5 Questions with a Retail Expert: Matthew Glaspey from Petco

August 8, 2019 by Buck Devashish

5 Questions Matt Glaspey Petco

Welcome to the latest post in a new blog series called 5 Questions with a Retail Expert! Through interviews with experts and practitioners, this series will focus on what’s happening in the retail and commerce technology market. In each blog, we hope to peer into the crystal ball and capture insights as well as lessons learned from those on the front lines. And perhaps, we will get to know these pundits a little better.

Today’s installment is a result of our conversation with Matthew Glaspey, Sr. Director of Digital Experience at Petco. If you’d like to hear more from Matthew, join us for an educational panel discussion at 12:50pm Tuesday, August 20th during eTail East in Boston!

For our readers who may not know you, what is your background in retail?

I started out in consulting with IBM focusing on package ERPs, shared services, and business process management across multiple industries for 6 years. Later, I turned my focus onto retail through my own project management company working with retailers in Southern California for a couple of years. I transitioned to full time with Petco, and for the last 7+ years have worked as a Program Manager and Director for IT, Commerce, and Fulfillment initiatives, until transitioning over to our Retail Transformation department. Recently, I have been focused on the in-store digital transformation for both our guests and partners to make sure we offer seamless, best-in-class commerce experiences in an ever-changing retail/digital landscape.

What do you see as the top trends in retail?

One clear trend is a shift from viewing guest interactions as transactions to experiences. Instead of just trying to close out the sale, companies are focusing more on the overall experience of the interaction with your company whether in-store or digitally as a way to combat lower-priced powerhouses in the market. By giving the customer a unique and tailored experience that matches your brand, companies are able to differentiate themselves from the competition and, better yet, keep those customers returning. It is exciting to see what many retailers are trying out in learning lab stores as the lines between digital and traditional brick and mortar continue to blur. Companies will need to be cognizant of being flexible and interact with their customers in any fashion they wish while still providing the same level of brand standard for the experience.

Checkout is one of the biggest friction points in retail and we will continue to see companies adapt to new ways of overcoming this. This area is fascinating and continues to evolve to meet consumer demands from traditional fixed lanes, self-checkout, in-aisle checkout, scan and go, to checkout-free shopping. Being able to tie mobile/online transactions with in-store checkout opens the door for companies to leverage new ways for add-on sales, virtual and physical cart merging, cross-selling, and tailored recommendations. This is something that companies must evaluate and review diligently on what their needs are now as well as looking around the corner to ensure they can adapt as needed. Point-of-sale systems (and their requisite hardware) can be very complex, costly, and interconnected across various platforms in a company’s eco-system, so due diligence is required to guarantee changes don’t negatively impact your retail life-blood.

In your opinion, what are the top challenges in retail today?

A critical issue is connecting the touchpoints and data across all of your product and service offerings, to create a unified experience. While it sounds simple, it can be incredibly complex and is often overlooked in initiative planning, i.e., to mandate that pre-existing and new projects/programs are reading and updating from the appropriate central locations across your organization. Normally the “connective” tissue is deemed as needed at the beginning of a project but is pushed off due to other “priority features” until it eventually gets pushed off the cliff and slams into the bottom of the ravine. The business idiom of “Data is King” is repeated ad nauseum for a reason. It is necessary to have the appropriate foundation for your company to effectively interact with your customer and capitalize on new “unlocks” as they arise (e.g., AI/ML, cross-selling opportunities, customization, etc.).

Another challenge is establishing a strong focus on the customer lifetime value (CLV) instead of bifurcating their goals and focusing exclusively on channel-specific targets which can be detrimental to the company and customer as a whole. The concentration should be on your customer and how they want to interact with your company and how you can expand and capitalize on that. Channel goals are good and should be used, but they cannot be your sole goalpost you are driving towards.

Lastly, it’s critical to keep your feet on the ground, that is, to adopt an agile mindset that is moored in reality for your company. The landscape is changing faster than ever with new concepts and disruptive technology, and your company must be able to adapt, improvise, and overcome (thanks Bear Grylls). Becoming scrappy and trying out new ideas quickly, iteratively and understanding what works (and what doesn’t), allows companies to adjust quickly vs. legacy “big bang” projects that consume a large number of resources and time with little to no feedback from the customer. However, there is a caveat (as there always is) that you don’t try to be too scrappy and agile too fast at the harm to your legacy eco-system and customer experience.  Successful teams I have encountered have started with a clear understanding of where they are in their adoption life cycle and knowing if they are ready to crawl, walk or run vs. jumping straight into sprinting while potentially causing more harm than good (dramatically impacting the adaption to this change).

Where do you see retail technology evolving toward over the next 5 to 10 years?

Definitely a tough question, but an exciting one! Companies will need to be laser-focused on the customer view of “What’s in it for me?” while never giving their customers an excuse to shop anywhere else. You are really seeing this start to take hold now as retailers adjust to consumer needs by adding in extra services in-store, overt signage, over communication of all offerings and ways to interact, as well as experimental store concepts.

I believe we will see much more intelligent implementations of predictive offerings and user-specific customizations (i.e., personalization). Each person is unique, and their shopping experience should be tailored to them and their needs. This would require a much greater and robust application of artificial intelligence/machine learning to help augment staff and companies for their touchpoints with customers. The end goal should be for the company to know what the customer needs before they even know themselves, removing the cognitive overhead of shopping and just becoming the customers trusted retail partner.

Each person is unique, and their shopping experience should be tailored to them and their needs. Click To Tweet

Another aspect I think will grow and expand in a possibly very disruptive way will be the proliferation of voice-enabled technology. Speech is our most natural form of communication and requires no UI. We are seeing this adoption now with smart speakers and voice assistants, and it will only grow more in the future. This avenue could open new ways to shop, for example having a smart speaker in the car and being able to interact with a store, reserve, and pay for a product while you are driving about running errands.

The landscape for physical stores will adjust and evolve as at-home service, same-day delivery, and automated delivery continues to grow and be adopted by consumers.  The footprint and layout of stores will need to be able to adjust with these change, specifically geared toward a) convenience and immediate gratification to stay relevant and b) a place that shoppers will go for an experience that cannot be obtained at home.

If you weren’t a retail professional, what profession would you choose and why?

Human crash test dummy. For some reason as soon as I passed 30 all my luck wore out and I am now accident-prone on nearly anything I do, albeit I do some less than smart things. I have scars, breaks, screws, and plates all over and had my right hip replaced twice in as many years. On the plus side, I have a card in my wallet that lets TSA and Security know I might set off their machines…..so I got that going for me, which is nice. 🙂