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EPISODE 020 : 07/23/2021

Paula Macaggi, Media Account Executive at RETHINK Retail

Paula Macaggi of RETHINK Retail is an international expert on retail. Based out of Portugal, Paula helps retail brands communicate their stories. She has a passion for understanding consumer behavior, market trends, and international marketing. Paula provides insight on global trends in retailing and the future of in-store shopping. 

Host: Ned Hayes and Ashley Coates
Guest: Paula Macaggi

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Topics discussed in this episode

  • Rethink Retail and the benefits it provides for their customers
  • How Covid affected international retail, predictions for post-pandemic
  • Retailers merging the online experience into the physical retail space
  • The importance of businesses investing in loyalty programs

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Audio Transcript

Ned Hayes [00:00:01] Welcome to SparkPlug, where we talk to smart people working at the intersection of business and technology. Brought to you by SnowShoe making mobile location smarter. Spark Plug is happy to welcome Paula Macaggi. She’s a media account executive, at Rethink Retail so based out of Portugal, she’s a world traveler who helps retail brands to communicate their stories. Paula has a passion for understanding consumer behavior, market trends and international marketing. So welcome, Paula.

Paula Macaggi [00:00:35] Thanks for having me. 

Ashley Coates [00:00:37] We’re so glad to have you here, Paula. Will you start by giving an introduction to yourself and to our listeners? What drew you to this area of the economy being the retail area of the economy? 

Paula Macaggi [00:00:50] Well, retail, it’s I think it’s something that everybody is familiar with because we shop right like. So if under like working in energy, work with anything is always something that we can all relate. So it was like an interesting move for me was was very traveling and decided to work with Rethink Retail. 

Ned Hayes [00:01:10] So what particular segments of retailer of are personal interest to you? 

Paula Macaggi [00:01:15] I am like really into grocery at the moment. We are producing a very big and detailed grocery report is going to be launching in September. So everything related to grocery. I’ve been reading a lot of so many interesting moves and everything that is happening. Customer is shifting like what they prefer and everything. But of course, I also love apparel. That’s because I’m like a strong consumer as well. So everything that makes the consumer experience better. I like it. 

Ashley Coates [00:01:52] Well, that mentioned that you are an account executive at Rethink Retail. Will you tell us a little bit about Rethink Retail? What value does your company bring to retailers around the world? 

Paula Macaggi [00:02:04] We think we do. We are media outlets. We cover everything we do to our podcast publications reports. Our main focus is to connect solution providers to retailers, and we do that through like very good quality thought leadership content. So I really recommend checking it out. We are focused on giving the best insights, mostly. So we are now going to be very news focused on retail sharing insights from retailer solution providers and everybody, other players that that join the industry. 

Ashley Coates [00:02:35] I’m sure so valuable to so many retailers around the world. You have a very strong, multicultural background. It’s really fascinating. Maybe you could give a quick overview and tell us how your background really adds depth to your insights and perspectives. 

Paula Macaggi [00:02:52] Sure. Well, I was born and raised in Brazil. I moved to the U.S. a couple of years ago. I lived there for five years, and since then I’ve been traveling around Europe, Asia and everyplace I go. It’s interesting to see how the consumer behavior changes. So, for example, Germany, they don’t they don’t like to use credit cards. They use a lot of cash. So like you, when you walk around the city, most places are occasionally which if you’re considering e-commerce and everything that plays a big role, right? Because they have a completely different way to consume, that’s different from the U.S., where everything pretty much you do online. I remember when I leave there, like I had boxes of Amazon every day arriving to me, it was like just a different perspective. So living in Italy as well was different, the way they shop, they like store more so every time that I learn in a different place than that, I live in a different place. I visit different places. This is what I’m noticing, and that has been a big key to share in industry. 

Ned Hayes [00:04:04] Absolutely. So if retailers are moving or expanding operations from Europe to the United States or vice versa from the United States to Europe, what are some things that they should keep in mind? 

Paula Macaggi [00:04:16] I think, like from the US to Europe, I think everybody should keep in mind that Europe is not a single place. Every place has completely different consumer behaviors. So you need a specific team in each of your spaces to tell you exactly how you like, how you should invest and what parts of the consumer of purchase you should invest more. And from that, from Europe to the U.S. that’s more complicated, I think, because even though the U.S., I would consider a one single consumer behavior experience, there’s two different places, right, that like people with cars like I live in New York for a while and I never drove a car in New York was always subway. So how are you going to advertise your brand? How are you going to bring awareness, how everything changes from one place to the others? So piloting fast 100 percent people in each of these spaces are going. 

