MN Tech Mag | Fall/Winter 2022

MN Tech Mag is a Concord publication devoted to improving the relationship between business and technology, starting our home state of Minnesota.


Dan Ritch CEO, SunStream Business Services

The Top 12 Retail Experts to Watch in 2023


Unlocking Resilience, Efficiency, and Innovation in Difficult Times



Inside ISSUE 6 | FALL/WINTER 2022 What’s

Editor’s Note

I t’s been unseasonably warm in Minnesota – how nice to experience fall weather for once! Seasonal transitions offer a pleasant change of pace and an opportunity to reset – whether that be your wardrobe, home décor, or even your mindset. In that vein, transitioning the business is a consistent theme throughout this issue. Transformation is an often overused, buzzy term, particularly in technology, but it’s happening nonetheless. Companies are emphasizing ways to enhance their customer experience, operations, and everything in between through the magic of digital transformation. At Concord, we help clients through that journey every single day. There’s no denying it’s occurring at companies around the world and across industries. We sat down with business and technology leaders to hear about their experience with transformation. At SunStream, Dan Ritch leads his team through an ambitious technology initiative to modernize systems and better support our nation’s farmers and ranchers (page 10). Similarly, Jana Merfen shares her experience leading CrossFirst Bank’s technology team through a digital banking transformation that will vastly improve the client experience (page 06). Starkey Cares gives the idea of ‘transformation’ a whole new meaning – their work with the Special Olympics is changing lives and allowing athletes worldwide to hear clearly for the first time (page 38). Lastly, Florin Ibrani shares how investment in transformation during difficult economic times can seem daunting but is necessary to build a resilient, efficient, and innovative company (page 20). As we head into the holidays, I hope you and your family can slow down and enjoy the remainder of the year before we turn the page to 2023. If you need some gift inspiration, it’s pretty fun to read the stories of memorable presents that our readers received over the years (page 43).


EDITOR IN CHIEF Natalie Sheffield

6 TRENDING TECHNOLOGY Transforming Digital Banking CrossFirst Bank’s CTO, Jana Merfen, is preparing for the future with a client- focused digital banking platform that will transform the consumer experience.

DESIGN Steve Bubb



Personalization and inclusive design take center stage as Eden Brownell and Ryan Decker share their perspective on trends and challenges in user experience.

9 BY THE NUMBERS Is quiet quitting real? We dive into the numbers behind the trending catchphrase.

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Brea Marsh Dan Ritch Eden Brownell

Florin Ibrani Jake Spano Jana Merfen Kate Huber Kristin Anderson Michael Scholl Natalie Sheffield Pranav Patel Rajat Relan

32 RELEVANT HEALTH ROUNDTABLE Q+A: Rajat Relan As the Relevant Health Roundtable founder, Rajat Relan brings together the brightest minds in healthcare to educate, discuss, and challenge one another.


Uma Wilson, UMB Bank’s CIO, believes instant payments are poised to transform operations for businesses across sectors.

18 THE TOP 12 Meet the must-follow influencers shaping the retail scene with unique insights and perspectives.

Ryan Decker Uma Wilson


Immersion cooling is taking over the red-hot data mining landscape. Kristin Anderson, Global Business Development Manager at Cargill, shares the process behind this sustainable solution. 38 PHILANTHROPY RULES! From the local community to the world at large, Starkey Cares makes a commitment to impacting the lives of people who need it most.

A CONCORD PUBLICATION 509 2nd Avenue South Hopkins, MN 55343

20 UNLOCKING RESILIENCE, EFFICIENCY, AND INNOVATION IN DIFFICULT TIMES Technology investments during times of economic uncertainty can feel risky, but Florin Ibrani, Concord’s CEO, believes there’s far more to lose by hunkering down. 952.241.1090

Leading Through Transparency 10 Dan Ritch, CEO of SunStream Business Services, is emphasizing transparency and collaboration to support the country’s farmers and ranchers.


24 WINNING AT THE CHECKOUT Learn how your retail business can ring up real change that makes both dollars and sense – online and in-store.


43 QUIPS & QUOTES It’s the season of giving! Our readers share the stories behind their most memorable gifts.

Follow us @concordusa

Natalie Sheffield Director of Marketing, Concord Editor in Chief, MN Tech Mag






CMG IMPACT 2023 Orlando, FL + Virtual Your source for education and peer-to-peer exchange of all things digital transformation, enterprise IT, and infrastructure.




Snowflake Data Cloud World Tour San Francisco, CA

CES 2023 Las Vegas, NV + Virtual Learn how the world’s biggest brands do business and meet new partners and innovators at this three-day tech event.

The Digital Transformation Conference New York, NY Attend and learn the three core pillars of transformation; people, technology, and process; and build an agenda to achieve digital transformation success.

The Data Cloud World Tour is your opportunity to discover, learn, and experience how Snowflake’s Data Cloud can take your company and your career to new frontier.


