Reinventing Retail Relationships in the Midst of a Pandemic
In this episode:
In this episode, Wendy Liebmann interviews Greg Farrar, CEO of ECRM, a leading trade organization and provider of business-to-business solutions for retail food service operators, health system buyers, and for the suppliers of consumer packaged goods for general merchandise, food service products, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals.
- How the pandemic changed the relationship between brands and retailers
- How ECRM flipped its business model in a moment as it was no longer tethered to time and space
- How the organization has opened up the global business world to buyers and sellers just as the physical world was closing down, and
- What all organizations, big and small, can learn from this as they build the future of retail
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Retail strategist and shopping futurist Wendy Liebmann shares her passionate, unvarnished shopper-centric view of where retail is headed. She interviews experts in retail, marketing, insights, design, education, and more. And she and the WSL team regularly share excerpts from WSL’s latest proprietary shopper research about what’s coming next.
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Hello, my name is Wendy Liebmann. I'm the CEO and Chief shopper of WSL Strategic Retail, and this is Future Shop.
This is where I have a fast and furious chat with guests about the future of retail and what companies need to do to envision that future. Today, the topic of hand is reinventing retail relationships in the midst of a pandemic. That's a mouthful. My guest is Greg Farrar. He's the CEO of ECRM, an organization that brings together retailers and manufacturers in truly efficient ways to do business.
Two decades ago, ECRM revolutionized b2b engagement. And here we are right in the middle of a pandemic, and they've done it yet again, there's much learning to be had in this conversation. So stay with us. Hello, Greg. Welcome.
Hi, good morning. Thank you for inviting me to your show.
Pleasure to have you. So how are you? Where are you?
I'm doing very well. I'm in Glen Allen, Virginia, which is outside of Richmond. And it's a very nice fall day here.
That's great, as everybody can now tell, you have two southerners on this call. I'm a little further seven than he is, but clearly, to southerners. So take that, you know, in mind as we as we have this conversation. So let's begin at the beginning, can you tell us a little bit about you and how you got to ECRM, and then we'll talk about a ECRM.
I started out as my career as a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps. And when I decided to leave active duty I was networking and connected this group of Marines that were running this trade show for the Marine Corps. And I vaguely knew when a trade show was but they asked me to join. And that company, became acquired by a company that became acquired by another company that ultimately became Nielsen. And so I ended up running Nielsen, business media, all of their trade shows and publications and b2b websites. I left there in April of 2010, and joined ecrm. I did a stint with a small design product catalog, online product catalog for three years and then joined ECRM in July of 2013.
That's an interesting journey from the Marines to event planning, right?
Well, it really requires a lot of disciplines attention to detail and to be able to have a vision and, and leadership as well. So yeah, and just generally whipping everybody into shape, which I try not to do that. Yeah.
So let's talk a little bit about ecrm. I mean, I remember ecrm, I said two decades ago, that just ages me some more. But when I think about an organization that helped transform the relationship between buyers and sellers, it seemed that ecrm did that. So can you tell us a little bit about ecrm. And its evolution, so we kind of understand the context.
ECRM is the leading provider of business to business solutions for retail food service operators, and health system buyers, and for the suppliers of consumer packaged goods for general merchandise, food service products, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals. And our mission is to make their buying and selling processes more efficient and more effective. Now, the way that we do that is through a collection of over 80 product category focused programs that are designed to match the objectives and requirements of the buyers with the products and capabilities of suppliers. Now, these programs are unique combination of high touch and high tech. We have a client success management team that is highly engaged with our clients throughout the process. And they're enabled by our proprietary technologies, including Range Me, which is our online product discovery platform with over with over 200,000 suppliers on the platform. And so once we've matched to the buyers and sellers, we bring them together in person where they meet face to face and what we call any efficient program planning session where they meet one to one to really assess their ability and interest to do business with each other.
If I recall when ECRM first got started and more recently now, this this extraordinary bringing together of retail buyers, with manufacturers in categories specific cough, cold, cosmetics, whatever and these one on one meetings that you ecrm organized through even 20 years ago and amazing platform, where all you had to do was put your hand up and say I want to come and you organized all the meetings. And that was the least of it. Obviously, you aligned everybody on what do you need to get out of it what it is so, so it, it felt to me even then. And as it evolved in your most recent evolutions, or revolutions, really, it took the complexity out of business to business relationships, and in many ways, simplified it. So I don't know if that's true. But that's my observation.