Ned Hayes [00:05:14] So the US is not a monoculture, and neither is Europe. That’s what you’re saying. 

Paula Macaggi [00:05:19] Yes, but I think well, when when it comes to a monoculture, the US has like the same language, which is which I think happens helps a lot. But when it comes to Europe, like it’s like single different details that you have to pay attention. And I would invest in people for each of these places instead of going to one way to get the whole continent. 

Ashley Coates [00:05:45] So Paula, curious to hear your thoughts on when tourism really shut down last year, how did that affect international retail? 

Paula Macaggi [00:05:54] I was in Italy this last six months tourism has affected a lot in Europe. Mostly, I would say, Spain, Italy, Greece, they all needed American shoppers, the UK shoppers. So the fact that this is not moving around, even like if we talk retail about cruises right they’re, not happening, you have like stores and cruises. How did that go? So that did affect the loss, the way people shop and how, like, what are the strategies they have to go through? 

Ned Hayes [00:06:23] So as the world opens back up post-COVID, what do you see changing? 

Paula Macaggi [00:06:28] Everything that happens doing COVID escalated a lot of different strategies, right? So if if you talk about Macy’s, they had zero curbside in their stores in two months, they have to adapt all their stores for curbside and I think that’s going to stay. That’s something that a consumer’s learned how to shop with and everything and that’s going to remain this way. When it comes to grocery, what I love is like this self-checkout thing, anything that is like a frictionless customer experience that’s going to stay. So AmazonGo iFy these companies, they are doing a great job in grocery and like who likes to go shop and stay in the line, right? So anything that avoids is upsetting part of the customer experience that should stay. 

Ashley Coates [00:07:19] Thank you for that perspective. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens. I also wanted to chat with you about e-commerce and the future where we’re looking at e-commerce versus physical retail. Who do you think is winning right now and how will that change post-pandemic? 

Paula Macaggi [00:07:37] Well, I wouldn’t say one is winning, one is losing. The store has changed its function, right? So they start as the new billboard is. The new is the new way to experience the brand. Most people go to stores, check it out and buy online. Maybe because they don’t want to get it online, they go, check it out, buy from home and that’s the opportunity you have to impress your clients to impress your customer. There is going to be there like looking at all your clothes. There’s the smell of the store, like all the branding that you’re putting in that like, I think stores became the biggest brand asset while the transactions are going to be more online. So I guess it’s like you can’t get rid of any of this. You have to invest in both sids. 

Ned Hayes [00:08:22] Well, I was struck by a comment that the retail store at Billboard, so Warby Parker, for example, that started as an e-commerce brand, is now opening many stores, hundreds of stores, even Google opened some stores in New York. Is that the reason that brands have to open a physical location in order to kind of showcase their products?

Paula Macaggi [00:08:42] With the consumer they are going to go through three phases when it’s engaging with the brand, right? It goes for the pre-purchase purchase and post purchase. As we were talking earlier, nobody likes to advertising, right? Like advertising like the pre-purchase is not becoming, so they in-store experience is part of the purchase experience and that’s where all the money is going. So purchase impulse purchase, that’s all but this is where all the brands are going to and stores that part of the purchase and the experience of a brand like you see, Echo. Echo has been our store focus for years you can smell Echo when you go to a store, you know, you know them and they invest in more than a Verizon store, for example. And you see the difference, right? So physical retail is not dead, but it’s more of a brand asset than a purchase itself. 

Ashley Coates [00:09:40] So regarding e-commerce and physical stores, we’ve observed some stores that seem to be really doing a great job and did a really great job during the pandemic. And now post-pandemic, Levi’s, Lululemon, Macy’s, Walmart really started to merge online experience with the physical store experience. Any other retailers that stick out to you who are really succeeding in the physical retail space? 

