women in retailDay two of the Retail Online Magazine Women in Retail Leadership Summit left me thinking about courage: especially the courage to change.

Lisa Gavales spoke about what brick and mortar retailers must do to succeed in the fast, fast world of e-commerce which is forcing store-based retailers to change in unprecedented ways.  From marketing, to merchandising, IT and planning, retailers still struggle to align digital and physical channels.  Lisa, who has seen it all while at Bloomingdales, Express and Talbot’s, had a simple answer: Combine it all.  Combining planning ensures that both stores and online channels are provisioned to drive maximum overall brand revenue: combining digital and physical marketing insures that your brand stays true regardless of channel and one combined creative team means that your customer experiences your brand in a consistent manner.  But this is not always easy in large, established corporate cultures – people, politics, history and other factors come into play.  It is the courageous retailer that takes the bold steps needed to combine these important functions and thrive.

The final act of the Summit, was a panel of five women, all of whom have started their own pure-play shops.  Bow & Drape, Tradesy, Birchbox, the Grommet and Zady founders discussed the principles upon which they have built their growing companies, and the decisions they’ve had to make to gain share, build communities, obtain product and live within their start-up budgets.  My favorite quote of the session came from Soraya Darabi, co-founder of Zady whose many thousands of shoppers have been obtained with little or no marketing spend.  Their approach?  “Social marketing is content marketing.”  They create an emotional connection for users on their “conscious commerce” site by developing and sharing compelling, authentic stories and content about products that appeal to their like-minded community.  They then share and spread the wealth.  Doing what you believe in also takes courage, and none of these women (or brands) are afraid of anything that might come their way – be it larger competitors, smaller budgets, or economic headwinds.