Proof that Retail Doesn’t Have to Suck

Every quarter, we try to host an event that we see as interesting and valuable for our clients. Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on Retail Experiences at our new headquarters in Ford Center. Being the first time we did it here, I was happy to see that the office layout worked, and we were able to offer free parking in the North Loop for those who came out – a big win.

We had three all-star guests on the panel: John Moberg, CIO of Modern Climate, Lynne Robertson, CEO of the now proudly independent Fame Retail, and Angela Gearhart, the Senior Director of In Store Experiences at Select Comfort. I’m very grateful for their participation, but moreover their insights. Each had a different perspective, but all came back to one topic: the experience.



John articulated the crazy amount of time and energy spent in building the new loyalty app for Caribou Coffee. Some see it just as an app, but we learned that for every grand idea of experience comes 12 systems of integration, development, and managing to scale infrastructure appropriately. The transaction is becoming a very important part of the experience and to do so well, you can lead the market.

Lynne talked about how the design experience can truly make something dreadful, worthwhile. When working with Time Warner Cable, they helped them realize that it’s an opportunity lost for most of these facilities. It’s the DMV of a retail experience. Fame was able to not only make things look pretty, but they reduced wait time from 25 minutes to four – with no increase in labor costs. Design as a tool, where ROI is real.


Angela was able to speak to something that often gets overlooked, but is extremely valuable: the employee experience. By providing tools that actually get used, and are of value, for their employees, they’ve seen much higher success, happier employees, and less turn over. All of these things may seem secondary, but when you’re a retailer, your employees are your ambassadors. This investment of time, tools and technology is invaluable when the product that Select Comfort sells isn’t just a bed – it’s sleep itself. 


We talked about omni-channel, and how its always the customer journey, and there are touch points everywhere. We talked about the future of big box versus little shops. We talked about beacons and creepy technologies. We talked about a lot, and there was more to talk about afterwards. And, we drank some beer.


Thanks to all who attended, and participated. I look forward to our next conversations.


Stay tuned for details about the next one.

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