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“Retailers will need to rise to the occasion” With Cheryl Policastro

I think we will start to see the emergence of more purpose-driven retailers. Retailers will need to rise to the occasion, providing authenticity and consistency. There will be higher expectations from consumers — they will want to support retailers that are making a difference. The younger generation of shoppers are more determined to change the […]

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I think we will start to see the emergence of more purpose-driven retailers. Retailers will need to rise to the occasion, providing authenticity and consistency. There will be higher expectations from consumers — they will want to support retailers that are making a difference. The younger generation of shoppers are more determined to change the world, so their expectations will certainly be a driving force.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cheryl Policastro.

Cheryl in the managing director and head of strategy and insights at TPN. She is a high energy leader with a passion for creating new pathways, identifying trends, developing insight-driven strategies and cultivating talent. Cheryl has produced successful results in roles across functions, including brand management, shopper insights and marketing, analytics, strategic planning and sales. Her experiences span several industries, including beauty, apparel, OTC pharmaceuticals, financial services, lighting and home care.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ithink that my interests as a child were very indicative of my career path. As a young girl, I was constantly inventing things and “selling” them to my friends and family. I would draw up product renderings and then create my own commercials for my products. I would also take everyday toys and turn them into something else. My kitchen set was never just a kitchen in a house — instead, it was a restaurant for all of my dolls. I was always thinking about how to provide products and services — that business mentality has been in my DNA since I was a young child.

I majored in business in college and then received my MBA, which propelled me into brand management. Throughout my entire career, I’ve been lucky to move across different functions and disciplines, which has helped me to unlock and realize my passions. My natural abilities and passion lie in insights and analytics, and I truly believe that you’re the best at what you love to do. That’s what led me to TPN, and I’ve been here for almost four years.

TPN is the creative commerce agency, but it’s so much more than that. We like to talk about our TPN Soul, which guides and enhances everything we do for our clients and everything we do for each other. It’s amazing to be at a company with a defined and intentional purpose and one that focuses on things like empathy, curiosity, collaboration, respect and drive.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My career path hasn’t been linear but instead has taken many twists and turns. I’ve had multiple opportunities to move into newly created positions — including sales analytics functions and shopper marketing functions — allowing me to create a discipline from the ground up.

These opportunities have helped me to build the courage and skillset to create and define new ways of thinking. They’ve encouraged me to build process, see things differently, and take risks. I truly believe they’ve led me to where I am today, doing something that I love.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I’ve definitely had my fair share of mistakes throughout my career, but I think more than that, I’ve had some humorous misperceptions about the business world.

I started my career with Liz Claiborne Inc. in the late 80’s at a time when the business was incredibly strong and was positioned as a top-selling brand at retailers like Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue. My first role with the company was within the beauty/fragrance division, and as a young adult, I was star struck — and super intimidated — by the business leaders. My division was small, so I had a direct line of communication into these leaders. However, their larger-than-life presence and my junior position kept me quiet most of the time with the assumption that I had nothing of value to offer. I started to see others at my level smash that notion. They interacted with the senior leaders in a comfortable, relaxed fashion and gained their respect and trust quickly. I grew to realize that these top leaders were people, and at the end of the day, they appreciated and wanted engagement at all levels. It was the start to a very deliberate human approach that has shaped the type of leader I’ve become.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

From a business perspective, there is so much to sort through this year between pandemic-related and social justice challenges and opportunities. TPN is tackling these head-on with our clients, and it’s something we’re making a priority for the foreseeable future. As we support our clients, we’ll want to provide our perspective in real-time to help them make tough decisions. We’ll also be encouraging our strategy and insights team to think about how they are navigating these issues that are creating uncertainty ahead.

From a personal perspective, I’m very passionate about helping others to grow and thrive. I’m excited to be working on development plans to foster individuals’ growth at TPN. It’s something we recently formalized for the Insights & Strategy team, and we’re planning to roll it out to the entire agency. It’s a deliberate and defined process that will plot out expectations and areas of growth for our colleagues, ultimately allowing them to create and own their successful and exciting professional future.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

My first tip is all about remembering to “feed and water yourself.” People should prioritize whatever they do that helps them stay healthy, both physically and mentally. Without that, nothing else can happen. Whether that’s taking walks, working out, meditating, or being with family, make that a priority.

My second tip is something that’s been more apparent than ever while navigating all that 2020 has thrown our way. It’s a simple but profound idea. Learn to pause. Spend a few minutes each day reflecting on what works and what doesn’t work so you can continue to adapt, evolve, and be self-aware. It’s so hard to pause when you’re being pulled in so many directions, but I truly think it can be the most valuable investment of your time.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I don’t think there is one person in particular, rather it’s a collective group of colleagues and managers that I’ve had throughout my career. I’ve been privileged to have managers that have helped me grow and have allowed me the chance to take risks. They’ve pushed me to get uncomfortable, which has ultimately helped me to become a stronger and better person.

I’ve been a single mom for a majority of my career, and I’m forever grateful to the people who have allowed me to blossom professionally while also recognizing the importance of family and helping me become the mother I wanted to be.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a single, working mom, I’ve harnessed the hard work that comes with that and have used it to support and mentor other working moms. I love showing what’s possible, I love helping to change perception, and I love making real progress when it comes to supporting women in the workplace.

Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

My point of view on this will most certainly evolve depending on how long we’re operating in pandemic mode, but here are some things that I would consider certainties.

  1. Both the online and physical shopping experience will undoubtedly evolve. Online shopping will evolve to accommodate changing expectations and the additional categories that people will shop for online. Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS) will evolve from an add-on service to a deliberate and enhanced experienced. In-store shopping will evolve from an experiential standpoint. The pandemic has forced retailers to pause, figure out how they can change and use their physical spaces in new ways, and meet the new needs created by the unfortunate business closures.
  2. I think we will start to see the emergence of more purpose-driven retailers. Retailers will need to rise to the occasion, providing authenticity and consistency. There will be higher expectations from consumers — they will want to support retailers that are making a difference. The younger generation of shoppers are more determined to change the world, so their expectations will certainly be a driving force.
  3. We are going to see a shift in real estate strategy. We’re already seeing people leave their urban outposts to venture into the suburbs or an upgraded home environment — low-interest rates are one major driver of this as we see existing home sales surge. It will be interesting to see how this impacts retailers and shifts their geographic approach.
  4. We’re going to see a continued emphasis on local. As many businesses are forced to shut down, consumers will rally around their local stores to help keep them alive. Local businesses will also have to get creative to stay afloat.
  5. Teleguidance and tech-oriented interaction will become paramount. While some desire in-person experiences, many more people have become comfortable with virtual interaction, and I think this will open up opportunities within the shopping journey. Whether that’s before they arrive, during their in-store experience, or after their transaction, virtual interaction will start to play a bigger role, especially as it relates to providing health guidance or education via QR codes during the shopping experience.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One thing that’s been weighing very heavily on me is how challenging it is for people to understand what’s happening in the world, and more specifically, in our country. It has become so complex with fragmented communication that it’s difficult to have an educated point of view. I would love to start a movement that drives truthful, unbiased communication that would make our democracy stronger, help educate the country, and drive us toward solutions to narrow the divide.

I also truly believe in the power of individuals. With widening gaps in this country, if everyone was motivated to help just help one person, imagine the difference it would make to bring this country back together and lift everyone to a better place.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on LinkedIn here.

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