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: 10/19/2020

    Has Shein reinvented teen e-tailing?

    I'm going to add to Dave's statement. I ordered from Shein out of curiosity—the products are marketed very well, the reviews are often very good and they certainly show up everywhere with hard-to-resist lures. The products arrived and the fit was terrible, the quality worse. I tried to return all but one item and they basically said, "no, just keep it—our gift." Which meant is was too expensive to send them back across the ocean. The one item I wanted to keep fell apart with the first wash. So, based on experience, Shein has a lot to model regarding "hooks" and their marketing and social strategy, but they don't deliver. That will surely go viral as well so, unless that changes, I don't see them becoming the next big success story.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2020

    Retailers need to prep for in-store COVID conflicts

    Fully agreed Paula. This should not be on the associate to have to deal with — they don’t make enough money and training is already challenging. All they can say is, “these are not my rules, but everyone has to abide by them or I have to ask for security to step in to speak with you.”
  • Posted on: 10/01/2020

    Walmart reimagines its supercenters

    So here's my question for everyone in relation to the notion that "browsing is dead” in stores—the goal of consumers and the retailers that serve them is to help them “get in and get out. Don’t stick around.” Is this because we want this to be the case, or because we have to operate this way now? Remember that we've spent recent years espousing that CX and brick and mortar experience is *everything*, and we had strong data to support it. COVID-19 came out of nowhere and forced the pivot away from this, but does it change the fact that great retail store experiences with a reason to linger and enjoy are still what we yearn for? I'm going to say no. If we could all wear a bubble that ensures 100 percent safety and go in and have amazing store experiences, I think most of us would still be game. I love that Walmart is augmenting the store shop with better technology-enabled support, but I think it's a little dramatic to say that from this point forward, ALL people want stores to be as quick and mission-oriented as possible — and therefore the role of all stores is to support this.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2020

    Will Amazon’s palm reader reveal the future of retail payment?

    I’m heavy into this kind of work, and I do think that biometrics are just starting to get their sea legs. This type of sensor avoids the perceived challenges with anonymous facial recognition but is also ADA friendly. The problem, however, is Amazon. They want in on retail systems/POS and they want in on tracking our biometrics. Their real currency is data, so why wouldn’t they? Sensors to make payment, health screening, gate/building access and personalization frictionless are really exciting — take a look at this if you want to see how global and active this emerging category is. We’re testing our software on a wrist sensor that’s very similar to this one featured, but it’s not under the Amazon umbrella. There are many other cool sensors like it, and they enable businesses to operate under their own data locks and dams — which in my mind is the ticket.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2020

    Did CDC’s announcement boost retail’s online sales prospects for Christmas?

    I'm on your bus Ryan, I think it remains to be seen. People are hard to predict and we're all desperate for some sense of normality. For those that are proactively playing it safe, we're getting used to taking responsibility for our own safety as we head out to stores. Which stores we go to, however, is the potential wild card. Will malls see less traffic, opting for more open and accessible stores? Will we see more local stores getting support? Or will folks flock to retailers with more trusted safety protocols? I do believe we will have less traffic, but culture code is a powerful lure--and nothing has more emotional pull than the holiday season. This is going to be interesting to watch.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2020

    Are Amazon’s flying security drones a threat to homeowner privacy?

    I may be a minority, but I hate drones in every way. I find them to be scary, invasive and totally disruptive. Every time one flies near me I feel creepy and overwhelmed and I trust NO company to do the right thing with the data. Experience has shown that there are very few truly altruistic companies ... and Google, Amazon and Apple are all vying for who can control the most data and ultimately become the center chip for all things in our lives. Is this Amazon product a valuable idea? Yep. Do I trust it? Nope!
  • Posted on: 09/22/2020

    Will Walmart’s new private clothing line have ‘staying power’?

    I went through this almost 20 years ago while working at one of their store design firms when they decided to up their game with the merchandise and apparel category design. The products and upgrades to flooring, fixtures and signage were really, really nice. Back then, it backfired because their core shoppers felt that the more upscale approach was translating to higher overall store cost. Corporate slowly backed away from it and I recall the overall disappointment, but it made sense - Walmart has never been associated with quality or cachet, and their core shoppers wanted to keep it cheap and accessible. I wonder what motivated this move during a time of such unprecedented financial strain on the middle and lower classes? The store experience (in many locations) is still bare bones and is also not ready to support a more upscale product and price point — at least not in the ones I shop often. I like the idea, but I question the timing and feasibility. I suppose we’ll know soon enough!
  • Posted on: 09/14/2020

    Lululemon is ready to tackle holiday crowd control

    I totally agree with Jeff and the notion that "it's the sum of the parts." I'd hate to see holiday's "safe workflow" become a copycat situation, as so often retailers do. Every retailer has some similar health safety challenges, but they are also unique brands with unique situations and expectations. There is no standard workflow or technology that's perfect for everyone. Some protocols will be measurable and some will be more perception, and both count. Net-net, every retailer needs a plan, and it needs to be based on two-way dialogues with shoppers, legal's risk tolerance and what they should do based on knowing their business versus what the CDC outlines for them with a wide sweeping policy.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2020

    Will locals choose Brooklyn over Bezos?

