling their margins? They must become “price balancers”. Ditto for CSR issues. Citizens’ expectations are not always those of consumers faced with a price logic. Finally, the metaverse must be integrated into digital strategies while staying connected. Hence the interest of brands to pay attention to insights to prioritize what is important in terms of innovation.

What, in your opinion, are the strong retail “megatrends” that seem really structuring?

First, the advent of ultra-practicality that forces the normalization of new buying trends (cryptocurrency, BNPL, etc.). We can see that the battle for the last mile is fierce with Amazon’s omnipresence and control over the entire delivery route chain: road, air, sea… ), even if the business models are not yet developed. There is also the advent of local consumption, close to home. Hence the explosion of the “dark kitchen”. Finally, the retail industry must integrate the complexity of the customer journey with the multiplication of touchpoints and a hybridization of the purchase journeys.

Second trend, “alt-commerce”, or alternative commerce. Live streaming has become an important tool for brands to connect with their audience. By extension, personalization will increase through the “live personal shopper”, as in the world of luxury. Renegotiation is also exploding and inflation could be an opportunity for this second-hand market.

Third axis, the augmented store and the clarification of the store’s role as a place of immersive discovery and omnichannel full filming (example with Zara). The point of sale is transformed from a simple transit point into an attractive destination. Last trend, finally, customer engagement 3.0 with the role of augmented reality in the virtual retail experience. Many luxury brands are testing the monetization of their assets in this digital world and I think the reality of NFT will gain all its meaning in a loyalty program logic (example Roland-Garros and his fan club). Commitment 3.0 is both a marketing and a social commitment to the emergence of a digital identity as a means of expression for individuals.

Is the demand of the younger generations in terms of CSR of the brands compatible with the marketing strategies of the brands? Is there no limit to transparency?

Yes, because we are witnessing the advent of the second-hand market and I think it is a lever to win new customers for brands before buying new products. So there is consistency. But it should also be noted that there is a big gap between purchase intentions and reality for pricing issues. All in all, I see no limit to transparency as long as the brand has an authentic approach.

What are the next challenges for retailers?

We are entering a new retail paradigm with an ecosystem – outside the blockchain – where the store becomes a place of experience and e-commerce is increasingly “alive”, collaborative; and on the other hand – on the blockchain – with the advent of cryptocurrency and the metaverse. This triangular composition between the store, digital commerce and meta-commerce is the next challenge for retailers. At the same time, data management is essential for better fluidity of customer journeys and understanding of consumer expectations. Finally, the role of store personnel needs to be reinvented. The human factor is a differentiator, but in increasingly autonomous stores, it is necessary to think about the role of sellers as facilitators of local communities through social networks or live shopping accelerators with live streaming…

What is your retail “American experience”?

Retail in the United States is the number one industry in terms of employment, which has a huge effect. What stands out is the deployment and excellence of Amazon in its points of sale. The brand is partnering, in particular with Starbucks, to create the most autonomous store possible in New York with Amazon Go and Amazon One (a payment system based on palm recognition). Amazon is a very inspiring retailer (500+ stores worldwide) in terms of innovation with the launch of a store in Los Angeles called Amazon Style which is a standalone version of shopping in personalized mode. Other major US players are teaming up to make the customer experience easier. Americans in their approach to CSR are more aware of the social component than in France.

“The retail industry must integrate the complexity of the customer journey with the multiplication of touchpoints and a hybridization of the purchase journeys”

What commitments or brands inspire you?

Amazon obviously impresses me with their retail expertise, but so do Nike, Walmart, who have applied the same fundamentals to accelerate digital. In France, Club Med is a good example of reconciling a raison d’être around happiness dating back more than 70 years and a customer-centric strategy around a reinvented business model.

What trends do you see emerging in terms of consumption and relationship with brands in general?

I see disorderly the emergence of increasingly responsible consumers, brands less and less in control, the increasing role of celebrities in trusted sources, greater vigilance regarding privacy and personal data in general, and a new relationship with space, more local, but also more digital.

You’ve been marketing director for many companies from very different worlds – Club Med, Formula E and Tough Mudder… – how do these experiences help you build the future?

Tourism, sport and experience are ultimately based on the same marketing pillars, namely very strong brand foundations, expertise in the challenges of customer journeys and data and, finally, a dimension of innovation in the company’s culture. My experiences in Formula E and Tough Mudder (entertainment) have taught me the importance of content in the attention economy. It takes continuous connection to these passion-related industries.

His journey:

2004: Director of CRM for Voyages-sncf.com

2008: Digital and CRM Director and then Vice President of Marketing at Club Med

2014: Marketing Director Tough Mudder

2018: Formula E Marketing Director

2021: Founder and CEO of StratNXT

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