And so when Charlie Bowles, created the company back in 1994, he really revolutionized or innovated into face to face meeting. I mean, imagine create, or creating a new type of face to face interaction, that's like creating a new type of fire. It's been thousands of years. And, and we take for granted, but he did that. And he also was the first to, he pioneered the use of technology to facilitate interaction and commerce between buyers and sellers. And at that time, Charlie, I think felt or thought of the business as an event business. But when I came on board in 2013, having really grown up in the event business, I realized, well, there's much, much more to this than the event. So we've really been trying to reposition any ourselves as a business process solutions provider ever since. And to continue to emphasize the the services that we provide a lot of the value that we create and provide to buyers and sellers is is done in the weeks and the months leading up to the actual in person meeting, you know, in preparing the buyers, preparing the sellers exchanging data and information and educating each other, each each party on what the other is looking for.
So we've become over the years much, much more of a solutions provider. And that's where we're continuing to, to focus on.
Yeah, and what's interesting about that is, you know, sometimes people would say, Well, why if we're looking at the future of retail, which is what we do, and the strategies that help people move forward in that through a shopper lens? Why is this discussion relevant to you know, our audience, and to me, you know, we're always thinking about the shopper and the retailer, or the shopper and the brand. But if the retailer and the brand don't come together, nothing gets done, you know? So,
Exactly. And listen, the the operating environment of buyers and sellers these days is as challenging as it's ever been, I mean, the creation of brands and products, 10s of thousands, or maybe hundreds of thousands of new products and brands are introduced every year. Consumers are definitely developing a preference for these niche brands. And retailers are using those niche brands to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and to drive incremental revenue. So the challenge is, with all of that happening, it's an enormous challenge for buyers to determine which brands to explore. I mean, there, they get reaches in from products, they've never heard of have no way of discerning if they're retail ready are worth it would be a good fit for them. And it's equally challenging on the other side for brands to gain the attention of buyers who have that much going on. And so that's what we've been trying to solve for, for the last 25 years.
So you know, how has the pandemic changed the relationship between brands and retailers? from any ECRM point of view?
Yeah, well, solving that challenge that I just laid out has become just a bit more because everybody's working remotely, offices are closed, and buyers aren't necessarily hosting new suppliers or potential suppliers in their offices and your everybody's having to adapt to seek new ways and better ways to interact during this time period.
I think what we've seen is that you really have to make every interaction count. So everybody's doing zoom calls now. I mean, I think particularly with their established buyers with their established suppliers, they're they're having those types of calls. But it's becomes much more difficult when you're talking about the new, the new brand, trying to gain the attention of a buyer that they don't do business with. So I think every interaction has become much more critically important than it than it ever has before.
And it's interesting, too, because when I think about, you know, how do I build not only how do I get that information to make a decision? But how do I build trust in a relationship? in these days, and when I can't meet at a big conference, maybe I've come with a joint, you know, or joint business planning session, and I can't lean in and shake your hand and say, Hello, across the room? How do I do that? Now? How do I think about doing that now seems to be a really, you know, it's a new way that we have to think about doing business.
Right. So the challenge is around gaining alignment of distilling, establishing confidence and capabilities, and establishing trust, all that is become much more difficult. So you have to adapt and seek new ways and be open to new ways of accomplishing it. But I think also, as I said, Every time you have an interaction, whether you're a buyer or seller, it has to it has to really count. And by that I mean, there has to be a clear objective for that interaction. You know, what, what do you want to have accomplished by the end of it? So they have to be much more purposeful than I think they've ever had to be before. They have to be precise, they have to be sustained. I think both parties have to do more due diligence than they've probably had to do before. Because it is a limited time. And it is it is virtual or on the phone, primarily these days. So they have to be better prepared. And I think most of all, they have to be much more open and more transparent than than ever before.
Yeah, yeah. So you had to flip your business model. I don't know if it's on its head, but you had to think differently about how to deliver what you do differently. And I think there's tremendous learning you and I chatted about this before, and and I think there's just so much learning for businesses at large, whether it's solution providers, consulting practices like ours, or just retail operations. Can you can you talk about, you know, how you went about that the sort of fast and messy was that? engage your people, you know, what did you do?
Well, let me tell you our COVID story. So we initially felt the impact of COVID, the first week of March, and that's when Expo West, cancelled because many of the major retailers had enacted travel bans, which really prevented their people from going to Expo West. And we of course, we instantly knew at that time that those travel bans or limitations would have the same impact on our in person planning sessions. So we reacted very, very quickly, immediately.
