LIM COLLEGE FACULTY BLOG
Shoptalk 2017 Recap
posted by Professor Marie Driscoll, CFA
The retail/ecommerce ecosystem met at Shoptalk 2017, the nextgen ecommerce and retail four-day event, to discuss new business models, strategies and technologies that serve a connected consumer. Old and new retailers and brands as well as new disruptive technologies co-mingled with analysts, consultants and academia and all left with the sure impression that retail is undergoing massive change and radical action is required for many to remain relevant.
Data tracking our online lives can be analyzed to provide valuable insights into who we are, what we buy, want, need and desire, and smart data scientists are using this to personalize retail offerings, personalized landing webpages and a whole bevy of ways to delight us. Brick and mortar retailers may have experiences and points of distribution, but most lack real knowledge, intimacy and relationships with their customers.
Technology as a core competency is a must for retailers today on the consumer side as well as in logistic, operational and infrastructure functions. You can't drag your feet with technology investing.
Customer experience is paramount and this is where brick and mortar retailers should excel, but too often this isn't the case. Using data across all consumer touch-points can recreate a positive in-store experience, incorporating insights such as product preferences from online activity and applying those learnings with in-store services. Consumers rarely care where they buy, they just want it all and easy, which means how and where they want it.
Shorter supply chains, omnichannel inventory visibility were conference call outs along with personalization and the consumer-first focus. All this is expensive and public companies have been reluctant to do the necessary investing in R&D that will necessarily penalize near-term results.
Amazon taught its stakeholders to expect losses until recently and then only very slim profit margins as it invested in its future. Retailers ought to take a page out of that play book. For too long they under invested in IT and human capital. If Shoptalk taught us anything, its that now is the time to do something.
No doubt many of the startups and disruptors will not make it long term, but they are disrupting the retail landscape and changing consumers expectations and the shopping journey. While Sears is on (retail's equivalent of ) life support and many of America's leading department stores and specialty stores are shutting doors and/or going bankrupt, new international brands and retailers are attracting the US shopper. We are in the midst of creative destruction. Shoptalk elevated the moment and it is full of opportunity.