So, maybe you've heard this idea that retailers need to behave more like startups. (Hmmm. I wonder where you heard that?) Some have concluded that Wamart's big Shoptalk announcement that they're launching an incubator named Store 8 (sounds a little like that place in Nevada where they found martians or whatever) means Walmart is acting more like a startup. Actually, Walmart Labs in Silicon Valley is how the company acts like a startup. Store 8 is how Walmart acts like a venture capitalist. Anyway, Marc Lore, in making the announcement, said something about how the ventures in Store 8 would have a ring fence around them — something that doesn't sound plesant at all. Just saying.
So, what to do today? May we be so bold as to suggest a few presentations to check out? Never mind. We are bold. So here you go: 1. "Virtual & Augmented Reality in Retail" kicks off the day. Sophie Miller of Google is on the panel and she's fabulous + able to clear up the clutter around AR vs. VR. (That's augmented reality vs virtual reality, for those who prefer words to letters.) 2. "Reimagining Retail Destinations" sounds like a prescription for what brick and mortar needs. It's all about the customer experience, something that's been in the conversation for some time. Whether in the store or online, commerce has to shift from transactions to experiences. 3. "Conversational Converse" will deal primarily with chatbots, but there are some other interesting threads that might or might not come up. First, chatbots are all about artificial intelligence and you are going to need to know all you can about AI. Everybody is going to claim to be using AI. Some will be. Some won't. So, know your stuff. Also, the session is a window into the idea of better using content to drive commerce. 4. "CMOs and the Future of Marketing" gets at the heart of one of the biggest discussions in digital retail today. CMOs are struggling to use data wisely and to ensure that everyone throughout an organization has the same access to insights. The struggle has given currency to the idea of a CDO or chief digital officer. Sounds good, but some argue that digital needs to course through an organization and not be held in one office with one title. For the record? We're CDO people. 5. "Commerce Innovation: Build, Invest or Buy?" So, we're guessing the answer depends. It's a big decision though, whether to build the latest digital commerce tools in-house, spend or invest in partners to do it or simply buy other companies to get your hands on the technology you need. Discuss. 6. "Merchandising Innovation" and "Innovative Merchandising Strategies" are back-to-back presentations that get at the heart of retail: Merchandising. The focus here will be data-driven merchandising and no doubt merchandisers today are demanding more sophisticated tools and more accessible insights. Data is good, but insights are better and the days of gathering data only from those who buy from you are long gone. 4. "Personalized Shopping Experiences" is an afternoon session worth attending just to get the personalization juices flowing. We'd say that personalization is the future of retail, except it's actually the now of retail. Consumers expect it. This panel has three distinct approaches to personalization, but another aspect to think about is the ability to provide one-to-one personalization in all digital experiences at scale. Not humanly possible? Yep. So look to the machines.
Unleashing the power of people sounds like a good thing, but we wonder: Is Spiderman a people? Anyway, we're sure there is a strong connection between Spiderman and retail. We're just going to need a little time to figure out what that is.
Now, robots and retail.... that we get. Think warehouse work, delivery, even in-store help. The thing to remember, though, is that for retailers to thrive they need to embrace the combination of human+machine. Many are there. Many others are headed there. These guys, for instance.
Walmart is also continuing to claw its way into a battle with Amazon. After the Jet acquisition things apparently are moving apace at the combined company. Marc Lore told the Shoptalk crowd that each co. would keep its identify.
The combination only makes sense, Lore explained.
Oh, and, there is more to come.
The theme comes up in different forms at different times, but it is becoming retail gospel that retailers need to accelerate their embrace of innovation. The future was yesterday when it comes to digital commerce. The winners will try things that fail, while trying things that succeed. Keep moving forward.
And not to be a buzz kill. We're looking at you ... But yeah, it's true. Things will continue to shake out and some retailers won't make it through the year — certainly not in their present form.
Is Neiman Marcus in for a change? What do we know? Steve Dennis, who does know his stuff, has thoughts on both sides of the question. Does anyone else think Hudsons Bay seems awfully hungry? Remember, it wasn't that long ago that they had Macy's in their sights. Until they didn't.
These big trade shows can be a little bit like high school, complete with the parties that all the cool kids get invited to.