AWS re:Invent

Gartner CIO Leadership Forum Phoenix, AZ


AWS re:Invent Las Vegas, NV 28-Dec. 2


THAT Conference Round Rock, TX


This two-day conference will provide you with personalized insights and detailed plans to successfully drive digital business acceleration and enable distributed digital leadership.

OWASP 2022 Global AppSec Conference San Francisco, CA This two-day conference will equip developers, defenders, and advocates to build a more secure web.

This four-day ‘summer camp’ caters to developers who are passionate about the web, cloud, technology, and all things mobile.

The global cloud community will come together to get inspired and rethink what’s possible at this comprehensive cloud computing event.


DigiMarCon Midwest Chicago, IL + Virtual

Join your peers in-person or online for two days jam-packed with digital marketing best practices, latest trends, practical solutions, strategy, and networking.

20-23 March



Gartner Data & Analytics Summit Orlando, FL Address the most significant challenges that data analytics leaders face today and learn how they build innovative and adaptable organizations.

FORTUNE Brainstorm A.I. 2022 San Francisco, CA Join top executives from the world’s biggest tech companies, thought leaders, and innovators to explore key issues shaping the AI revolution.


WomenTech Global Conference Virtual

THAT Conference

OWASP Global AppSec Conference

Join top women in technology to foster innovation and growth with purpose and impact.




31-Apr. 1

PASS Data Community SUMMIT Seattle, WA + Virtual Connect, share, and learn with thousands of your peers at the nation’s largest gathering of data platform professionals.

DeveloperWeek San Francisco, CA + Virtual Join peers and get advanced lessons on technologies such as VR Dev, Artificial Intelligence Dev, Blockchain Dev, IoT Dev, Serverless technology, Microservices technology, new JavaScript frameworks, and more.

NFJS Gateway Software Symposium St. Louis, MO + Virtual Join industry experts and focus on the latest technologies and best practices emerging in today’s modern software development and architecture space.

FORTUNE Brainstorm

WomenTech Global Conference

04 | Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events | 05


The banking industry is facing serious disruption – CrossFirst is preparing for the future with a state-of-the-art digital banking platform. Transforming Digital Banking

Interview by: Natalie Sheffield

C rossFirst Bank is taking digital banking to the next level. With a dedicated focus on providing clients with the advanced technology and tools to make banking seamless, CrossFirst Bank’s Chief Technology Officer, Jana Merfen, shares insight into the digital transformation process and how she’s bringing talent and technology together to enhance the customer experience.

— Next-Level Digital Banking

The banking industry is experiencing massive digital disruption as consumers show an increased demand for digital banking services. With that trend in mind, CrossFirst Bank embarked on a digital transformation journey starting in 2021. “We looked at our client expectations and where the market is headed over the next five to ten years. We want to ensure we have a tech stack that can integrate solutions with more agile capability and partner with vendors who have the same dedication to moving faster with technology,” shares Merfen. CrossFirst has a history of listening to their clients and adapting to technology trends quickly. Moving forward with a new digital banking platform is the logical next step. To get there, Jana and the technology team partnered with the business to prepare for a digital transformation journey. “We identified a firm to evaluate our current environment. Then we built a cross-functional team to perform the RFP, evaluated four vendors, and used a data-driven methodology to set clear, defined requirements that appropriately match our needs with the right vendor,” Merfen explains. Through this process, CrossFirst found a partner to meet the critical pieces of their transformation and help with the inevitable issues and challenges of a large-scale initiative. “We want someone who will get in the trenches with us and figure it out,” adds Merfen. CrossFirst is currently developing a digital banking solution in partnership with its vendor. It is nearing the finish line and will bring an enhanced experience to clients starting in the fourth quarter.

Jana Merfen, Chief Technology Officer

06 | Trending Technology

Trending Technology | 07



Quiet Quitting BY THE NUMBERS

— Supporting the Transformation

early and often, and detail any training needed to support clients and employees throughout the changes. “In any big initiative, the focus is on the communication, change management, and training to make it successful,” Merfen comments. Taking the time to develop a detailed employee and client communication plan thoughtfully is paying off. “We also leveraged outside resources to augment and help us with training, communication, and onboarding to prepare and support our team and clients,” shares Merfen. — Learning from the Experience After undertaking the digital transformation experience thus far, Jana has insight for others facing similar initiatives. “Whatever your business, spend time and invest in building relationships and talking with your teammates and clients. When I first joined the bank, I spent a lot of time meeting with our markets and the leaders in each area to really listen and understand areas of opportunity,” advises Merfen. “That’s the biggest lesson – spend more time listening and understanding. It’s the first step before you attempt to make any change,” she adds. She believes emphasizing the company’s mission and values is critical to moving initiatives forward successfully. “Our mission is to serve our clients in extraordinary ways and anticipate their needs with outstanding products and services,” reveals Merfen. Likewise, the CrossFirst Bank culture

unifies employees by focusing on four values that define their approach – character, competence, commitment, and connection. “Our team works together to support our clients and strategy by upholding this concept of one team, one bank, with a shared vision,” expresses Merfen. Lastly, Jana believes team unity and trust are critical to achieving any initiative, particularly complex digital transformations. She encourages teams to celebrate success along the way. “I personally write thank you cards to my teammates to show appreciation for their work. These initiatives are long and challenging – it’s so important to communicate the wins and accomplishments internally with the team and the broader organization,” Merfen declares. Keeping the team aligned and focusing on the mission allows CrossFirst to support clients with a new digital banking platform that will enhance their experience and further the mission of delivering extraordinary service.

