Q&A With Joanne Nemeroff: How Can Brands Empower Teams on the Floor?

When someone asks me, “know any experts in the retail industry?” The first person that comes to mind is Joanne Nemeroff. Joanne has lived and breathed the retail space for a cool four decades, witnessing the evolution of the industry from planning one year ahead… to one hour ahead. Joanne is an internationally known leader in the retail space, having lead several brands through intense times of growth and change, including Aldo, La Senza and Penningtons.

As Steve, the team and me ramp up for big things this year -- we’ve been calling on our network of Thought Leaders to provide their insights on an industry that’s growing faster than we can say, “flash sale.”

In this Q&A, Joanne offers up some actionable advice and predictions for the future for fellow retailers and brand leaders out there.

Enjoy the read,


NK: Let’s start with the here and now! What’s your current day-to-day?

JOANNE: Right now I’m a consultant for a number of retailers, and I also sit on the board of four companies, including Frank and Oak and Weizmann Canada.

NK: Trace your career for us a little bit -- how did you get your start in retail?

J: After my degree at McGill, I ended up in LA with friends of the family who owned a boutique store. I came back from the trip inspired to learn more -- so I went to LaSalle College. Soon thereafter, I started at Eaton with an internship. My journey from there included a number of recognized brands -- such as La Senza, Penningtons, and Limited Brands, to name a few.

NK: How would you describe the difference of the retail landscape from today versus now?

J: It’s not even a comparison. Today, you need to look at your sales every single day and decide what you’re going to do. You have to be incredibly reactive; thinking on your feet to make quick, smart decisions. Things change fast. Pre-digital, you could make your plans 6-12 months in advance -- but now way too much happens in the span of 6 months!

NK: Clearly the biggest change to retail has been ecommerce. How should brands and retailers view the “ecommerce vs. brick-and-mortar” battle?

J: They shouldn’t be considered two separate entities. Whether you’re in a store or shopping online, everything should be seamless. One day a consumer might be shopping online, but the next day they decide to go in-store. Whatever they choose to do, brands and retailers need to know who that person is, what they’re shopping for, and what their last interaction was to curate a personalized experience. The consumer rules all today.

NK: What should brands and retailers do to offer a personalized experience in-store?  

J: Ensure that everyone on the floor has in-depth knowledge about the brand! Customers want to feel like they are “part” of a brand, not just buying something. This is especially true for the millennial buyer who is really in-tune with the meaning of what a brand is.

NK: So solid brand knowledge is key. What are some of today’s biggest roadblocks in achieving that?

J: There are a few things. First of all, brands need to coherently define their vision, and define what community they want to be apart of. When that’s determined, the next step is communicating this information in a consistent manner. If you’re looking for a brand to see who really executes this flawlessly, go to Sephora. They understand their customer in an intimate way. All communications online I receive are curated to my purchasing patterns. In-store, their frontline knows the products inside and out and the atmosphere is always different.

As for the teams working on behalf of the brand, education is critical. Legacy retail systems have rushed to keep up with the speed of digitization, but we’re not up-to-date quite yet with key aspects -- such as onboarding new employees, or finding innovative ways to communicate to employees quickly. Consistent information delivered in a fast, engaging manner is as key for your internal stakeholders as your buyers.

NK: So good communication is key. What’s your advice to brands and retailers to provide effective communication about product updates?

J: Simple communication at a high frequency. Make sure you have a solid vision of your customer, community and your values, and ensure all communications tie into these core principles. Don’t be afraid to have a point of view either!

NK: There are a few key themes we’ve uncovered so far -- in-store experiences, education and the new retail ecosystem. What are your predictions for how all of these factors will coalesce in the near future?

J: In the new retail framework, the customer will be recognized as soon as they walk into the store. Associates will have their phone or tablets with readily available information about what the customer purchased. Shelves will have sensors with analytics, just like an e-commerce site.

Right now, many communications are generic. That will change drastically once offline retail analytics become the norm. When people on the floor know more information about the customer standing right infront of them, they’ll be able to sell a product more effectively. Of course, with this comes the requirement of having to know the product inside and out.

There will be a two-way street feedback loop too -- not just top-down transmission of information. Teams on the floor can transmit in-store insights, directly from the customers, back to HQ.

NewKnow’s Role in Joanne’s Vision of Empowerment

Joanne’s understanding of the evolution of retail is what makes her such a valued advisor to NewKnow, as her feedback is leveraged in our product roadmap planning, and her vision of the reimagined retail landscape aligns with NewKnow’s core promise: sell better together. There are a lot of retailers, along with their brand partners, that need help delivering high-frequency, low-intensity communication with accountability across their retail networks to support their shared front-lines. In a competitive, ever-changing landscape that’s constantly being challenged by the speed of retail, this is vital.

NewKnow’s easy & affordable training & communication tool helps the front-line stay in the know, delivering incredible customer experience year-round, empowering brands and retailers to sell better together. Find out how we can empower your team on the floor.

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