While the massive scale of Shoptalk was impressive, with over 3,100 attendees, of which more than 30% were C-level executives and about 400 of which were CEOs, and over 320 visionary, innovative, entrepreneurial, imaginative, and intelligent speakers, the real reason Anil Aggarwal is a genius is because he provided a forum for the convergence of these eclectic voices that will provide a playbook for the future of retail. Whether it is veteran Jerry Storch, CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company, claiming that the Internet is transformational not transcendent; Andy Dunn, CEO of Bonobos, admitting that he can’t get to $1 billion in revenues without physical stores; Katrina Lake, CEO of Stitch Fix, revealing that her business is supported by 80 data scientists and engineers; CEO Ron Johnson defining his Enjoy business model as personal commerce; Steven Lowy, Co-CEO of Westfield Corporation, designing the smart mall; or Maelle Gavet, EVP of global operations for The Priceline Group, envisioning a holistic, connected travel experience, the future of a reimagined retail is in good hands.
And this future will happen through collaboration, sharing, and being open-minded about how next-gen commerce entrepreneurs can work fluidly with traditional brick-and-mortar retail brands to use high tech to deliver high touch, differentiated, and personal experiences. The brilliance of Shoptalk is in creating a community that nurtures this conversation and provides an ongoing dialogue among the players that will reengineer the future of the retail industry. When you connect the patterns that emerged at the event to see the big picture, what is clear is that whether new or old commerce, the leaders of the future are passionate about finding a product or service niche, solving a problem and making the lives of their customers better.
They are not just about selling stuff.
The future? Stores will be reframed as experience centers. And it’s going to take a lot of next-gen ingenuity to deliver these frictionless experiences through data science, complex CRM software, AI, augmented reality, new algorithms, machine learning, and bots.
The Robin Report has taken a strategic look at this year’s Shoptalk to identify five key trends that are critical to the next iteration of retail. These will be expanded upon throughout this report.
- The Omnipotent Consumer: Now with more power than in all of history, consumers enabled with the entire spectrum of the Internet, smartphones, and all of the contiguous technologies have the power of unlimited and instantaneous access to whatever they may dream for. Such access is a key tap away, or in a store across the street, or from the closest distribution point to wherever they are, whenever they want it, how they want it, either delivered or picked up, and for the price they deem to represent its true value. Because of such power, they are driving all of the fundamental strategic and structural changes and innovations in the retail industry. And all that was on display at Shoptalk.
- “A Universe of One:” Personalization: Personalization is the next “biggest thing” for all retailers. Consumers want personalized products, service, and experiences. And, big data analytics and technology enables retailers to provide such personalization. The industry is lagging, while Amazon is racing ahead. At Shoptalk, it was evident that the young entrepreneurs “got it.” Every model presented emanated from a consumer’s personal need or desire.
- Co-Created Personal Experiences: Driven by the omnipotent consumer as a “universe of one” (person), each person is not just demanding an experience of the retailer’s choice, rather they now expect the experience to be personalized, both online and in the physical store or other point of distribution. At the highest level, and the most indelible personal experiences are those that are co-created between consumer and retailer. UnderArmour’s Brand houses, where customers can try out wearables in the connected fitness platform, a major new focus of the company. In each co-created experience, the consumer is proactively participating and shaping it to their mood of the moment. Enjoy delivers its “Apple-like genius bar” directly to wherever and when the consumer requests the engagement. Then they both participate in co-creating a personal and fun learning experience.
- Technology’s New Tools Converging the Art and Science of Retailing: “Marketing 101” has not changed, however the awesome new tools that empower both consumers and retailers have totally disrupted and transformed the old-world marketing process. The Internet, smartphones, data analytics, augmented and virtual reality technologies, artificial intelligence, interactive touchscreen devices, apps, digital payment capabilities, and more, as well as new technologies being created on a daily basis, are all converging the art and science of retailing to an epic level.
- Disruptive Distribution: Laser Focused and Preemptive Ubiquity: Just as the omnipotent consumer is the new POS (point of sale), wherever they may be and whenever they desire a purchase, they are therefore, also the POD (point of distribution). This means that all of the physical and digital distribution points of retailers’ products or services must be laser focused, but ubiquitous, to preemptively deliver to the consumer, faster and more often ahead of the multitude of equally compelling competitors, wherever and whenever the consumer wants to purchase. “Omnichannel” means all channels and applies to pure e-commerce players as well. Evidence of this strategic imperative is exemplified by Amazon, Casper, Bonobos, and others as they begin opening brick-and-mortar stores.
Shoptalk’s inaugural event was profoundly successful, as measured by the numbers. However, of greater significance, was its timing. The industry is right smack in the middle of the biggest strategic and structural transformation in its history. The old (traditional) world brings wisdom and knowledge to the transformation. The new (disruptive) world brings entrepreneurial innovation and a deeper understanding of the total digital ecosystem and its new technologies. Both worlds need each other to create the future retail landscape that will be profoundly different, more efficient, effective, and sustainable, and indelibly more engaging and compelling for omnipotent consumers. Shoptalk brought these two worlds together in time for the old and new to accelerate this co-creation.