The beat goes on. And on, and on. The energy and collective exchange of knowledge that kicked off day one at Shoptalk was on steroids during day two. And I kid you not.
Four fireside chats opened the morning with powerful dialogues around various pools of knowledge, which in my opinion, is instructional for every C-level executive in this industry, more of whom should have been here.
The EVP of Global Operations of The Priceline Group, Maelle Gavet, explained how they use technology to enhance the matching experience, emblematic of the sharing economy, for a better customer experience. She nodded to AirBnB’s success, however noted that they are still not profitable and also questioned their model’s ultimate sustainability. The CEO of Birchbox, Katia Beauchamp, spoke of their continuous improvement in data analytics driving ever more personalized products and enhancing the experience. CEO & Co-Founder Brian Lee of The Honest Company expanded on the topic of conscious consumerism, powered by Jessica Alba’s vision. And a standout was the Co-CEO of the Westfield Corporation, Steven Lowy, who explained how malls must literally become digitalized and personalized to survive. To accomplish this requires that all retailers in a mall provide transparency to measure their consumer shopping information. This was a bold, conflictive, but certainly visionary perspective on the future of malls as uber connective managers. Later in the day, Westfield’s EVP of data analytics, Raghav Lal, participated in a panel conversation on Innovations in Offline Data Capture and Analytics (a mouthful). He addressed data sharing, further channeling his CEO’s vision. He also coined a new term, “Phigital,” as a fusion of physical and digital retailing. Frankly this might be a better definition than the hackneyed term omnichannel because “Phigital” means much more than just a website and a store. Alexei Agratchev, CEO of RetailNext, was also on the panel, describing the power of his technology solution, which provides retailers with the kind of data on consumer shopping behavior that results in retailers’ ability to elevate a personalized consumer shopping experience.
Brands Taking Control was yet another panel that discussed the use of technology and data analytics to better understand and control all of a brand’s consumer touch points, enhancing both the direct-to-consumer businesses and better control retail relationships.
The Worldwide VP of Amazon Prime Now, Stephenie Landry, kicked off the On-Demand Delivery and Logistics session, with a rare candid glimpse into the 800-pound gorilla’s nuclear weapon. As an aside, not one panel I attended failed to discuss Amazon, its growing enormity, and threat to all players in the retail ecosystem. This session was all about consumer power combined with superior technology-driven distribution capabilities.
Two other panels: New Approaches to Personalization and Innovations in Consumer Targeting, expanded on how to use data analytics to develop more laser-like and personalized targeted marketing as well as better shopping experiences. Are you noticing a recurring theme here? Digital tools and analytics enhance a personalized, customized customer experience. It’s the best of both worlds, high tech and high touch.
Finally, five more fireside chats and two keynoters concluded the day with additional fire power. Target’s Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer Casey Carl talked about why experiences matter more than ever, exemplified by Target’s Open House connected home space and Target Wonderland. He also emphasized Target’s commitment to a digitalized, connected future. Katrina Lake, Founder and CEO of Stitch Fix, a personal shopper service that, uses big data to drive personalization with the help of 80 data scientists and engineers, 30 of whom have PhDs. Keynoter, and Chief Product Officer of eBay, RJ Pittman, provided a glimpse of what seemed like science fiction to me with projected possibilities for the use of artificial intelligence, the cloud and what he called “commerce fabric.”
And last, but not least, Uri Minkoff, Co-Founder and CEO of Rebecca Minkoff discussed the genesis of his and his sister’s visionary convergence of the “art and science” of retailing. Their idea is not only “Phigital,” they are also disrupters in redefining what a retail store can be. They have taken a leadership position as change agents in the fashion space, questioning and reimagining how to provide an amazing in-store experience enhanced by tech that delivers a high touch level of service. It seems to be working and their retail business is growing.
I will sign off by sending an important message to my readers. I paused today to reflect about what was really taking place at Shoptalk. First of all, I know of no conference that has assembled such a huge number of young, innovative and, yes, intelligent and passionate entrepreneurs, all born to use technology as a tool integrated into their DNA. I know that nine out of ten are not making any money, and likely the same number may fail. But, they are inspirational in their optimism and passion to identify a problem they solve with innovations powered via e-commerce.
However, and this is the point, I’m awestruck about two things: one, every one of these young entrepreneurs understands that everything starts and ends with the consumer. This is the power that drives their business models and strategies. And the second point is that for each one of these new concepts — perhaps just clever new ways to go to market — these entrepreneurs are displaying hundreds of very specific and creative uses of technology, the Internet, data analytics and on and on, to provide a more personalized consumer experience. And this is what every retail executive, if they were at Shoptalk, would discover as a huge and relevant learning insight. Technology is the tool of choice to transform the retail landscape, online and off. You’ve got to be player in this arena, or you will surely jeopardize your business and your connection with Millennials, your immediate growth market.
Shoptalk has launched a phenomenal new conference model that the entire retail ecosystem can benefit from. You need to be there to contribute to the conversation. It’s about collaboration and knowledge transfer…as I said, on steroids.