No transformation is possible without people. Recognizing the importance of the team doing the work, CrossFirst makes a concerted effort to invest in and communicate to the employees driving change. “We’re focusing on talent and technology. Those are our top two key areas of investment across the entire enterprise, and we’re investing in the best people,” Merfen describes.

Percent of Americans over 65 years of age who believe employees should always exceed expectations at work. 82 % Percent of Americans between ages 18 to 29 who believe employees should do only what they're paid for - not more, not less. 65 %

Percent of U.S. workforce who are considered "quiet quitters."

50 %

Number of #quietquitting video views on TikTok. 97 . 6 Million

47 Million


In any big initiative, the focus is on the communication, change management, and training to make it successful.”

The number of U.S. workers who voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021.


Perhaps equally important, the organization views digital transformation as a business initiative, not just a technology initiative. “We have an incredible culture here, and we’ve always had strong collaboration in getting the right team members involved. This is one of the more significant initiatives we’ve taken on in the last few years, so the company recognizes the importance of that,” elaborates Merfen. One of the critical components to approaching such a large initiative is communication, both to internal employees and external clients. Jana and the team intentionally share the impact of changes, communicate

62 20 % %


Percent of female U.S. employees who always or very often feel burned out at work.

Percent of employees who are willing to go the extra mile if their manager ranks low in balancing business needs with employee needs.

34 %


The pay increase 40% of workers would take to leave their current employer.

ABOUT CROSSFIRST BANK CrossFirst Bank offers business and personal banking services for clients in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona. Their vision is to be the most trusted bank in the market by making and keeping their promises while serving people in extraordinary ways.




Percent of employees who are willing to go the extra mile if their manager ranks high in balancing business needs with employee needs.

Percent of male U.S. employees who always or very often feel burned out at work.

26 %

Amount of money that unhappy and disengaged workers cost the global economy in lost productivity.

08 | Trending Technology

By the Numbers | 09



“ I started playing sports as a Dan Ritch Chief Executive Officer at SunStream Business Services

young kid – football, basketball, and track – and did that all through high school. I think that’s what brought forward in me the value of a team and winning together,” reflects Dan Ritch, Chief Executive Officer at SunStream Business Services. Winning as a team is his primary goal as the new leader of SunStream. Having joined the organization in October of 2021, Ritch is passionate about the mission of serving customers with innovative, reliable, and cost- effective business solutions that meet their needs and exceed expectations.

From his “Listen & Learn Tour” to continuous communication, Dan Ritch focuses on team connection to achieve complex transformation goals. Leading Through Transparency

Interview by Natalie Sheffield

From left to right: Tina Tuohy, Jessica Schmiesing, Jeana Havlovic, Tom McHale, Dan Ritch, Ahti Hujanen, Ruth Anderson, Cole Orndorff, Louise Pesavento

10 | Leading Through Transparency

Leading Through Transparency | 11


FROM TEACHING TO TECHNOLOGY Dan’s career path took a few unusual twists and turns. He entered college at Eastern Michigan University, planning to go into teaching, but redirected to a future in technology thanks to a friend who started working in the computer science field. “I got really lucky as I graduated and interviewed at Perot Systems. I didn’t know a lot, but they told me, ‘We can’t teach personality, but we can teach computer skills. If you want to work at it, you’ll go far,’” recollects Ritch. With a start in information technology (IT), Dan handled everything from desktop support to application development. “I started at the support desk and took on more and more. My mom gave me the advice that, regardless of what you’re doing for your job, at the end of the day, do a little extra, and you’ll be okay,” shares Ritch. This approach served him well during his time at Perot Systems, despite being a profound change for Dan in the shift from teaching to IT. “It was so hard! There were many nights where I didn’t do the job correctly and had to stay there until I got it done. I remember I slept at that building a few times,” Ritch admits. Strong mentors and the determination to keep going were essential to Dan’s success in learning a new and unfamiliar field. “I had a lot of great mentors – some I didn’t even realize were mentors at the time. With my teaching background, I recognized I could learn in multiple ways and wasn’t afraid to ask for help,” Ritch elaborates.

Dan Ritch Get to know

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY My beautiful wife Michelle and I have been married for 26 years. We have 10-year-old twins named Avery and Olivia. BEST WAY TO SPEND FREE TIME Chauffeuring Olivia to dance and Avery to basketball! COOL TRAVELS My favorite trip was with my wife to Rome and Florence in Italy. It perfectly balanced our love of history, good food, and wine. FAVORITE RESTAURANT My family and I like to go to Birch’s on the Lake. We also frequent Honey & Mackie’s quite a bit for ice cream. LAST SHOW YOU WATCHED It’s not new, but I recently got hooked on Suits and am starting to work through the seasons. I also like Stranger Things .

