Julie Bernard

Chief Marketing Officer, Verve
As chief marketing officer, Julie Bernard leads Verve’s brand strategy, marketing, analytics and creative services. Julie was previously senior vice president of omnichannel customer strategy, data science, loyalty, and marketing technology at Macy’s, where she was recognized as a customer-centric leader implementing data-driven approaches for strategic growth, including award-winning personalized communications at scale, first-of-a-kind loyalty programs, and modern media attribution techniques. Julie previously held executive leadership positions at Saks Fifth Avenue and XRoads Solutions Group, a boutique retail consultancy.

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  • Posted on: 10/25/2017

    How will AI transform the online experience?

    The results that SLI Systems has released square in many regards with recent findings in our own research — we found, this past July, that 33%–43% of marketing leaders are deploying or testing-to-deploy artificial intelligence, with bots leading the field and voice assistants coming in at the slightly lower end of the spectrum.All of this points to one certainty about the future of retail — consumers will be working with AI interfaces to make choices throughout the shopping cycle. Retail leaders that want to succeed at capturing their customers’ spend throughout this transformation must apply the same lessons we’ve learned from most of our industry’s recent mobile advances — build valid experiences for the user and the device, emphasize context and relevance, and personalize for, predict for, and surprise your mobile audience with ideas and inspirations they would not have discovered on their own.The good news is, AI is tightly aligned with the kinds of engagements that breed these experiences. It’s heartening to see adoption of AI interfaces on the rise in the retail space.
  • Posted on: 10/24/2017

    How should independents prepare for Black Friday?

    The comment below, citing research that shows nearly half the retailers with omnichannel capabilities to be omitting callouts around special offers — this becomes a significant factor in this story. Independents must get the word out to their customers, or else Black Friday is just another day. They don’t need to go regional or cast a wide net, however. Budgets may only allow for a focused and targeted approach, and so leveraging location data to target and cherry-pick best prospects is a critical strategy.Furthermore, independents can work together in ways the majors often do not: something like a Black Friday block party that creates a rising tide, one that lifts all boats — an organized event that attracts people to a focused collection of local businesses, extending the impact of each participant’s advertising spend. From the consumer’s vantage, these moments also speak to experiential and emotional connections, and we know that emphasizing meaningful moments primes shopping events such as Black Friday for stronger outcomes.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2017

    Can AR trigger TRU’s turnaround?

    Augmented and virtual reality are poised to help in-store retail; there’s no mistaking that both technologies are packed with potential. If Toys "R" Us intends to plug into AR as part of a Hail-Mary-pass strategy, however, they’ll need to go big on story, big on message, big on experience.No matter the technology, in almost any case revenue-boosting in-store tactics still depend on the meaningfulness of the moment, on the story customers are being enticed to join, and on the anticipatory and inspirational experiences that build truly effective mobile-to-offline narratives.If TRU’s customers don’t see the newly announced AR stations as a game-changing experience, as a near-complete re-invention of what in-store shopping can mean, then parents are likely to make choices similar to the ones that are affecting brick-and-mortar retail overall; they’ll shop online. If TRU can create an in-store AR scenario that works well, however, the company will almost certainly do something positive for its bottom line and TRU will become the talk of the industry to boot.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2017

    Kohl’s to accept product returns for Amazon

    At the heart of the Amazon and Kohl’s returns plan is an opportunity to convert Amazon-returns customers into Kohl’s purchasers. We know, thanks to years of industrywide retailer research, that the value of returns-customers’ store visits amounts to as much as three times the value of a non-returns visit. Returns customers spend more on a per-customer-dollar basis, they buy more units, and they go to physical retail locations more often.Here’s where the opportunity lies: data tells us that returns customers make a purchase during the return-related store visit some 50% of the time. If a brand can push that purchase rate up to, say, 60%, then that increase is driving a legitimate lift in comparable store sales.So, in this case, even though the return is from Amazon, Kohl’s has an opportunity to grow their own sales when and if they are able to convert that returns customers to a Kohl’s purchaser.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    Are new, exclusive toys key to Walmart’s Christmas success?

    The successful recipe for exclusives relies upon one key ingredient: the products offered must be truly exclusive and they can’t overly frustrate consumers along the way. They must be special and meaningful and unique. Consumers will see through anything less — and with access to alternatives ever-present on their phones, if these items miss the mark or become too difficult to find, shoppers will simply buy a similar item from Amazon (or wait for the secondary online market, where exclusives inevitably show up).How to leverage exclusives without risking a negative experience?Beyond seasonal exclusives, brands can evade customer disappointment by turning to an always-on program of weekly limited-edition exclusives. This approach opens a vista onto engaging in a more consistent way, deepening longer-lasting relationships and building brand locations into trusted places for not only distinctive products, but also true chances at anticipatory inspiration.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    ‘Okay Google, I want to order from Home Depot’