And by Friday of that week, just a couple of days later, we had already conceptualized our first virtual offering, which we called efficient supplier introductions. And these as is, as we call them, feature up to 10 suppliers presenting to a panel of a dozen or two dozen or more interested buyers. And at that time, as you might remember, everybody was uncertain about how long this would last or what how this would move forward. And everybody was essentially hoping for a quick return to business as usual. So our initial offering was really intended as a way to provide some immediate assistance to our customers during this time period, and to stay engaged with them until we got that return to business as usual.
But as you know, the COVID situation continued to deteriorate. And that fact, with the the overwhelming positive embrace of our customers, particularly the buyers of our E sighs, encouraged us to begin converting our the rest of our business, our planning sessions to virtual as well. So what we did was our development team, worked around the clock and came up with ecrm Connect, which is our proprietary virtual communications platform. And it's designed with features and functionality to replicate the in person experience that our customers value and are very familiar with. And then we subsequently held our first virtual session in mid May, that's about 10 weeks or so after the cancellation of Expo West.
So let me interrupt you for a minute. I don't think people understand or maybe they do if they know a ECRM well, but you literally had how many meetings Did you run a year, which were these face to face, one on one meetings that you all get prepared for an organized so coming into this, how many of those were you doing?
Yeah, well, so we did over 80 planning sessions hundreds of thousands of one on one meetings.
Okay, so I'm just going to say this to the audience. Think about joint business planning, preparing for a joint business planning session with one of the customers, and maybe they've got six or seven top customers. But you're actually doing this for multiple brands and multiple retailers across categories, right. coffered cold and tests. Cosmetics, pets. Yes. Right. So the study of this, okay, sorry, I just wanted to ground that back to the CI whatever that one.
Yeah. And and this, the, the great thing is that, we were able to transition The, the face to face component from in person to virtual, but still has all the same process involved in it, everything that we did, to prepare buyers and sellers, for in person we are still doing virtually.
Now, we learned a few things along the way, or there is a few things that we had to do that you might not think about when you first started this, we didn't. And that's why it's now everybody's working remotely. And just as we did at the beginning of this podcast and preparing ourselves, we have to test everybody's microphone, everybody's Wi Fi, everybody's camera, and ensure the NFL, if it doesn't work for whatever reason, then we have a team of people that jump in and try to you know, work with the, the client to make that happen. So that was so just imagine now, you know, the thousands of customers that we have, we've tested all of their, their setup at home as well. Our clients success management team has been the unsung heroes during this whole period, they've worked harder than anybody else, because the OSI responsibility fell on their shoulders immediately and working with all the customers to getting them prepared for the virtual sessions. They've just been been great.
So did you actually so I'm thinking about this again, I have my you know, my consulting hat on I suppose. So did you were you able to take the the teams that you had already you had? And they learned on the go and did all this or enhance what they knew? Or did you actually have to find new people to begin to move this forward fast when you realize this wasn't going to be months? This could be years?,
Well, we were in, so we didn't have to get new people. The beauty business was that we already had an in house development team that created all of our proprietary technologies, those that we use, we already had the client success management team in place. And so it was a matter of creating the platform. And then again, as I said, it's the same process, the only thing that was different was the onboarding, or the preparation of the participants for the virtual experience. And then monitoring what we call the dashboards, we have this dashboard where you can see the status of every single meeting. And you know, what we're hoping for always is a panel of nothing but green lights. But as soon as the red one pops in, then our CS team has to pop in there. That was one of the things that was different. But all the same people all have the same process.
What have you learned in terms of what to clients or retailers and manufacturers want now as they what what are their needs, not just through a CRM, but what's emerged as what they're looking for now, as they build relationships and grow businesses in this continuing COVID world? And as they move out of it?
That's a very good question, I think is largely the same there, you know, work still has to go on. Buyers, still the category managers still have to manage their categories, suppliers still have to sell their products. So all of the same, everybody still has the same objectives they've had before. It's just learning how to do it. In this new virtual world. The thing that I think that has been more difficult is, again, discovering and evaluating new suppliers and new relationships.