From left to right: Ahti Hujanen, Cecilia Coulter, Matthew Weyland, Chris Mauro, Paul Runquist, Henry Silva-Vega

STANDING BEHIND THE MISSION Joining SunStream allows Dan to focus on the mission of taking care of farmers and ranchers. “I thought, why not extend my legacy and help the greater good? Farm Credit is more than access to capital. We help ensure the reliability of data, provide consistent access to loan accounting information, and serve as a trusted partner to create solutions,” explains Ritch. “For that reason, we have a lot of responsibility, and we’re proud to be here,” he elaborates. Undoubtedly, SunStream’s customers are equally as passionate about the mission. “Our customers take care of the front-end – we are an extension of their CIO, who focuses on loan origination, CRM systems, and digital platforms for online banking,” describes Ritch. “We share the same mission,” Ritch adds.

12 | Leading Through Transparency

Leading Through Transparency | 13


SunStream’s transformation is well underway and is tracking toward completion in 2025 – or even sooner! “Everybody thinks I’m a bit pushy, but we’re figuring out how to get there! With our focus on technology, we aim to standardize the things our customers don’t want to deal with in the back office and make them more efficient and faster, so our customers can do the needful for farmers and ranchers,” shares Ritch.


Our customers are focused directly on the farmers and ranchers. We need to be the trusted partner to their back end systems. We like to say we’ve got your back (office). “

With a lofty goal in place, Dan focuses on communication and equipping the team to get the job done right. “As we’re in the middle of a transformation, IT is not only transforming our business; it will transform our people. They’re building new skills and getting stronger at what they do,” Ritch expresses. Dan’s goal is to see his team learn from their experience at SunStream and be prepared to take the next step as a leader, whatever that might be. “That’s the goal of a good leader – if I can build more leaders, then I’ve done a good job,” states Ritch. Getting the team to the next level takes time, transparency, and consistent communication. “I think I probably spend 60%, if not 70%, of my time in communicating through one-on-ones, coaching, and guiding,” estimates Ritch. “I think that’s the CEO role – it’s not to hold everyone in, but to help people get where they need to be,” he summarizes. Dan’s emphasis on transparency and collaboration is evident throughout the SunStream office. Using every window in his office as a makeshift whiteboard, Dan is quick to share the vision for the organization, and his enthusiasm is contagious. As a result, the team continues to grow, evolve, and win together.

Building and executing a transformation agenda is no small task. Dan approached the initiative by going on a “Listen & Learn Tour” during his first quarter in the new role. “I traveled to customers to learn how they run their business and discover their core mission and issues. Then I brought those findings back and spoke with every single employee at SunStream to start picking up themes,” explains Ritch. “At the end of the day, it’s the people who make things happen – the Listen & Learn Tour helped me absorb and collaboratively figure out the right approach,” he adds. Ultimately, Dan sees the transformation as successful if the organization can change the experience for both customers and internal team members – making it easier for customers to work with SunStream and making internal teams more effective in getting the job done.

Productive People HABITS OF


BOLSTERING SUNSTREAM’S TECHNOLOGY With the customer in mind, Dan realized the need for SunStream to perform at a higher level to help its customers reach their desired state. “We needed to improve – we were on older systems with older processes, so there’s a gap. We’re all on the same mission to help farmers and ranchers, but we need to upgrade systems and instill new skills to take us to the next level,” Ritch declares. To achieve these goals, Dan is helping the organization transform and be the preeminent managed service provider in the Farm Credit System by:

WHAT TIME DO YOU GO TO SLEEP? 10:00 pm WHAT TIME DO YOU WAKE UP? 4:30 am HOW DO YOU START YOUR DAY? Reading articles. I’ve been trying to read a lot of articles on coaching and team management lately. WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU DO AT WORK? I like to walk around the office and catch up with people or reach out virtually on Teams. Then I write down all my major to-dos for the day and try to finish them.

ABOUT SUNSTREAM SunStream Business Services is a service entity that provides top-notch customer experience, delivers work in a highly efficient and predictable manner, and inspires innovation and creativity in its solutions. SunStream equips customers with the financial services necessary to support rural communities. Their motto is, “Our customers take care of rural America and trust us to take care of the rest!”

