In Customer Intelligence & Insights, Retail

I marvel at the speed of change and innovation in the retail industry and often wonder what great entrepreneurs from the past like Marshall Field would think about how technology is changing the way retailers deliver value to their customers today.

I decided to do a bit of research on the topic and came across Marshall Field’s ‘Twelve Things to Remember.’

  1. The value of time.
  2. The success of perseverance.
  3. The pleasure of working.
  4. The dignity of simplicity.
  5. The worth of character.
  6. The power of kindness.
  7. The influence of example.
  8. The obligations of duty.
  9. The wisdom of economy.
  10. The virtue of patience.
  11. The improvement of talent.
  12. The joy of originating


In an interview with Leslie Hand, Vice President for IDC Retail Insights, Seeta Hariharan, General Manager and Group Head of TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group is asked to talk about how new technologies are redefining the customer experience. Seeta replies that when she is asked about customer service or customer experience, she thinks of three entrepreneurs from the 1900’s, Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field. The phrases they coined still ring true today like, ‘Give the woman what she wants’, the ‘Customer is king’ and ‘The customer is always right.’ In the video, Seeta talks about how technology will continue to evolve across all retail channels, but one thing will always remain the same, the need to ‘keep your customers at the center of everything you do.’



Marshall Field was able deliver the exceptional quality and customer experiences he is still known for today by remaining true to his ‘Twelve Things to Remember’. He understood how to ‘wow’ his customers. When he opened his first store in downtown Chicago, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune wrote the store “looked palatial, fairy-like, and for all the world as if it had been brought into existence by some enchanter.” He introduced policies that are still ‘must-haves’ for successful retailers today including free delivery and an easy return policy. And of course, most famously, he championed the idea that ‘the customer is always right.’ While retailers today are faced with an unprecedented pace of innovation due to business transformation and technology led digital transformation, there is still a great deal that can be learned from the retail giants of the past.

What would Marshall Field do today? He would remain true to the ‘Twelve Things to Remember.’ He would persevere. He would leverage the latest advances in technology and analytics along with the huge volumes of available customer data to deliver the exceptional, hyper-personalized customer experiences he delivered one-on-one in his day on-time, in context and at a scale never before possible. And, he would always keep the customer at the center of everything he did.

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