There seemed to also be two things that I'm conscious of one is that in some ways, as the world closed down, the world also opened up through what you were able to do because people who maybe couldn't bring so many people to to one of your one on one meetings, or in person meetings now could bring more so that was one thing that struck me as I sort of looked at how you devolve the other was the world literally the world the global you know, now, people could have access to because people may not know this, you have a global business too. So now I sitting in my chair in Manhattan could actually have a conversation with somebody and, you know, go on Joe, or in London, because of what you did. So it felt like things closed and opened at the same time. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, again, you're absolutely dead on was to comment about we can have more people involved in these discussions and we've ever had before, you know, we've had well over a dozen representing, you know, on the supplier side, or on the buyer side, as more and more people are involved in those meetings, which they couldn't be before because of the travel requirement, and those sorts of things limiting that. So that's definitely been something that we've seen. And we're happy to accommodate that. And in terms of the rest of the world, I had some have some interesting statistics here. So we've done 70 virtual sessions since May, we've had 65,000 meetings that we've curated, with 2400 unique suppliers, 2600 unique buyers, representing about 823 unique retailers. 86 countries have been represented, every continent other than Antarctica, has participated in our sessions.
Now penguins interested or something?
No, no penguins, and so that it has in many instances or in that way opened up the world is what virtual has done is it's uncoupled The, the requirement around space and time where we used to have to bring everybody together at one time in one place.
And we've seen that we do our retail safaris that actually we we've done with a CRM and live time in Chicago. And now we do those virtually. And we do them around the world, because we have our teams, our scouts around the world who they can travel and we can travel but they can travel and send it to us. And you know, we then present it which we just did at a at a meeting last week. And it was wonderful to be in London and look at Selfridges and what they were doing around sustainability or in Tokyo to look at a new shoe sedo store or even in Queens, New York, where we looked at the whole new math lab kind of thing. And and I realized that yes, of course we would have been could have done those, you know, in another life, but it's it's forced us to figure you know, new ways to deliver what our customers can't get right now all those people who would you know, go to China or or go to Europe.
We'll continue our conversation with Greg in just a moment. But I just wanted to remind you that we have many resources on this topic, available on our website, we've got our How America Shops, research, most recent around how the world is opening up at retail, as a result of COVID. Our latest report on the big business of well, and how wellness is changing as we move through this pandemic. Trend alerts our weekly What's Up at WSL with latest insights. So just remember, lots of resources for you as you continue to do your business, all available at www.wslstrategicretail.com. So now let's get back to the chat with Greg.
Virtual has done is it's uncoupled the day requirement around space and time where we used to have to bring everybody together at one time. In one place. If a buyer wants to do their have their session edit at a time that's different than the main session we can accommodate that very easily. Now, if more people want to come we can accommodate that very easily, much more easily. So that's been the beauty of virtual and it's also allowed us to be much more granular than we've ever been able to be before. So if there's a niche category that just not that many suppliers are into, we can now accommodate them. You know, whereas before it might not have been that attractive for them or the buyers to travel to be now we can just do it virtually online. And the feedback that we're getting from buyers and sellers both is that they appreciate not only the convenience of the virtual experience, but also the quality, the quality of interactions that they're having. So we've seen a couple of really unique things going on.
One is that buyers are following up much faster than they ever did. And I think it's because they don't have to worry about sticking around for another couple of days traveling, getting back to the office catching up on all their emails digging out and then thinking about follow up. And a large number of the, the follow up that we're tracking through our system is occurring 56% of it, the buyers are requesting in one to two weeks. So a large number of it is almost immediate, which is very, which is neat. Also, you can request samples, and if buyer one samples ahead of time, we can send samples to that buyer, but they also have the ability to request samples through our platform, it's interesting, because I think the quality of the interaction has gotten has increased. It used to be the product was the center of the of the discussion, it was pick it up, see how heavy it is see how light it is smell and taste it rub it on your skin. And the POC, the product still plays a starring role. But I think that it actually allows buyers and sellers to really talk about doing business with each other, and what their objectives and requirements are and what their capabilities are. And so we've seen,
I think we've seen anecdotally an increase in the quality of the interaction as well between buyers and sellers.