Building a world-class team Stabilizing, securing, and modernizing core platforms Investing in customer success Focusing on value and embracing agility in project delivery Strengthening financial management and controls Growing the business

14 | Leading Through Transparency

Leading Through Transparency | 15


ARE THERE RISKS WITH REAL-TIME PAYMENTS? The most significant risk is human error. Once you send an RTP or FedNow payment, you cannot recall it unless the receiver agrees to send it back. Other payment systems allow an exception process to reverse funds, but that’s not the case with the instant payment rails. To solve this, some companies opt for a “double-check” system within their product before any payments originate. This strategy can reduce the risk of human error while still benefitting from sending a payment as quickly as possible. As with any payment system, fraud is a concern. To date, it has not been a significant issue. Still, as instant payments grow in popularity and use, the industry will pay very close attention to fraud attempts and how to mitigate and combat them proactively. For example, TCH, the organization that hosts the RTP rail, set up a secure token exchange, which issues tokens to stand in for real account numbers when sending or receiving payments. This method is another measure to combat fraud preemptively, and banks are working together to create and execute additional solutions to prevent fraud collectively. THE FUTURE OF INSTANT PAYMENTS In addition to the benefits to businesses, Congress has recently pushed for banks to adopt this technology. Banks and companies in Europe and Asia have been utilizing instant payments for several years. U.S. banks must implement instant payment products and technology to stay competitive in the international banking landscape. With that in mind, RTP offerings are on the rise! According to a Q1 2022 Volante survey of mid-tier banks and credit unions, 27% of respondents already offer ACH’s RTP products, and 37% say they’re committed to joining the TCH RTP network by 2023. As a result, we anticipate that TCH’s RTP and the Fed’s FedNow payment rails will become ubiquitous in the U.S. and evolve into the standard form of payment. As companies mature and require more sophisticated payment needs, they must understand this option and how it could benefit their companies!

At UMB Bank, we are on a cloud journey focused on real-time payments. It’s an exciting time, as we haven’t had a new payment rail introduced in our network for many years. This new payment rail will allow us to operate twenty-four hours, seven days a week, and 365 days per year. We have been very thoughtful in our approach to rolling out the new development and believe it’s essential to have a plan in place rather than race to the finish line. The Clearing House (TCH) has already introduced a real- time payments (RTP) rail, and the Fed expects to roll out its faster payments system, called FedNow, in 2023. As the adoption of RTP and FedNow increases, it’s crucial to understand these options and how they could benefit your organization. WHAT DOES RTP MEAN FOR ME? RTP and FedNow are payment rails that allow one user to transfer money from their bank account to another user’s bank account instantaneously. While there are currently ways to send money in near real-time, such as wire transfers and Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments, the RTP and FedNow systems are available constantly and provide real-time settlement of funds. The systems reduce the number of payment exceptions and provide favorable trading terms. Sending money via RTP or FedNow accelerates and streamlines the payment process, making it easier for business managers to have the most current information about their financial records. This option enables businesses to reconcile books in real-time, allowing swift and confident financial decisions, as you can be sure the records are accurate and up-to-date. RTP and FedNow are two separate payment rails, so your bank must implement one of these new payment options. Developing these products takes time because they require some of the most advanced technology and challenge established traditional banking processes.


Taking a thoughtful approach to real-time payments, UMB believes instant payments are poised to transform financial operations for businesses across sectors.

By: Uma Wilson Chief Information Officer at UMB Bank

A sk anyone in the industry about the future of payments, and they’ll likely have a very quick answer: instant payments . As businesses increasingly move operational systems online, instant payments are critical to making payables more efficient, secure, and scalable for businesses, government, and consumer segments.

16 | The Future of Payments is Here

The Future of Payments is Here | 17


Retail Experts to Watch in 2023

Leslie Hand Group Vice President, Retail Insights at IDC

Deborah Weinswig CEO & Founder at Coresight Research

Melissa Gonzalez CEO & Founder at The Lionesque Group

From retail experience to cutting-edge technology advancements, these influencers are worth following to stay on top of the industry trends.

Melissa is constantly pushing the boundaries of experiential retail and combining technology with the physical shopping experience. Her insights focus on emerging technologies and their impact on the industry. “People of all demographics crave human experiences - an opportunity to interact off the screen and without boundaries. When brands deliver experiences that unleash the imagination, emotional connections are created and fandoms are born.”

Leslie is a leading retail technology thought leader, influencer, and strategist who analyzes trends and drives strategic change. She has been named a top ten retail influencer by BizTech Magazine four years in a row. “There has never been a more opportune time to drive change in global supply chain processes and business practices. The refrain, ‘this is the way we have always done it’ is being replaced with ‘let’s use sensors and data to measure and respond to customer needs and supply chain conditions intelligently.’”

As the host of the Retailistic podcast and CEO of Coresight Research, Deborah shares insights with followers on the intersection of retail and technology.

Michelle Grant Director, Retail Strategy & Insights at Salesforce

Sucharita Kodali Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

Chris Walton Co-CEO at Omni Talk

Michelle is a seasoned researcher. At Salesforce, she blends data and analysis to create thought-provoking content that helps retailers understand how new technologies will impact the future of their business.

With a background in retail and digital operations at B2C companies, Sucharita

Chris is the Co-CEO and founder of Omni Talk, one of the fastest-growing blogs in retail. He is well-versed in nearly every discipline within retail and shares insightful perspective on the retail landscape. “The rise of ecommerce has already created a move to turn stores into micro-warehouse logistics hubs for everything from curbside pickup to shipping out of stores themselves.”

