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: 04/09/2018

    Retailers face criticism for failure to protect customer data

    Since we know consumers absolutely do expect magical experiences -- almost transcendental experiences -- as reported in our own research about the desire for anticipatory inspiration, we can appreciate the pressures that businesses are facing. In this, there is an opportunity to view data-security investments as actually supporting the positive consumer experience. This is to say, companies should make the necessary (and, yes, hefty) investments to further secure and protect consumer data. But in doing so, they should communicate their actions to their customers so that consumers view their secured data as an element of their positive experience with that brand. A common example would be when your bank prompts you with a fraud-prevention message, or helpfully notes unusual spending in a location you don’t normally swipe or insert your chip. These experiences have become part of what “positive” means in the financial services sector. Retail ought to take very careful note! Data security as well as privacy should be seen as components of innovation investments as well as a loyalty-earning part of the brand identity that consumers will celebrate. 
  • Posted on: 12/20/2017

    Are shoppable recipes a bigger opportunity than meal kits?

    With data-driven recommendations informing shoppable recipes, a grocer/provider can deliver on the promise of anticipatory inspiration, introducing new ideas for the consumer in a data-driven way. The inclusion of a recipe card/guide is helpful and solves consumer problems. Keeping the shoppable recipes digital — more specifically, mobile — should also be top-of-mind. If the kitchen-consumer can scan the recipe card to bring up a video that shows exactly how to prepare the items, the potential for positive user experiences improves, as does access to details of customer wants and needs that the brand can learn and incorporate into future strategies. This concept is similar to what the fashion-apparel industry has been offering for years with Buy-the-Look and Complete-the-Look experiences whereby a consumer can purchase all the items shown on a model, putting together outfits that make them feel confident, modern, and inspired. As long as the consumer can de-select the items they might already have in their pantry, purchasing only items they need to make the recipe, this is a terrific idea.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2017

    Are on-the-road shopping apps helpful or hazardous?

    Two immediate considerations arise when it comes to GMs in-car Marketplace offering, although there could be other, additional points that emerge from a deeper examination of the capability. The first concern is obviously safety — and no spin of the better-than-smartphone variety makes this touchscreen shopping interface a smart choice for drivers. In the driverless future, maybe, but we’re obviously not there yet. And even if Marketplace, or a similar interface, were to focus on voice engagement and not touch, research shows that even voice commands can result in distracted driving. The other observation is about whether this is a feature that solves a consumer problem. The answer, if we base our analysis on what Santiago Chamorro, GM’s vice president for global connected customer experience, told Reuters on December 19, is that Marketplace is a revenue stream for GM, one that’s financed by the merchants who show up on it, and GM also expects to share a portion of the revenue per transaction. Are we putting the consumer at the center of our decisions? Is this a meaningful improvement to their lives and, if so, are we certain that it doesn’t introduce undue risk to other drivers on the road? When we build user experiences, we should build them to be meaningful for the consumer. A brand’s focus should be on anticipating, inspiring, and ultimately driving conversions because something relevant, personalized — and safe — is occurring on the screen. From the information available here, thus far, Marketplace misses its mark on all these counts.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2017

    Do pop-up efforts make sense for subscription box services?

    A pop-up is a great way to introduce a brand and offering to the consumer in a tangible way, especially if the offering is a product as opposed to a service. Secondly, it also helps spur word-of-mouth promotion. To support this (potentially) viral campaign opportunity, pop-up subscription-box spaces should make it easy for the visiting consumer to share their physical experience on social-media channels, driving interest in the immediate mobile moment and prompting subscription sign-ups even if the recipients are not nearby the pop-up location.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2017

    Do retailers need a new approach to store brand marketing?

    Store brands do represent a way to build additional value around existing customers — but, if the consumer doesn’t understand that the private brand is a product of the parent brand, then the benefit won’t be there — i.e. the “parent” brand isn’t getting the “credit” that they seek. For example, at some retail brands, many consumers think that certain private label merchandise simply represents brands you couldn’t find anywhere else; they don’t realize that these items are designed, manufactured, imported, and sold by the parent brand through the private-brand division. The upshot: beyond a tangible link to the parent brand, private brands and labels should be marketed like any other product, so that the consumer understands the product benefits when compared to more well-known competitive brands. That being said, sometimes the parent brand must further promote private brand and private label products to communicate that their quality is just as good — if not better for the price — as other well-known brands. Obviously, this requires a well-rounded, robust marketing program!
  • Posted on: 11/27/2017

    Customer data is grocery’s new battleground

    For decades, grocers and other retailers have been using customer data for insights well beyond couponing and promotion. This is not new news. In fact, Kroger, through their original dunnhumby joint venture, offered manufacturers access to The Shop, a reporting-and-insights tool that helped brands and partners understand their customers. Looking at the whole of their purchase behavior across the entire store -- all categories and all products -- The Shop enabled brands to inform future strategies for overall messaging, packaging, pricing, assortment, service, product adjacencies, etc. There remains ample opportunity to tap into customer data in meaningful ways. While the insights have been available for years, the gravitational force of legacy mindsets and business operations has limited progress. Customer data and insights are not the barriers to progress; it is the comfort zone to which business leaders often cling -- the ways they have “have always done things” -- that is the underlying problem. Now is the time for retail leadership to truly embrace real change at the levels of people and process. This is not simply an annual exercise in the shuffling of an organizational deck; the changes need to be meaningful. If companies are not willing to fundamentally alter how they run their businesses -- particularly in terms of acting upon data-driven insights -- then they may not be around in the next three to five to 10 years.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2017

    Does it matter if social media is getting a bad rep?

    It is far too soon to toll the death bell for social media. Still in its infancy, in many ways, and clearly experiencing growth pains, at times, the leaders in the various organizations are none the less maturing and responding to growth opportunities. The benefits of social media most often outweigh the negatives. And the business models themselves are evolving in response to the ways users create and draw value from the platforms — and in response to what users demand in terms of improvement. So, yes, in three to five years, social media may well be different than it is today, but platforms of one kind or another will still be with us. What’s certain is that we’ll witness the emergence of new and increasingly valuable experiences — growth that will deliver refreshed value to the consumer.
  • 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.

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