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: 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.
  • Posted on: 07/28/2020

    Retailers need to reorganize like a 21st century business

    You've always preached this narrative Ryan -- I wish more had been willing to listen.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2020

    Retailers need to reorganize like a 21st century business

    The points made here are spot on, and frankly should have been acted on years before this pandemic hit. Wasn’t the emergence of the CXO to help all internal teams "reorganize around the customer"? It was the right plan, but these efforts (in most cases) became innovation experiments or glorified research. I’ve always preached that the CXO needs to be empowered to lead the charge, and I believe that now more than ever. This person and their team must live the customer and the brand so profoundly that everything exists to understand them and serve them uniquely. However they must also tie all efforts to sound, irrefutable data points that the C-suite can understand and further empower. The systems and data tools exist to do this. The platforms for taking quick action on things like BOPIS are out there. The talent to take it on is out there (most often not within internal teams, but that's another challenge). What we’re missing is the leadership to support this kind of shift in power to one rooted in CX, servitude, design by sprint and rock-solid revenue tracking. It my be a leap for many, but it's time.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2020

    Is Apple being too cautious?

    Again, watching the activities here in Florida, the beach communities have gone from somewhat cautious to completely hands off the wheel. Numbers are at an all time high and maybe 10 percent of the people around me are wearing masks. Employees are often pulling them down under their noses and the narrative we're getting from the "whatever" group goes across "the number are up because testing is up," "that's all fake news" and "I'm just sick of it and not doing it, I'll take my chances." My fiancé owns a medical clinic and even got into it with a patient that refused to put on a mask. Regardless of where you lean, the fact is that every business owner has to take a stance. I applaud Apple for taking one, and erring towards caution. When the "whatever" crowd is out in droves and the facts are all over the place, they decided to err towards caution. That's leadership.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2020

    Should stores relax dress codes to let workers show support for Black Lives Matter?

    This isn't just a social cause--this is a radical, critical issue happening right now. To allow employees to express their support and put the weight of their brand behind them matters. Starbucks has always been a cause-friendly company, and they've never been shy about it. Other brands that have always walked the line may have more backlash, but they make a big statement about who they are, what they believe in and what to expect of them with their action (or inaction).
  • Posted on: 06/11/2020

    Are tourist dollars coming back any time soon?

    Well, we are all guessing here. But I can offer a view from hot tourist spot Daytona Beach. I arrived about 10 days ago to nest with family for a bit and saw every beach hotel on a 20 drive minute stretch full to capacity. The streets were packed, the beaches were packed, the pools were packed and the bars and restaurants did not seem slightly off kilter. On the beach side, most employees were/are wearing face masks and posting signs to be mindful of social distancing. I see very little enforcement, however. Frankly, it was—and is—concerning, as the state’s numbers are hardly going down. Net-net, if what I’m seeing is an indicator, tourist-driven business in spots easy to drive to are getting right back into the swing of things, cautionary procedures more a box check than a true concern. The locals will theorize that, when in the outdoor heat, pools/water and chlorine, there’s a lot less to be concerned about. How this theory as well as similar behavior is going to pan out, however, is going to be a wait and see.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2020

    Are words of support no longer enough?

    In the race to brand loyalty, especially in this never-before-seen climate, taking a stand can mean everything. I learned in the RetailWire Live! we did a few weeks back on marketing analytics that your best customers are currently the single most important thing to focus on. With that in mind, it’s imperative to take action on the issues that align with what they expect from you—to do the right thing. Not only will you keep the ones that hold your brand closest, but you will likely create new loyalists as well. The current climate may be polarizing, but staying neutral is not a good strategy.
  • Posted on: 06/08/2020

    Is remote working bad for corporate culture?