It's interesting that you say all that because I remember I saw you across the virtual world a few weeks ago when we sponsored and help moderate industry day that the Emerson Group had done. And what struck me about that, for those of you who have who were there or not, was thousands of people came together retailers and manufacturers in a virtual world, we were in a studio, which was nice. For the three or four of us socially distance. There was a wall of people, Greg was one of them was like, Oh, look, I know him. But really what made the difference in that we were able to get such an amazing quality of attendees, not just in manufacturers, but retailers, I moderated a panel called the joy and power of retail, which had you know, Walmart, Kroger, Rite Aid, senior executives talking about their collaborations. You know, we had, you know, an extraordinary group of people, CEOs from CVS, and Walgreens and all of this that hgb, that we know, we wouldn't have been able to have otherwise, because it would have been a day or two out of their sheduled, the coordination would have been ridiculous. Now, to your point, all we had to do and if they had a firewall was make sure they were working from home, not their office. So we can actually have this sort of conversation. But it struck me exactly what you were saying that ability to bring people together in ways that that they wouldn't have come otherwise, but also to have quite an intimate conversation. And then to have your audience on this amazing wall. In your case, you're one on one on one here we have, you know, hundreds of people have a psycho sporting event. And it was fabulous. Because you can say, Oh, I know that person. I know that person. It was really, you know, waving to waving to the crowd it was. So it really is interesting, right? What we've, what we've learned in all of this, so So what do you think? Whether they're big companies or small companies, you deal with both and big retailers and small, but what what sticks through this? What What do you anticipate will stay? And what what are we missing here? I mean, what are we long for? It's kind of the shopper discussion? Right?
Everything that you said previously about the Emerson industry day is the same experience we've had the flexibility that virtual offers is really compelling, particularly among buyers, the buyers from major retailers, we're seeing a 20% increase in engagements with those kinds of buyers, versus when we did things in person. So that is the virtual the convenience of it, the quality of the experience is definitely resonating with them. I think at industry day we had a buyer from one of those major retailers, when they were asked that very same question, what are the things that they said was probably less travel is going in the future?
Hard to know, I just don't know when it's so unclear as to when that will even be feasible. Again, I think that virtual is definitely going to continue to be the lion's share of our service offering there some in person will take a different will take on a different meeting. I think I think you know when you think about the three phases of the buying and selling process to the discovery, the evaluation, and follow up. discovery and evaluation can certainly be advanced quite a bit virtually.
And perhaps in person will be reserved more for the finalists, if you will to meet with buyers in their offices or at other locations, just before the decision is made. So I think that virtual is definitely here to stay, and will continue to, it'll continue to be a mainstay of our offering.
You know, one of the things that struck me is, and we've seen it in all our how America shops, research how, as inspite of consumers, as shoppers, very focused on things like safety and security and efficiency, and you know, toilet paper and whatever.
There is still this great interest in discovery. And part of it is because they've had to discover new brands, because things have been out of stock. And part of it is because they had some time, or they were learning to shop online, and they discovered things. And you alluded to discovery, both from a retail standpoint, in terms of differentiation and things. But also there is a sharper desire, still, at this moment in new, whether it's in categories, like immunity, or, you know, pet care, or education or so many things, just comfortable office chairs, right? Work chairs. So with range me and some of your I mean, this is a selling pitch, but it just seems to me, we shouldn't think that opportunity has gone away, as we're all just doing efficient, filling up the shells with basics.
Yeah, I'm glad you brought up Range Me. So since March, buyers and sellers are turning more and more to our, our services for discovery, and for that interaction to facilitate that interaction. You can do searches, we have collections that are curated, arranged me, you can follow up with buyers, any way your suppliers any way you want. Yeah, that discovery piece, you know, new suppliers, new types of products has been, it's been a bit more challenging during this period, I and the usual or traditional ways of sort of engaging with those types of suppliers has have been changed at least period, temporarily. We're definitely seeing a lot more buyer interest in discovering new products and new suppliers.
And I do think about sort of the unintended consequences of this right. And the the ability and again, I look through everything, of course through a shopper lens, and you know, but it's that, you know, and I think about what the needs of the retailers are in that, you know, again, and and the brands, this sort of sense of the things you've talked about, you know, efficiency, ability to make decisions quickly, of discovery of building trust, all of those sort of attributes that you know, when I look at our shopper research we we hear and it applies so much to the the broader world that we're now living in, that's not really a question for you. It's just a sort of commentary. I think it's, it's, it is interesting to see how that all works. And so, as I think about this, and I sort of step back in terms of this world that we're living in now, it feels to me from what you've said that there are a lot of things here that will continue to work. You moving forward. And and what strikes me is two things you've said.
One is you talked about the ability to recognize to I'm going to say two weeks in advance of everything shutting down, that you're going to need to react to something. So I think about what are you going to look at now as kind of a marker of the next shift. How do you keep an eye on that? I mean, that's what we do retail futurist, right, what are you doing to sort of think, when's the next shift coming,
We've done lots of things. And we've learned lots of lessons during this time period where we had to react in such a big, profound way. And the just, you know, the the guiding principles that we followed, during this time, there were really three. And one and most important was staying focused on the customer. And trying to understand what how their wants and needs were changing, how their process was changing.