    Retailers follow consumers. If they go to Google Home, then retailers will develop partnerships with Google Home; likewise with Amazon Alexa and so on, never limiting themselves to one partner but connecting with every major in-home digital device, ensuring customer coverage across the emerging marketplace. Brands will simply be wherever the consumer chooses to shop.One factor we should also find very interesting, when it comes to these new interfaces, is the evolving state of the data that drives them. In Amazon’s case, the company has powerful data already — search data, purchase data, location data, etc. As for Google, it is traditionally associated with search but with these types of retailer relationships coming to the fore the company will have increasing access to purchase data across categories. Add in knowledge of price points paid, promotional dynamics in play, purchase frequency, and the like, and this will enable Google to further catch up to the data advantage that Amazon has historically enjoyed.All this being said, actual purchase volumes may well be lower than expected until the process is both easier and more dynamic. Voice purchases are fine if you already know exactly what you want or need. But before buying something, for example, won’t consumers still like to look at it? Perhaps Google Home could create an AR image of the product on a wall or feed images to a screen. And, lastly, the cooperative spirit of these business relationships is encouraging from a consumer-experience standpoint, yet it introduces important questions to be addressed around data rights, transparency, consumer control. 
  • Posted on: 09/01/2017

    Does Amazon Books need coffee?

    Amazon continues to explore, innovate and impress. The most interesting part of its brick-and-mortar forays is hardly the dark roast, however; it’s the data (the topic on which Jennifer Cast shines a light here). There may not be another retailer on the planet with a comparable commitment to deep consumer analytics, with virtually all of this information collected on-site, all of it first-party and all of it tied to actual shopping behaviors. Amazon’s analytics power is the capital it needs to build and grow -- and then refine and perfect -- physical footprints that are true fusions of metrics-driven insights and creative curation.And what’s more, it’s clear that Amazon is not trying to replicate its (almost) anything/everything online experience in a mall or storefront location. Instead, it’s turning to select experiences, inspired theme-based inventory, and, yes, established and attractive touches ... a cup of Joe while browsing or thumbing through your paperbacks. Every retailer can take note of Amazon’s continued success story in this regard. This is how it’s done and this approach is what some parts of the industry have lost sight of in recent years. Back to basics, but add data. Amazon is giving us the cue.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2017

    Are fashion trends moving too fast for retail?

    It’s possible that retail’s drive for shorter ordering and manufacturing lead time, as outlined in this article, actually amounts to the wrong approach. Yes, retailers are absolutely right to observe that mobile- and online-first consumers very often want an everything-under-the-sun selection. But here’s the reality of shopping cycles in 2017: when consumers want massive selection, they can shop online.Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters is making an interesting play — buying a smaller percentage of available inventory upfront. Truth is, when it comes to brick-and-mortar retail, there is too much product on the shelf. Retail has defaulted to offering just about every option that a manufacturer presents them in the showroom — and that’s not to the industry’s benefit.Consumers don't want to see the same merchandise on the selling floor for months at a time. Stocking less of it and cycling through ideas more often gives them a reason to re-visit a store. This allows new inventory to shine through and it moves the in-store experience out of the maze of massed-out merchandise. Focused and exclusive collections that highly knowledgeable associates leverage to create person-to-person moments — meaningful experiences that expand the underlying purpose of traveling to a store and that change frequently enough to keep the feeling of discovery front and center for the shopper — this is how we cut the knot of everything/all-the-time in the brick-and-mortar space.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2017

    Will Instagram become retail’s ticket to mobile shopping?

    We know that shoppers are bringing their mobile worlds into the physical retail space, and this new Dana Rebecca Designs study gives us yet more evidence that mobile experiences actually drive brick-and-mortar sales.The key statistic in the study? One in three consumers turn to Instagram in-store when deciding what to buy. Additionally, all the participants cited social media as an influence when it comes to how they shop.This data dovetails with research we recently released, a survey of Millennials and Gen Z shoppers that showed 1 in 4 turn to their mobile devices while in-store and virtually none of them made spontaneous decisions — the entire concept of the persuadable moment (the point in time when they are showing intent to purchase and receptivity to brand-delivered inspiration) is now reliant on a cycle of posts, likes, and tags.The critical next step is to create creative, meaningful moments that further bring the online experience together with the in-store moment of purchase. At the same time, it’s important that we all stay agile. Today’s hip platform is tomorrow’s old news. Brands can't just stick with just one; they need to engage and tap into what each particular platform does best, reserving money for small tests with emerging and niche ideas as well, some of which might be in development in some Gen Z developer’s garage as we type.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2017

    Are Whole Foods’ price cuts game-changing for food retailing?