“There’s a whole coming-of-age around labor and how we value,

specializes in store operations, marketing, and merchandising.

measure, and compensate people for what they do. There’s challenges in leadership right now, because everyone may not understand what is important to the consumer and business.”

“Economists are right to focus on the adverse impacts of too-high inflation for too long. But, while consumers say that they are worried about inflation, they don’t seem to be acting that way. Yet.”

“The vast majority (80%) of shoppers will abandon a retailer after three bad experiences.”







George MacDonald Executive Editor at Retail Week

Keith Anderson Senior Vice President, Strategy at Profitero

Jason Goldberg Chief Commerce Strategy Officer at Publicis

Nicole Leinbach Founder at Retail Minded

Sanford Stein Founder at Retail Speak

Trevor Sumner CEO at Perch

Nicole is an experienced retail and wholesale professional with a passion for small businesses. She is a Top Global 100 retail influencer and author of Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business. “While the pandemic and subsequent ecommerce explosion have driven strong demand for true omnichannel supply chain solutions, it has also fueled a less immediately obvious move towards direct-to-consumer fulfillment, too.”

As the CEO of Perch, Trevor provides a futuristic view of retail tech. He shares insights on both the in-store and digital retail experience across his social channels and publications. “In-store digital and new marketing technologies will fundamentally change retail economics and reshape the industry.”

Sanford is a highly sought-after speaker, contributor, and influencer in the retail space. He recently launched Retail Speak, a LinkedIn platform to share ideas and daily news on the industry. “As online accelerates, in-store lags behind. With rapid online adoption, physical stores need to evolve, become more compelling, entertaining, and personalized with products and services.”

Looking for fresh takes on the latest retail trends? Keith is a career retail professional with a penchant for unique insights on the industry’s shift to digital.

Jason (aka “Retailgeek”) hosts a top-rated ecommerce podcast, The Jason & Scot Show. He is one of the most influential experts in ecommerce and serves on the board of directors of

With nearly two decades in the field, George is the longtime executive editor of Retail Week and serves as a leading voice on social media for everything from advancements in retail experience to digital channels. “The ASOS mindset of innovation and being absolutely in tune with its customer priorities and worldview was key to its success. Years back, [the leaders] used to obsess about how to keep that spirit as the company grew.”

“Investments [in e-cargo bikes] are often positioned as primarily about emissions reduction, but I suspect retailers will soon realize that micromobility is a strategic advantage in many high- density urban areas.”

“The moves into fulfillment indicate that TikTok is very interested in social commerce. They are doing a great job selling ads, but […] one of their big growth opportunities is playing a more prominent role in commerce.”





@ retailgeek


The Top 12 | 19

18 | The Top 12


The risk mitigation portion of our brain often tells us to hunker down and avoid making any sudden moves when it looks like the bottom of the market could fall out. So, what’s a person to do? Let the market pass and wait until things look more stable to make investments? It sounds reasonable, but you might miss out on more than you save. If history has taught us anything, times of turmoil tend to create the strongest, most resilient companies. With that in mind, you can make smart technology investments that will position your business for immediate and longer-term success while being prudent and minimizing risk. Significant new transformational investments in ERP or other cloud platforms may not make sense at this time. However, getting the most out of your current technology investments, making it easier for your customers to work with you, and enabling agility across your organization will position you to win and allow you to do more with less. To make your company more resilient, efficient, and innovative, I recommend reviewing your approach in three critical business aspects – experience, data, and cloud. Success requires significant technology depth, a unique perspective, and domain expertise focused on solving critical business and technology issues. Perhaps more importantly, you need to do the “hard work” necessary to integrate disparate systems, platforms, and data sources, all while delivering a human-centered user experience to customers and employees.

Unlocking Resilience, Efficiency, and Innovation in Difficult Times Technology investments during times of economic uncertainty can feel risky, but there’s far more to lose by hunkering down.

Building Momentum with User Experience Quick Wins

Any step to reduce customer friction in engaging with you is a solid investment; the right user experience initiatives will simplify your customer’s experience with your company. Conveniently, there’s ample opportunity to tackle projects with a low degree of difficulty that will provide powerful results. Working towards continuous improvement on your website or portal is one of the most impactful initiatives you can undertake without a massive lift. Regardless of your industry, your customer-facing sites and portals can be better, faster, and easier to use. There are three quick win opportunities I recommend considering: Simplifying site navigation. Revisiting your navigation isn’t a heavy lift to implement, but it makes a massive difference in site accessibility and customer experience. Optimizing site taxonomy. Reviewing your site taxonomy to ensure the content you’re displaying reflects what’s on the page makes your site easier to use and influences your search engine rankings. Improving site search. You can reduce the time your user spends on the site or portal and improve their overall satisfaction with the experience by providing helpful and accurate results. Improving your digital experience leads to greater customer satisfaction and reduces costs for your organization. Truly a win-win scenario.

