Laura Davis-Taylor

Chief Strategy Officer, InReality

Laura has been focused on creating meaningful retail experiences that bridge home, life and store for over 20 years. Her experience is multifaceted, ranging across brand planning, digital engagement, store design and, more recently, next generation retail experience design and analytics.

She believes passionately that good brands do not make promises — they deliver experiences in unique and compelling ways. Done right, it is this that builds irrational brand loyalty. With this philosophy, she has worked with brands such as AT&T, Toyota, Best Buy, Coke, L’Oréal/Lancôme, Lowe’s, Office Depot, Foot Locker, 7-Eleven, EJ Gallo and Unilever.

Laura is an active industry speaker and contributor on the subject of digital experience design for outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Time Magazine, the MMA and MediaPost. She’s an ongoing contributor for Digital Signage Magazine and Retail TouchPoints, an executive board member of the Digital Signage Federation and her book, “Lighting up the Aisle: Practices and Principles for In-store Digital Media”, is the only existing resource for how retail brands can harness technology to reinvent their in-store experience.

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  • Posted on: 12/12/2019

    Will IHOP fans flip out over its new fast-casual breakfast foods concept?

    I’m with Carol here ... and being that I live in Atlanta, I can’t wait to try it!
  • Posted on: 12/06/2019

    To localize stores or not, that is the question for retailers

    I was delighted to be part of the forum that Nikki refers to, as we hosted the walking tour and were on Nikki's panel -- and we found these local retailers equally fascinating. We did a deep dive in the second article link above, the common thread being that many of these local owners had minimal legacy retail experience. They didn’t build their stores to sell stuff--they built them to amplify a "noble purpose” that was rooted in a passion. The passions varied, and the store's product, people and experience was activated to embody them. This translated into amazingly authentic, compelling stores that both locals and visitors love -- but we heard stories of big brands that came into the area and failed quickly because the community wouldn't tolerate their mainstream approach. So back to Nikki's question, we saw huge value in finding ways to fit in authentically to the local market, even if in small ways. By doing so, retailers can find a connective tissue to the community that sails beyond being a traditional transaction space. By not focusing on transaction, by being more than a store, by becoming a "third place" for people, these local stores are creating transaction! For a big retailer, this approach is almost heresy -- I get it. It's operationally complex and requires a new approach/empowerment for local managers. It also requires big change management. However, we saw Urban Outfitters do it well with Space Ninety8. It's possible. The trick is to figure out how deep localization needs to go...and to find ways to tie utilizing it to revenue and retention. I'm looking forward to seeing other comments on this today!
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    Amazon confirms it will open a grocery store not named Whole Foods

    I'm with Mark ... I don't understand why they don't acquire an existing grocery brand with all the bandwidth and experience behind it and "do their thing" with it. After all, they are creating an outlet to get more consumer data and further entrench themselves in our lives. Why start from ground zero? Regardless, this is Amazon. They'll figure it out, and they can afford to lose time and money doing it. Such is the cunning model that they've created for themselves.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2019

    Should Amazon rent out its Just Walk Out tech?

    Agreed Bob. They'll make it cheap, easy and efficient. And any retailer that buys into it is basically letting the fox in their hen house. Amazon is never about just income--but they are ALWAYS about data. As my mom always said, "actions speak louder than words"...and their actions have been loud and clear.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2019

    Will Simon Property and Rue Gilt disrupt the online value shopping market?

    Fantastic and a great example of innovation that makes sense! My only caution would be around limiting it to members of Simon’s VIP Shopping Club. I may be wrong, but I'd lure people into it, get them hooked and then offer an additional perk if you also join the club (like free or discounted shipping).
  • Posted on: 10/03/2019

    What is Amazon’s ultimate Alexa strategy?

    I'm with Georganne. These folks can afford to bomb on as many devices and interface ventures as they can dream up. They've proven that for years. But when one "sings"--and one will--they're going to "own voice." And they'll get our voice purchases because it will be so easy. So many people still see Amazon as a commerce business and I do not agree: they are in the data business. They gather and use data in ways that lure us into giving up a LOT for the convenience they offer. They bought Whole Foods for data, and they're now fueled to keep getting more and more of our lives in bits and bytes. Rumors are flying that they are going to buy Zillow and they have an active health practice going as well--which I think will be about healthcare. And when that happens, we'll wearing body monitors for cheap healthcare. I know this sounds alarmist, but didn't we once say, "Oh, Amazon could never sell more than books"? I just finished reading "The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google" and it enlightened me on this topic in many ways. Worth a read. Knowledge as power works both ways. ;)
  • Posted on: 10/03/2019

