Last week at Shop.org was fantastic, with so many useful insights about the exciting road that lies ahead for digital retail. We examined a few dominant themes retailers can take away from the conference below, including thoughts about the modern shopper, fulfillment, and the future of retail tech.
The Shopper IS Boss
The future of digital retail is all about the shopper—no surprise there. We knew this was going to be a prominent theme for many of the keynote sessions prior to the show.
And rightfully so.
Kate Ancketill, CEO and founder of retail trend consultancy GDR Creative Intelligence, hit the nail right on the head for this topic during her keynote session last week.
To sum it up: the consumer is the boss.
With this in mind, retailers can capitalize on consumer trends and data to gain a deep understanding of how consumers interact with their business. It all boils down to “building authentic, trusting relationships” with your consumers.
Much like a good employee, you want to go above and beyond to meet your boss’ (a.k.a, the consumer’s) needs and make an impression that will last...
The Last Mile Stretch
Now, onto the next major theme—“the battle for the last mile.”
What this refers to is the struggle retailers encounter when it comes to online fulfillment. Retailers are still trying to figure out how to effectively leverage their stores to compete with the almighty Amazon, who continues to make moves to improve on that last stretch (as seen through their acquisition of Whole Foods and recent partnership with Kohl’s).
Amazon is definitely “the elephant in the room” when it comes to keeping up with customer expectations on fast AND free delivery choices.
It's a major pain point for many retailers today.
One of the challenges retailers face when optimizing fulfillment initiatives include trying to balance multiple (often conflicting) goals across thousands of store locations and inventory. Trying to create a ‘best case’ fulfillment scenario is really really hard.
Because of this, retailers are getting innovative when it comes to solving this last mile problem. Turning to new technologies, like predictive analytics, is one of them (we may know a thing or two about this). Walmart is even asking employees to deliver packages on their way home from work!
Retail Tech Is Looking Ahead
The show also did a wonderful job of highlighting all the new and exciting tech changing the digital retail landscape, such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and voice recognition technologies.
When it comes to VR, Marc Lore, Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce president, is a major advocate:
"It's still early days for [VR], but once we get comfortable shopping via voice, imagine getting immersed into an environment where the products you're looking to buy can be experienced in their native environment."
When it comes to all these new technologies, Lore makes an effort during his keynote session to remind retailers that every business is unique and solving a business problem should be the main drive behind new tech initiatives:
"People are talking about AI, but we should be talking about how it lets us think about merchandising in a new way," he said. "We shouldn't be chasing the tech as much as the merchandising aspect that goes along with it."
Retail Dive does a good job of summing it up, with a few additional insights from the show.
Additionally, the Brick & Data podcast featured a couple of influential voices from Retail Minded during the show, touching on some of the different challenges independent merchants are facing compared to bigger retailers, the Amazon marketplace, millennial shoppers and technology (of course!).
All in all, the future for digital retail is progressing rapidly. It will be interesting to see how retailers use to these emerging technologies to connect with the consumer and deliver on their high expectations.