    I think it depends on the company, the vertical and what the corporate culture was before this COVID-19 period. It also depends on the tools being used. We are actually working more productively, and with little-to-no issues. Meetings are almost all video-based, where before we were mainly using teleconference. We’re having to be more creative and nimble while also work together more effectively--and globally. Frankly, it’s trained us to realize that we can limit office time and save money/precious work time (versus sitting on the highway for two hours a day) while also enhancing personal quality of life. If the company was previously lean back and/or dysfunctional, I’m not sure if this would be possible. I’ll be curious to read what others are experiencing as well!
  • Posted on: 06/05/2020

    The face mask rule is now simply a suggestion at some H-E-B stores

    I'm with you Al. I came down to Florida from Atlanta a week ago and am blown away by how few people are wearing masks inside of retail stores -- maybe 30 percent. I read today that yesterday was the highest number of cases in Florida to date. I'm sure many things are behind this, but there's a general laissez faire feeling in the air. The question is who is on point to correct it? If state and federal mandates hit, the retailer wouldn't have to make hard choices--particularly when to wear or not to wear has become a political statement. Sigh.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2020

    Should Amazon, Walmart, others be held liable for workers sickened by COVID-19?

    I'm with Jeff here. I’m steeped in this topic due to the products we’ve been bringing to market, so my opinion is informed by a lot of time in the trenches digging into it. Gary Kibel of Davis & Gilbert helped me get my arms around this best, as he’s become a key voice on the topic from a legal perspective. He also warned our team about this legislation on the table. Where I personally ended up is that no, there are too many unknowns to be able to hold them 100 percent accountable. However, and this is the BIG CAVEAT, this should hold true only if they have put reasonable processes and systems in place that meet reasonable safety expectations of the workers. As in, they have preventative measures and processes that at least try to stop any transmission. Perfection is not the goal — reasonable attempt is. To do this however, we must first clear up the murky guidelines out there. The CDC has them, but we see the industry supplementing them with their own tools and processes — and wow is it schizophrenic. We have those going above and beyond and those that do little more than tape on the floor. No worker should have to go into a job to support themselves or their family in an environment where the employer is not held accountable to ensure—to the best that they can—that the environment is safe. As long as they have things in place that do this as best as possible, they should not be held accountable in court. If they do nothing, however, I do believe that they should be. The support tools are out there, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to use them.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2020

    Do retailers need to go beyond ‘reopening playbooks’?

    I agree, and the jury is still out. One thing I believe strongly is that the concern is not if the store is safe ... it's if the store is taking measures to protect them from the other shoppers that don't care about the health and wellness of others, thereby bringing safety concerns with them as they leave their mark on the store environment. And let's be real, that was a thing before COVID--it's just that now it has more dire consequences. Like everything else in relation to retail stores, the CX designed around this is key. Part of that is ensuring that shoppers know that a safety protocol is a secured safety measure, not just an operational process box check. Optics go both ways.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2020

    Can outdoor dining save restaurants?

    Like so many solutions they are experimenting with, this is an arrow in the quiver. If the location is suited for it, great. Is it a standalone fix? Nope. They still need more delivery, BOPIS/curbside pickup, family meal solutions and other such supplemental strategies. I just came to Florida from Atlanta and almost every restaurant is doing a combo of BOPIS, curbside and outdoor dining. In a nice climate with the space, it works really well. But it's not a saving grace by any stretch.
  • Posted on: 06/03/2020

    Lowe’s ‘virtually’ goes on the job for home improvement pros

    Love, love, LOVE this. My plumber charges $75 just to come to my house. We had him over last week and didn't love the idea, as we weren't sure if he would be using a mask or not. I'm sure he wasn't thrilled to either. This is a huge value-add for the Lowe's pro customers, and as competitive as that race is, kudos to them for creating such a hugely valuable enabling platform.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2020

    Is it safe to bring back food sampling?

    I'm in your camp Dave. In this new normal, I fear that we're attempting to loosen the protocols too quickly--which may be a dangerous experiment. Yes, it needs to happen eventually. But can't we wait until more facts are out there and err towards extreme caution? Having been steeped in this "safety perception" topic, it really is other shoppers that people are wary of--at least the small percentage that don't care about others. Can we trust all involved to do this safely? Hmmm.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2020

    Retail ensnared in nationwide protests

    These retailers have power, both individually and together. They can wield that power to influence real action AND create a precedence for others to follow. I'm thrilled to see our BrainTrust united in this sentiment.

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