    Amazon’s acquisition and headline-earning price cuts in the aisles of Whole Foods represent a powerful opportunity to address the next phase of both brands’ consumer experiences.First things first, Amazon is bringing a massive data play to the table. Yes, reducing in-store prices gets consumers into the Whole Foods frame of mind — whether for the first time or as a come-back gesture or a high-five moment for loyalists — but the bigger picture is that of data-driven shopper engagement. Amazon commands vast amounts of online consumer data via its services and it can now leverage that resource to bring newly meaningful interactions to in-store Whole Foods shopping. That’s because consumers’ mobile devices are part of a conduit to contextual and personalized in-person engagements, moments that can help guide them through future grocery-shopping trips.Working hand in hand, Amazon and Whole Foods are on the cusp of a new horizon — prompting and inspiring and suggesting selections consumers otherwise might have missed, doing this via the mobile screens we know are with them almost all the time.And the virtuous cycle of in-store/online data exchange extends back to the Amazon experience as well. We need only to turn to recent Bloomberg reporting, for example, to see that Amazon commands more than half of all consumer online product searches: tying Whole Foods’ consumer behaviors back to Amazon Fresh moments should help both companies learn, grow, and drive positive data and revenue outcomes.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2017

    Are vendors delivering better online experiences than multi-brand sellers?

    This study offers a compelling way to approach in-store retail. Almost every detail is a lesson for the brick-and-mortar sales scenario — and key among them is that inventory overload and mazes of options do not drive engagements. Developing the in-store experience as a space for focused exploration and inspiration, then expanding shoppers’ horizons with options they can’t get everywhere else — this is the path forward in an online-offline world. Unlike online vendor sites, however, brick-and-mortar innovators can curate inspirational and discovery-oriented experiences across several selected brands. The key is to hone and focus those selections to something truly meaningful.And then, look at the online shoppers’ stated affinity for engagements in a multimedia environment, via social-media, and for deep product knowledge. There are lessons there, too. Creating opportunities for consumers to engage with knowledgable associates and in-store digital moments via mobile — remember, the consumer is an always-connected shopper, in so many cases (and so are associates) — these approaches open even more avenues to incorporating the learning that Astound has brought to the table. A valuable report and a boost in the arm for physical retail when it’s wondering if there’s something missing from the shelves.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2017

    Do consumers want to be recognized across channels?

    The focus takeaway from this CMO Council survey isn’t a puzzle, it’s a solution: consumers are looking for recognition within the specific context of their engagements with a brand. They want in-the-moment, information-rich engagements that help them and inspire them — from the smartphone to the in-store experience. Add to that what recent data tells us about younger consumers expecting brands to be able to anticipate their next want/need, and the strategies and tactics acquire even greater focus: relevant outreach and knowledge-add scenarios that inspire and complete the consumer’s brand experience in timely and contextually coherent fashion. That’s the big picture retail, the recipe retail needs to follow, and this new study supports it.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2017

    Why are so many associates being deprived of tech by their employers?

    The Salesfloor survey adds incredibly relevant quantitative data to a scenario retail leadership cannot ignore. With the entire Internet at shoppers’ disposal, associates must be (at least) as informed as the consumer that walks into the store. Mobile devices are the equipment they need — tools that empower on-site sales staff via fast access to detailed information via the screens they carry or that they can quickly access from kiosks and counters. Note, here, that the mobile devices provided to associates must be beautifully designed, and this includes the user interfaces. They must require as few steps as possible to get to the necessary information. Too many steps (in any retail process) risks causing the entire initiative to fall flat; customers will be frustrated if the tools make their experience more cumbersome.We already understand that retail will never replace the associate’s human touch but we also increasingly understand that we must augment that all-important face-to-face interaction with technology that allows associates to dovetail the delivered experience with sophisticated consumer expectations. The goal, of course, is to enhance the in-store shopper’s experience — and also to open new windows onto customer data, and to generate new location- and shopping-based data that brands can then use to build on successful outcomes.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2017

    How did mobile become the ‘glue’ in the Sephora shopping experience?

    Approaching mobile moments as opportunities to inspire and activate consumers with meaningful experiences is exactly the right strategy. Sephora is wise to think about location and context of their in-app engagements, and it appears they can take these app-based experiences even further.The personalization of an omnichannel make-up buying experience -- in this case, in-app interactions stemming from an in-store makeover -- shouldn’t stop with a saved list of products. The strategy should take the Sephora customer beyond the re-creation of a look and into the inspiration phase. In other words, what can Sephora’s Virtual Artist module do to anticipate the shopper’s affinity for a new experience they haven’t thought of yet? Location data and deep audience insights can drive this opportunity.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    How can grocers capitalize on small brand allure?

    Competing on price, along with over-inventorying, includes pitfalls every brick-and-mortar retailer must address. Conversely, stocking select curated items represents not only an opportunity to inspire in-store shoppers, but it stands to differentiate forward-leaning physical stores from competitors -- especially competitors in the same class, size or category of operation. Taking the concept of highly-curated inventory even further, when we consider evidence that smartphone-savvy consumers -- especially Millennials and Gen Z shoppers -- are quick to seek advice and share new in-store discoveries with their online friends and family, then the case for small-brand allure takes on the additional ballast of uniqueness, exclusivity and share-worthiness. These are conversion-driving opportunities for retail. Leadership should embrace them.

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