    Zulily thinks it can beat Amazon and Walmart on price

    I agree with Bethany. Zulily nabbed its base from FOMO and deals--GREAT deals on limited quantities, but you couldn't return anything. So, the risk was on you and you had to be on the ball to get the treasures before they were gone! Now, there's too much going on in there--too many choices, not enough quality, still shipping and returns frictions. This is an option for gifting sure ... but it's not the same model.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2019

    New site wants to make independent grocery jobs into careers

    My high school job was at Publix. It was a great job, and I was treated very well. I have many people from my home town that are now retiring from thriving careers there, and they don't have a negative thing to say about it. Even a deli worker can buy into stock and become a highly paid manager one day, and loyalty, great customer support and hard work pays off. Everyone there knows it, and the retail experience is superb -- making it one of the most beloved grocery brands out there. Many lessons to learn within their walls for the larger industry on what a career here could result in IF their leaders know how to cultivate the ecosystem for all.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2019

    Will thredUP make Macy’s more thrifty?

    Adding on to Shikha's questions, what will make the target audience want to shop at Macy's for resale versus the hip, cool, established local resale shops as well as Plato's Closet, Buffalo Exchange and others that have hipsters selecting what to put on the floor? And providing local authenticity, easy in and out parking and shoppers that are squarely in their tribes? Even Goodwill has become hip, and this is a trend now well established. I also love Macy's tinkering but, like so much happening there, I wish it was explored years ago.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2019

    Nordstrom’s Local concept needs work

    Agreed Shep. I would find more to critique if they were doing no experimentation -- after all, that's how we all learn and innovate. However many of these new concepts are not continually fostered, nurtured and utilized as a place for a steady stream of proof of concepts. I don't know if Nordstrom's Local does this, but I hope they do!
  • Posted on: 08/14/2019

    Will Kohl’s shoppers like the ‘emerging brands’ chosen by Facebook users?

    If you can't beat them, join them! Facebook is using data to target, tantalize and snag transactions. People are selecting the stuff they love with their likes and wallets -- and when the brands they choose stand out, they become a safe bet for a retailer to take on. Combine that with the fact that Kohl's is often in more accessible locations than anchor malls and you have a win. I don't shop at Kohl's often, but I'll be headed to one within the next week to check this out!
  • Posted on: 08/14/2019

    Can H-E-B win the autonomous delivery vehicle race in Texas?

    I'm with Cathy. It sounds like a great idea but executing it fluidly seems complex. The other side of it is this -- I'm seeing more and more of the fallout from the lack of human touch when it comes to retail brands. Checkout lines feel longer, even with self checkout (which really, does anyone prefer to a warm, friendly associate at the cash wrap?). Operational leads are shaving more and more funds from associate presence, training and pay. And frankly, more people are choosing home delivery because the stores are so often a grind. H-E-B is a great brand. They have a great experience. Why not pay human beings to deliver to homes, train and pay them to create the best hands-off experience out there and turn it into a loyalty mechanism?
  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Walmart debuts store-to-fridge fresh food delivery service

    I'm with these guys. I live one mile from a Walmart in Atlanta and there's not enough need in the world to drive me to let one of their employees into my home. I have no doubt that it would get cased for a home invasion. This is all about brand trust and that starts with current channel experiences -- and it takes a lot of it to garner sharing the security code to your front door.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Who still thinks one-size-fits-all mannequins make sense?

    HUGE agreement Georganne! Another lens to this is the influence of influencers. Body positivity is everywhere, but when some of the "hot bods" all over the press are wildly different than the typical mannequin (which maybe .05% of the population looks like!), it's just obtuse to not be reflecting that on the floor and in the merchandising channels. Personally, I love the ones that are showing not just stick thin and plus, but the many ranges in between. Athleta is doing a marvelous job of this.
  • Posted on: 05/29/2019

    What’s the secret to driving emotional connections with customers?

    I'm sitting in a CX conference and the co-creator or Ritz Carlton just presented. He shared some of the keys to their success, which consisted of first understanding what people wanted from the lodging category: good service, timeliness and people that are nice to them. Over and over, they found that the *caring* created more profitability then the rest of it. They were then diligent to understand the impact of a lost guest, which was $200,000. They labeled a negative customer as a "terrorist against the company" and thus empowered people to ensure that when a customer was unhappy, they opened their arms. This is soft stuff from a measurement perspective, yet it is critical to a company's long-term success. It is also tied to brand expectations -- Family Dollar will have very different expectations from Cartier, and the emotions regarding the experiences will vary in accordance. Tools such as NPS and sentiment analysis qual/quant studies can be used to identify what's happening and why. But without a deeper, empathetic understanding re: what's driving the highs and the lows (at every touchpoint) and leadership that takes action to resolve the frictions AND create new on-brand, considerate rituals, it's a moot point. A great company keeps the customer, and emotional currency is the most powerful weapon in business today. The data, however, is akin to tea leaves -- once it's unearthed, the hard part is understanding what it's really saying and doing something about it.

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