And, you know, what, where they needed help. And it wasn't about what we wanted, you know, because we wanted things to stay the same. But you know that that wasn't our choice. It's about what they wanted and, and trying to anticipate the best we can but to stay really focused on them. We increase the level of communication with them. Wayne Bennett who you know, who runs our retail development team was in constant and still is in constant contact with the leadership and I think it really paid off. The other thing that was very important was setting aside all of our orthodoxies. So everything we believe
Everything we held dear everything we really had to fight for, all of that had to go on the table, because it was all subject to change, and you had to be open to change. And in some ways, you had to begin to seek change, because things were changing all around us to imagine that we couldn't change our business in response to that was just a realistic and but it was so uncertain. And if you remember, at the time, you know, we call it COVID time, you wake up in the morning believing one thing, but by the end of the day, you believe something, just the opposite. And so we got, we just became, interestingly enough, I'm very comfortable with the uncertainty, you had to embrace it. Because if you tried to fight it, you would go crazy, or become paralyzed. So we just went with it. And related to that, the third thing was, you know, bold action, placing smart risks, not doing anything, you know, without some reason, or just because we wanted something to change, or, you know, we change something, but doing it for what we believed was a good reason, even though there was incomplete information. And it was all unprecedented. So you're to an extent, in a lot of cases, taking a little bit of a leap of faith, but you'd have to trust your people. We have great people, and they were giving me some very good advice. And it was it was easier to make those decisions when we have that sort of insight into our customers wants and needs
Just to wrap up. When we're doing our workshopping at the at the end, we do what we call snap. So here's the snap three questions very quick.
What worked best, what was the best thing that's happened through this? One thing,
The way our client success management team stepped up and really showed what is most valuable about what we do. It was what the services they provide, it wasn't the in person or virtual format. It's the process that makes the difference. Okay. So it didn't matter whether we were locked down or out and about it was that process?
Yeah. Okay. Snap. Number two, what with least?
So, so many, so many things, I think it was hard, remotely with everybody working remotely, to, you know, if we would all been in person to implement, that degree of change would have been far easier. But doing it remotely and trying to convey why we're doing something and why you know, how it's going to be done? Very, very difficult, because it's just that much more challenging remotely.
Yeah. Okay. And last snap, what was the biggest surprise? so far?
See, the biggest surprise so far? Um, you know, I think and just how open everybody has been to the change in doing things into adopting virtual was this accelerated things that were already underway. And that's definitely been the case and how quickly we've been able to do so many things. That before seemed very hard.
Oh, thank you. For that you have you have really shared a story, which I think is really relevant, because the lens that you have is this relationship, this business to business relationship that without this working in any form, doesn't get the right product at the right price in the right place at the right time to satisfy the shopper. So it you know, I I was so keen to hear the story of how you've evolved this business and this amazing team you have. So I thank you for all of this.
Thank you. It's been my honor and privilege. Thank you so much.
So here's the thing, one of the things that's so foundational in us moving forward, and thinking about the future of retail, is how we interact with our customers, our shoppers, our brands, and retailers. And what Greg was able to share with us is how his company, his organization, which is a hugely complex one, was able to facilitate that relationship. He talked about how to make every interaction count. And I think for all of us now, as we with we talk across the ether, that becomes really important purposefulness of which we come to our meetings, whether it's our own zoom calls in the morning, or whether it's our client zoom calls as we go through the day.
The other thing he talked about was people of course, and you know, the ability for teams to not only see stand up and respond. But the ability for them to challenge the the accepted norms and encourage teams to do that. He also used an amazing expression, which I just absolutely loved, which was being uncoupled from space and time. And coupled from space and time, which does talk to extraordinary opportunities as the world closed down. It also opened up.
And I think he just captured in his last three things, of what they've learned something that we can all think about. One was he talked about their success through this is being focused on customers, and understanding their needs, and whether their customers are sharper, or whether it's a retailer or whether it's a manufacturer, that staying focused all the time on the customer really enables success. The second thing he said was set aside the orthodoxy, challenge everything seek change. And that's a you know, when we're trying to sort of hold on to what was that becomes a very powerful, guiding light to the future. And third, he said, you know, take bold actions, you know, take smart risks, we don't know what's going to happen. But if we've got the right people in the right places, then we can do that. And I think that really told the whole story of how we need to build relationships and grow as we think about what retail looks like, in the future.
So that's the thing. Thank you all for joining me today. See you in the future.