The National Retail Federation’s Big Show kicked off last week with a student program and opening keynote from Rebecca Minkoff (she was featured as one of our sister brand Total Retail’s top women in retail this year, too!).

Minkoff gave an inspiring keynote to students who aspire to be in the retail industry one day — whether they want to be designers, marketers or engineers. However, there are some things she said that retail professionals deep in their careers should always remember.

1. Be fearless. Minkoff said that in every life phase you’ll be confronted with some things that scare you. She encouraged everyone to “be fearless” because the scary situations are often the ones that teach you the most. Failures happen every day, but Minkoff said you’ll also learn from those failures.

“Going against the norm is the most rewarding thing you could ever do,” said Minkoff.

2. Be an early adapter and rethink retail. Minkoff was the first brand to do the “see, buy, wear” model at New York Fashion Week. That’s now becoming the norm with other brands like Tom Ford and Alice + Olivia making their runway looks available for immediate purchase.

Rebecca Minkoff was also the first designer on Snapchat, and an early adapter of in-store technology. Her interactive “magic mirror” and smart walls create unique shopping experiences for customers.

Minkoff said that her stores allow every customer to curate the exact experience she wants. If she never wants to speak to a sales associate, she doesn’t have to. If she wants to be treated like a VIP, the store associate can make that happen.

3. Engage with customers. Minkoff tapped into social media to connect with her customers. She wanted to know her customers’ needs and wants, get feedback about products, and have genuine connections with her brand advocates. She started this on Facebook, and is now on every social channel engaging with her customers.

Getting to know her customers has helped Minkoff build a brand and stick to its core values.

4. Stay inspired. There are a few sources that Minkoff looks to for inspiration, including the following:

  • Pinterest;
  • traveling and exploring new places;
  • reading books;
  • looking at art; and
  • Instagram.

Minkoff said she also gets inspiration by walking down the street and looking at the street styles people are wearing.

No matter where you are in your career, being fearless, rethinking retail, engaging with customers and staying inspired are all great things to do to be successful.