Florin Ibrani, Chief Executive Officer, Concord

T he upcoming year is poised to present a variety of challenges from a planning and investment perspective. Market uncertainty isn’t new; we consistently cycle through economic ups and downs. It might feel a bit different this time around, however, given the range of economic, social, and political challenges. For many in leadership positions, this might be the first time you’re experiencing an operating background this challenging and uncertain.

20 | Unlocking Resilience, Efficiency, and Innovation in Difficult Times

Unlocking Resilience, Efficiency, and Innovation in Difficult Times | 21


Gaining Efficiency with Your Data Management Strategy

Investing in Thoughtful Cloud Optimization

There’s always more opportunity to understand your customer and improve your data quality. Typically, data is one of the primary limiting factors holding organizations back from reaching their full potential – mind you, that’s not a lack of data issue, but rather a data quality and integration issue. Most organizations are swimming in data, producing exponential amounts year over year. The challenge lies in connecting your data strategy, governance, and analytics to properly illuminate organizational strengths and weaknesses. Asking yourself three key questions will help address your data strategy and prepare a strong data foundation: Is your data an enabler for the business? Value-based delivery is a concept that will help you partner with stakeholders to generate a data strategy that enables the business and provides tangible value. Is data governance a central component of your strategy? It’s critical to engage the people who consume the data in managing that data – the proper data governance measures will ensure that’s the case. Does your strategy emphasize optimization capabilities? Leveraging your data for multiple purposes creates the opportunity for operational savings, consistent customer experiences, and more accurate reporting. Activating and optimizing your data management strategy will help your organization narrow its focus and double down on key strengths.

No shock here – cloud initiatives provide unparalleled flexibility and cost optimization opportunities. Many large organizations modernized their legacy systems years ago in favor of the scalability of the cloud. However, just because your modernization is complete doesn’t mean the journey is over. Cloud optimization will help you find areas of opportunity in your current landscape to reduce operational costs and improve return on investment. I believe there are three guiding principles to help you go beyond just operating in the cloud and fully optimize your cloud investment: Focus on the customer. Start with a targeted project that provides a better experience for your customer to show success in the cloud and allow you to plan more extensive migrations. Enable your employees. Cloud modernization initiatives allow your employees to explore innovative technologies with a low cost of entry and go a long way to retain people who value innovation. Emphasize governance. Key to maximizing your strategy, governance leads to the best long-term success with the fewest problems down the line. The key is to start now. Waiting for economic uncertainty to pass will delay the benefits while your competitors gain market share.

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– Taking the Next Steps

If history has taught us anything, times of turmoil tend to create the strongest, most resilient companies.

When it comes time to weather the storm of market uncertainty, we believe in the importance of optimizing your cloud initiatives, activating your data strategy to enable the business, and finding quick wins through user experience initiatives. Please reach out if you’re struggling to identify where to focus your investment budget and employee energy. We can help you build a more resilient, efficient, and innovative business.


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CHANGING THE RETAIL EXPERIENCE The pace and expectations of retail shopping have changed. Today’s consumers want the flexibility to shop how, when, and where they want. Increasingly, consumers are using digital channels as part of their shopping experience. Brands Should Be Everywhere Most consumers now use a combination of online and in- person channels throughout their shopping journey based on what makes the most sense for them at the time. For example, they may learn about a pair of shoes on social media, go to the store to try them on, and buy them online. Because the shopping journey is so fractured, you’re missing out on crucial touchpoints if you’re not selling across digital and in-person channels. A Holistic Experience But it’s not enough to sell through numerous channels. Customers want all touchpoints in their shopping journey to feel like parts of a cohesive whole. They expect a brand’s personality, messaging, and product offers will be consistent across the mobile app, in-store displays, and online store. They want to seamlessly pick up where they left off when switching between channels. Consumers also expect retailers to cater to their unique needs – for example, providing quick checkout in some situations and a richer experience in others. Near Instant Gratification Not only do customers want it all, but they also want it right now. The pandemic created an increased demand for restaurant and grocery delivery services. Despite the slow return to normal in some areas, many people have retained a preference for rapid delivery services that can quickly deliver orders – sometimes in mere minutes. If consumers are willing to head to the store, they don’t always want the burden of doing their own shopping. Instead, they choose to buy online for in-store for curbside pickup. When customers shop on their own, they still look to technology to streamline their checkout experience with self-checkout, contactless payments, and other payment innovations.

Winning Checkout at the Ringing up real change that makes both dollars and sense.

