At the third annual Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas, brands spoke on panels, at keynotes and with others in the industry about the various innovations they’re working on to make consumers happy. Some brands like Glossier and Boxed think they’ve hit a sweet spot when it comes to reaching their customers. Others are still figuring it out.
While becoming consumer-centric was a revolving theme at the conference, industry executives pointed to the fear of Amazon, seamless online and offline retail experiences and in-store interactions as some of the other big trends retail is coming to terms with.
Everyone’s scared of Amazon
Amazon is trying to figure out how to run a retail store without cashiers, but that hasn’t stopped major brands from fixating on how to work with—or against—them.
“They’re changing the industry, and I think that’s good for consumers and ultimately good for retail because it makes them be consumer-centric,” said Jimmy Duvall, chief product at BigCommerce, which has a partnership with Amazon.
Boaz Cohen, chief product officer at Clinch, a video ad company, believes Amazon is also making retailers consider their relationship with consumers and the personalization touches they can add.
“So instead of doing the same thing they’ve been doing for years, they’re starting to think about what we should do, what’s our unique perspective or advantage compared to Amazon,” Cohen said. “Everybody’s reaching the conclusion that Amazon is very transactional-based; it’s not a personal experience.”
But doing personalization well is another matter, especially across the online and offline worlds. For example, Cohen thinks retailers that have brick-and-mortar locations need to make sure the brand translates both online and offline and that any store associate is able to express that message.
Going to where the consumer is, wherever that may be
Retailers are also seeing they need to meet consumers where they are, and that might mean investing in more technology and infrastructure.
“How do you get to the consumer where they are because the consumer is savvy today?” Duvall said. “They want to experience it their way as opposed to yesterday’s world which was ‘our way.’”
Katrina Gosek, senior director, digital customer product strategy at Oracle, noted that this year’s trends about reaching consumers was similar to last year’s except that companies started to “play around” with the technologies.
“It’s not just the shiny object anymore,” Gosek said about tools like artificial intelligence, machine learning, chatbots and conversational commerce.
“The smarter brands are realizing that their consumers want to interact with them in these micromoments, anywhere, anytime, and they need to be there,” Gosek said. “And whether it’s through your phone speaker, car speaker, chatbot, or messenger, or WeChat, WhatsApp, you have to be there.”
Retail as an experience, not just selling
There’s no shortage of headlines declaring retail is dying, but the industry is slowly seeing a resurgence—and looking different than it did in the past.
Jaime Bettencourt, svp of business development at Mood Media, an in-store solutions company, thinks brands are looking to create immersive retail experiences tied to their message as well feel authentic and real. Bettencourt brought up pop-ups like Glossier in San Francisco or Nordstrom Local in West Hollywood that are achieving this new retail feel.
“Thinking about spaces and retail in store as experiences and not selling merchandise … that’s definitely a foreign thought,” Bettencourt said. “But they’re using that to create those connections and those experiences. Its a way for people to say, ‘I’m here; I’m connected with the brand on a different level.’”