PROFILE

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.

Learn more at: www.verve.com
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  • 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.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    Could ’embeddables’ in wearable tech give brands a clearer view of consumers?

    Under Armour is wise to link data-gathering technology to the concept of providing its customers with relevant experiences and the potential of personal gains. Consumers tell marketers that they’re amenable to granting data permissions if the benefits and engagements they receive are deeply connected to what they want in the moment -- and, furthermore, if they lead to next-step inspirations. And so, Under Armour stands to leverage embeddables with success -- they already understand to a certain extent what their loyal customers want out of athletic-wear brand experiences, so the paths to increasingly meaningful moments do exist. The key to the embeddable equation will be that Under Armour -- and any brand that wades into these waters -- continually channels the mobile data it gathers into feedback loops of positive and contextually-focused returns for the wearer.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2017

    Will personalized pricing only lead to more discounting?

    This study by the Journal of Consumer Behavior brings us another example of the insights brands and marketers can now achieve with the data that mobile technology provides -- a level of personalization unlike anything that’s come before at scale.Personalized price represents one of those levels of personalization. This approach to pricing, however, should be taken as part of a much deeper way of engaging the consumer. It’s not sufficient to entice shoppers with a price that merely dovetails with what we can detect about audience, timing and retailer characteristics: the data that accesses this behavioral key should also drive a series of anticipatory experiences and offers. We want to trigger discovery. What can data tell us about what the shopper would like to encounter next in terms of merchandise and new experiences? Data can forecast these next moves just as well as it can identify a price that’s primed to prompt conversion.Price becomes one, but not the only, or even the most important, factor in the decision-making process. I never recommend competing on price, in fact. Products and services need to stand on their own value. And when these new discoveries are closely matched to customer context, Dr. David’s well-taken concerns about dashed expectations around personalized pricing -- the person who pays less is happy; the person who pays more wonders why -- can be countered by authentic and meaningful offerings. It is the data-driven moment of anticipatory inspiration that will truly fuel the transforming relationship between brands and consumers.
  • Posted on: 05/25/2017

    Are some retailer CEOs too old to learn new tricks?

    Consumers are the driving force of change in the fashion retail business. It’s the people, not the technology. The speed of tech’s evolution is often part of the equation when it comes to the challenge of understanding changing shopper behaviors, but the underlying lack of focus still comes back to the misunderstanding of consumers, not tech.This is particularly true in the supply chain where fast-fashion retailers have created design and production models that can react within weeks to the changing whims of consumers. Remember, the average shopper doesn't know if something took eight weeks or eight months to design, manufacture, ship, and get to the selling floor. The solution is to make shopping fun again, and to empower consumers to feel that they are developing their own sense of style, selecting items that feel special to them.Furthermore, the new reality is that consumers have many choices and retailers can't be greedy about margins when there are widely available proxy options for any given item. With their smartphones in hand, shoppers can easily find a suitable alternative in a given shopping moment, so, as Mr. Drexler notes, making prices competitive from the onset is a smart move.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2017

    What does it take to thrive in an over-stored marketplace?

    There are strong traditional arguments in this piece, to be certain. Especially for the mobile-savvy modern shopper, creating omnichannel experiences focused on select and carefully curated inventory that merge digital and physical approaches to product and engagement with brand associates is the wave of the future – and has been a core focus for most large-scale retailers for the past decade. The vision has been there; progress in realizing that vision has been slow.Missing at times from this conversation, however, are the sometimes vast differences between types of brick-and-mortar stores. In short, the aspirin aisle is a different kind of candidate for the mobile-first moments of online–offline omnichannel anticipatory inspiration than the shoe department or the dress boutique. In the case of what we might call the list-and-basket shopping environment — think, personal-care stores, home goods and groceries, and the like — retailers would do well to foreground easy access to high-volume items and location-data informed shopping patterns in ways that the dress shop needn’t (and shouldn’t) consider. The dress shop draws on data access for deep insights into customer behavior, creating surprise and delight around highly personalized items that make the consumer feel unique with a personal sense of style. Toothpaste, paper towels, and dish soap aren’t often the same types of purchases.We still need to make shopping in-store smarter and more relevant for the smartphone-equipped and online-ready consumer, but we also need to make these changes according to the scale and specifics of shopper expectations — the kinds that different physical-retail experiences represent. Our approaches and strategies must reflect the granular changes in the way inventory drives consumers to shop.

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