    I was just responding as I saw your post Dave. I agree, particularly in light of the very special community mindset that Brooklyn retailers seem to hold dear. If anyone can make this work, it's them. So I'm very much looking forward to tracking their progress! It's inspiring.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2020

    Will Big Lots continue to stand out after the pandemic?

    I’ve seen a notable upgrade in the design appeal of their products over the past year. Where before the inventory was often basic and budget, there’s now a lot more trendy cool and on budget. I think that’s created more happy shoppers and will serve to keep the new ones venturing in for basics coming back. So could we say that COVID-19 rule #2 for retailers is: if they're coming in because they HAVE to in Q1, get them back in because they WANT to in Q2!
  • Posted on: 09/11/2020

    How big is the staycationer opportunity?

    I’ll be honest, I think the biggest lure would be how to safely rent somewhere else with as little risk as possible. We are all so tired of trying to make lemonade from our home-based lemons and really, really want a change of scenery. How about retailers attack the challenge with “change your scenery but here’s the safety kit and home or curbside delivery info you’ll need based on where you’re going?” Or, “here’s the safe excursion thematic (camping, beach, etc.), click for your packing last with safety essentials—pick it up or we’ll deliver.” You get the gist -- let [X brand] be your safe travel assistant! *Note, Airbnb would be an excellent partner. Just saying. :)
  • Posted on: 09/03/2020

    Target looks to expand the reach of its $1B+ Good & Gather grocery brand

    I know we’re not *really* supposed to self-reference, but I LOVE this private label brand. It fires on all cylinders — novelty, delicious products, great design/branding and addressing foodie trends (healthy, quick and easy). I think they’ve set a new bar for the private label playbook, and this is an excellent strategic move considering their struggles with the grocery category. Will it drive trips and baskets? We'll see -- it's sure driving mine.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2020

    Will COVID-19 give facial recognition a second look?

    This is certainly a hotly debated topic right now. However, we have to remember that we’re having a global conversation here. Culture and local/government policy swings wide on the sentiment to answer this question, as does age and generational outlook. Being thick in the midst of this world, the challenge is also the accuracy -- it’s not perfect. There’s also an emerging backlash, including a group from the University of Chicago that took it upon themselves to develop a tool that disguises photos to confuse facial recognition systems (they do it with subtle pixel-level changes). There are many ways to self identify with an opt in, using an app with a barcode, ID cards, and biometrics that don’t involve a face and ensure accuracy. There’s also a huge difference in doing these things anonymously (as an unknown visitor) versus recognition (as a known visitor) and it’s worthy of treading this terrain carefully. It all comes down to trust, and every study I’ve personally been part of regarding this topic unveiled that the trust issue was present between the customer and the retailer. However, there was more concern regarding how the government and/or big tech could potentially abuse the biometric data the retailer gathers. My take is use it if it makes sense for employees and those who have opted in IF it’s solving a friction point (speeding up clock in and tracking compliance against HR and Legal policies) -- but do the diligence to look at every self identification method to make sure it’s the right one. For shoppers? Steer clear unless you're in a global region that has already accepted it as the norm.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2020

    Will COVID-19 give facial recognition a second look?

    Right Adrian, spot on.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Nov. 2021: How should retail plan for a return to normal?

    Having been steeped in this topic for the past four months, I’ve gleaned some important guidance from really smart people, the most notable being from the attorney we work with from Davis & Gilbert. Gary Kibel over there has really helped us understand one of the most important points — “Duty of Care.” How to return to normal under these totally unique circumstances does indeed have some general guidance. However what matters most is that the retailer follows through on what any third-party jury would filter judgement through (should it go south), which is, “did this business follow through on what most any normal person would consider their duty to care for those in their midst?” The facts we have in front of us are fuzzy, changing and politicized. There’s also the general statement of “well, if you don’t like the policies and procedures X is utilizing, don’t go there.” But you can’t say that for the employee on the floor who needs a job and just wants strong measures in place to protect their health. In light of that, I strongly feel that the brass tacks basics are critical, but there’s enormous value in going just a little further to show both customers and employees that they are in good care, and, therefore everyone in the store can mentally free up to go about the business of shopping.

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