Paula Macaggi [00:10:08] Absolutely one I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to visit, but it’s absolutely amazing, it’s called Camp, they are a store where they sell everything for kids, and going to this store is a real experience. Like, I want to go to this store, you know, like maybe I’m not going to buy a shirt, but an experience that is and is amazing. I hope like you can find a picture to put in the transcript because it’s really beautiful and it’s lovely how they are focusing on the experience beyond everything, beyond the product. And leg- Lego is going the same way. So of course, they are playing with a segment that they can do more of this but still Paris a couple, I don’t know, I think like a couple of weeks ago, they had a Lancome store where you put like AR glasses and experience like smell and like ways of of experience the brand. This is amazing. So, yeah. 

Ned Hayes [00:11:09] Right? Well, that leads right into an area of discussion that we found really interesting. You posted recently about autonomous stores and stores that have frictionless customer experiences. So can you tell us more about technology that you think is exciting in the future for for retail? 

Paula Macaggi [00:11:26] Absolutely. Well, starting with that, like anything that is autonomous or just the fact that you have a camera that sees what you grab and just leave any charge, you accordingly seems like something very futuristic, but it’s already happening and it’s more affordable than people think. And that was like a nice report that we posted about because it’s literally, isn’t it like something you would like to experience. I can. I’m dying to go to one of these stores. 

Ned Hayes [00:11:55] Are there any other technologies that you think are really part of the future, such as augmented reality in all stores or being able to order online and then pick up at the store? Hands-Free technologies, things like that? 

Paula Macaggi [00:12:08] Yeah, all that curiosity. Last week, I try a VR glasses for the first time. And I understand why brands are going forward to that. I think anything that involves gaming, if you see like you’re talking about Louis Vuitton, Gucci, all these brands that are investing like inside video games experience, that’s like where the new generation is right and for us might be confusing to buy a fifty thousand dollar dress, Gucci dress for a game, but for the new generation, that’s the assets very valuable. So I think it starts. I think every brand should focus on gaming luxury brands are doing a great job doing that. VR is one of the one of the parts of gaming that is, it’s going to rise very well once Apple launches its own glasses. Facebook already has glass and everything. So I would definitely think of the digital part of that, like the gamification of all industries, especially retail. 

Ned Hayes [00:13:21] One area that I found intriguing is with loyalty programs and even with transactions going hands free, with checking in or with with getting your loyalty points. There’s NFC, there’s Bluetooth, theres Spark capacitive touch technologies. All of these things seem like we’re kind of getting rid of that kind of paper loyalty card. Would you agree or do you think it’s going to be around for a while? 

Paula Macaggi [00:13:46] I strongly encourage any brand to invest in loyalty. The post-purchase area is what makes your customer return, and retaining your clients is the most important part. I think, for example, the checkout technologies, they’re amazing. You download the company’s app and you’re going to have all the transactions that person has made in our store, giving points and coupons and everything. You not only get the data, but you’re also giving amazing post-purchase experience for your clients. So yeah, anything that is not paper, I think, is the next is something that people should invest to. 

Ashley Coates [00:14:27] Yeah, that’s what we see as well. So Paula, we had one of our podcast guests recently with Steve Dennis, who wrote a book called Remarkable Retail, and he states that one of the keys to staying in business, especially for physical retailers and independent retailers, is to be remarkable. And he walks through a few ways that retailers do that in terms of creating an experience and exceeding customer expectations and curious, what are some ways that you have seen retailers be remarkable and how has that really made a difference in their success? 

Paula Macaggi [00:15:05] That’s an interesting question. Two days ago, I met up with my friend, he was working at Tesla. He just went to Amazon. He’s been working there for two months now. And he was telling me that he’s still on the onboarding process because they want to make sure that you have the culture in your blood. Pretty much. And I think when you see people and just shared the core value of the company and if that enough resources when it comes to company culture, if you have a very good value proposition and all employees are into that and into like helping the client as much as possible, that’s the way to go. 

Ned Hayes [00:15:48] When companies want to grow, they’re beginning to compete at a different level. So a small retailer growing into a larger retailer, how do they start to compete with those big-box stores or online giants? If I have my small coffee shop and I want to go big, how do I compete there? 

Paula Macaggi [00:16:04] I actually have UPS research right in front of me. It’s a very good report and they did it like with the European market. So 50 percent said that they love how small and local businesses. And that’s very interesting. And the smaller retailers. Thirty five percent say say they have a better in person personal experience when they’re shopping local. So when you have small businesses, I guess you should focus more and more on the customer experience and with the personal touch. There is this grocery call Choice in Denver. They are the first store to have these autonomous checkout solution. It’s a smaller retailer. We’re not talking about Walmart, and they innovated with to be the first one in that market. 