DIGITAL OPPORTUNITIES PROVIDE MORE PLACES TO WIN The changing customer journey means more opportunities for retailers of all sizes to compete at the checkout. After all, even small brands can be big online. The following are trending opportunities for companies, both big and small. Mobile Applications Mobile applications have been around for twenty years. But it’s become increasingly important that companies of all sizes have a robust mobile presence. “Companies in the past, specifically smaller companies, believed building a custom mobile application may not be worth the investment. But now, users expect brands of all sizes to have their own applications. Fortunately, small to mid-size retailers are usually pleasantly surprised to learn how affordable and valuable a custom mobile app can be for their business,” said Kaustubh Goswami, Retail Product Manager at Concord. But there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every retail business. What works for your business depends on your customer needs and business goals. Popular types of retail apps include discount and deal givers, loyalty programs, digital wallets, price comparison helpers, and vendor portals. Connected Commerce With connected commerce, all your channels are integrated from a sales, marketing and operational standpoint – so your customers can discover, purchase, and receive their items based on their personal preferences. With seamless and personalized integration, customers will have a consistent experience with your brand wherever they interact with you – for example, through online marketplaces, your website, social media, and brick-and-mortar stores. Live Commerce Using live commerce, you can sell products through live video while shoppers interact with your brand in real-time. By 2024, livestream shopping in the United States is expected to triple to $35 billion.

Pranav Patel Executive Director of Retail Solutions at Concord

Retail—and how people have shopped—has changed. The winners are those who can harness technology to create an intuitive, frictionless hybrid user experience. W hile digital has been part of the shopping experience for decades, the pandemic accelerated the adoption and, in some But where should a retail business start when looking to develop a successful digital strategy?

cases, the preference for digital-first options. In 2022, mobile retail ecommerce sales in the United States are expected to double to $430 billion, indicating the changing nature of purchasing behaviors. In fact, nearly one-third of U.S. internet users buy something online each week via a mobile phone and experts state that 80% of B2B sales will occur in digital channels by 2025. As digital becomes integral to the buyer’s journey, retailers must reinvent themselves to benefit from the always-on consumer, prioritize user experience, increase engagement, build loyalty, and improve organizational efficiencies.

There’s no one-size-fits- all solution, and there are many ways to win at the checkout. But success is easier if you have technology on your side.

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HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP How can retailers meet the higher needs and expectations of customers? Technology helps connect with customers and create operational efficiency.

Payment Options Payment innovations, like buy-now- pay-later systems and contactless payments, makes the buying process more convenient for shoppers. Flexible and frictionless payments are enticing to consumers as prices continue to rise. By providing unique payment strategies, retailers can deliver increased basket sizes, more shopping visits, stronger brand loyalty, and help to alleviate cart abandonment. Streamlined Operations If you’re a retailer looking to cut costs, look no further than process automation. Companies can reduce human effort, operational costs, manual mistakes, and processing times by automating processes. Opportunities include automating product categorization, supply chain and inventory management, billing, pricing, and other operations. Chatbots with conversational intelligence can improve the quality of your customer service while reducing the burden on your team members. The chatbots can answer routine questions and escalate inquiries that require human assistance. Plus, chatbots can be available to help customers 24/7 across numerous channels.

Live commerce accelerates the buying process, increases audience size, and boosts conversions. According to McKinsey Digital, companies using live commerce report the following results:

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• 20% growth in younger audiences

Personalization Personalization across channels

• 30% conversion rates – compared to the 1-2% that’s typical for traditional ecommerce • 10-20% of their total ecommerce sales come from live commerce The Metaverse The metaverse combines physical, augmented, and virtual reality to create a digital environment where consumers can interact and make purchases. Because the metaverse provides a deep and rich customer experience, it has the potential to drive customer engagement and loyalty. Don’t worry if joining the metaverse seems too lofty a goal for your organization – you have time. While you can expect that hybrid technology innovation will begin to reshape the retail experience within the next twenty years, it’s unlikely that fully-immersive experiences will be in widespread use for many years. Still, it’s worth considering the future implications of the metaverse when optimizing the current customer experience.

enhances customer experience, builds loyalty, and drives growth. The average consumer now uses stores, online, and mobile devices throughout their shopping journey – and they expect you to be aware of their behaviors across channels. This makes the process more complex for retailers. Success necessitates collecting and combining data from across channels and using the insights to create a cohesive omnichannel shopping experience. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can provide greater insights into buyer behaviors and preferences. Based on the collected information, you’ll be able to understand what your customers are viewing, buying together, and other vital pieces of information. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with built-in AI can be an easy entry point into hyper- personalization, helping you to achieve one-to-one connections at scale and engaging mobile-first customers in a cookie-less world. Flexible Order Fulfillment People are looking for flexibility in the purchasing process. The pandemic accelerated preferences for different ways to shop and get their goods. Technology is fueling change in order fulfillment. Click-and-collect, curbside, and other delivery technologies that optimize the last mile are helping retailers keep up with increasing consumer expectations for fast and easy pickup.

Teddy Bekele Land O’ Lakes Leadership

Sarah Nieters Medtronic Global

Brian Tilzer Best Buy Large Enterprise

Mary Lynne Perushek Mortenson Enterprise

Michelle Roemer Cirrus Aircraft Large Corporate

Paul Johansen Edmentum Corporate

Nonprofit/ Public Sector

LEARN MORE Find out the importance of data and learn how to develop your digital strategy by reading the full eBook at winning-at-the-checkout-ebook.

Anjali Gandhi Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

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