Ashley Coates [00:16:55] Right. How much does loyalty matter in the in the customer’s decision making process? Why do you encourage retailers to invest in loyalty programs? 

Paula Macaggi [00:17:06] Every consumer I’m talking about, be you and whoever we purchased from brands that we know we trust and we like. Knowing it’s easy to, you can like a billboard and people will know like that there’s a brand there, but trust and like. The only way you can do that is by having a loyalty, right? So are you going to trust you how they’re going to trust you? They need a loyalty strategy. It’s very important. 

Ashley Coates [00:17:38] So what characteristics of a program help instill trust in customers? And can you give us some examples of loyalty programs that you had seen really work? 

Paula Macaggi [00:17:48] Yeah. Like there is this yoga company. The more you engage with the brand, you have better aspects with how you’re going to do this, use specific yoga classes, you going to have this great nutrition consultation and everything, like all these little details that make like, why am I going to purchase from someone else if I have all these pieces together, that has been offered me? Right? So like if you get the person purchase from you and you give extra resources, post purchase resources for this person to use your product specifically, like we never talk about yoga pants, right? That’s when the client’s going to remain. That’s that’s going to be the first. If they need a new yoga pant, then you’re already there, like in their mind, because they keep engaging with their brand constantly. 

Ashley Coates [00:18:42] Another guest we had recently was Dr. Joanne Brash, and we and we talked with her about health, sustainability and the responsibility of retailers to steward their resources and create a complete end to end cycle for their products in a responsible way. Do you see retailers listening to this appeal? 

Paula Macaggi [00:19:02] Retailers that don’t want to listen to it, they’re not going to get the consumers right. So the consumers nowadays, especially Gen Z, they think they are only purchasing from brands that share the same values they have. In Europe, seventy five percent of this, this is still the UPS report like seventy five percent of the interviewees said that the first requirement that they want from a brand is being sustainable. If the consumers asking for that, that’s what you have to give to them. The brand itself, the retailer itself, they might not be very into that. But if the consumers are going to stop buying from them, they’re going to have to go into it. It is a very special card and it’s good that the consumers are asking for it. And I think the retailers are caring because consumers are caring, and it’s our job as consumers to ask for it. 

Ned Hayes [00:19:56] One thing that we find really intriguing is at SnowShoe, we have a solution that includes both a physical piece of hardware as well, as loyalty apps that make use of this physical hardware, and we found it really interesting that people actually want physical hardware on their store shelf, they don’t want everything to be digital. Our experience in talking to customers, this is kind of unexpected. We thought that people would be more resistant to this. Part of it, of course, is that we have a hands free device that allows somebody just check in with their phone. 

Paula Macaggi [00:20:28] I agree. I think people need some physical things, but it depends on like what we’re talking about, right? So if it’s a solution that I’m going to check in, like, Hey, I came to this retailer, let me see. Like, what are the the the the codes, the promotion codes that I have for me, like there’s a store that makes make sense. 

Ashley Coates [00:20:51] One last question for you, which is what is your personal mission and what do you want to be remembered for? 

Paula Macaggi [00:20:59] Wow, that’s deep. Well, I think my my personal mission is my personal talent, I think is to communicate and I want to use that for the best. So any way that I can communicate how to make something more sustainable or make something more customer friendly or something that’s going to bring, impact, to the future and happiness for me that it’s in retail. I would like to do that. So it’s very good for me to be in interviews like this in any way that I can share the leader. I know it’s already like a good thing, so I would say to communicate good things. 

Ashley Coates [00:21:42] We’re so glad  you do and that you joined us today. 

Paula Macaggi [00:21:47] Thank you so much for having me again. 

Ned Hayes [00:21:50] Absolutely. It’s been such a pleasure talking with you. 

Paula Macaggi [00:21:53] Thank you. 

Ashley Coates [00:21:54] Thanks Paula

Ned Hayes [00:21:55] Take care. Thanks for listening today to the SparkPlug podcast hosted by me, Ned Hayes, and brought to you by SnowShoe for smarter mobile location, Spark Plug is a wholly owned property of SnowShoe. All Content and copyright 2021 SparkPlug Media.