AI, No Turtle: #ShopTalkEurope Takeaways

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Back in the office after a great few days at the #ShopTalkEurope show in Copenhagen. There was a ton of great content presented (but oddly no questions allowed), I only saw a fraction of it. Here are a few of my main takeaways:

  • Ecomm is getting more and more scientific and embracing AI in a big way (more from Forbes coverage). Lots of easy enough and powerful solutions in the market right now that will have a big impact on conversions. Ecomm people are also way more tech-savvy than their in-store retail colleagues and this divide is only going to increase. Could be that the online/mobile CX will jump a few gears in the next 12 months while in-store will continue to slow digital interactive adoption. New store formats and digital powered CX will separate brands and retailers at the High Street. Not all the stores are trapped in the old ways though, there are some serious innovators in action.
  • Wihelm Oehl from 8 Inc showed some really awesome new stores for Shimano in Singapore ( ) which apparently sells nothing and gets more visitors than any museum out there. He also showed the new Lincoln dealerships in China that looked spectacular ( ). Nice line that showrooms should be replaced by “do-rooms” to engage and put products into a personal context.
  • Martin Wild from MediaMarktSaturn Retail showed all kinds of in-store tech from Paul the guiding robot (check out video here) to Pauline the AR sprite to drones.  They focus on Orientation, Experience and Service with tech powered solutions. They are also leading a Retail Tech Hub that is open to other brands.
  • Koen Bremer from Ace & Tate / showed how online can benefit from in-store via pop-ups and dedicated space. Keeping the cool mojo is essential.  Online players bring a major tech advantage as they have the same system across online and in-store. Similar stories from other online to in-store brands like Birchbox. Mymuesli, Away.
  • Spencer Fung - Li & Fung CEO - talked about investing $150mm for disrupting his own giant business. Seems like only way that type of scale change can work is if the big boss is embracing that level of change especially if they have no choice.
  • Tim Kendall - Pinterest President - explained how Pinterest is great to help people plan for purchases. In effect, they have a visual, informal process to turn consumers from explorers to browsers to hunters driving toward an online or offline purchase. Boards are great for hoarders, but what about adding some type of decision-making process into the mix? That could pull the purchase up to the planning stage faster and give Pinterest a way to monetise.
  • Michael Dubin - Dollar Shave CEO - sold to Unilever on the premise of extending beyond shaving to regular guy grooming ranges- but not just the “metro-sexuals”. Great concept on the shaving and helping people to not drag dull razors across their faces at a better price point. Can that jump to being a trusted advisor when that is captive to a global FMCG player? Are brands going to destroy publishers like GQ and Esquire in their attempt to monetise lifestyle affinity?
  • A lot of ideas around AI from Sentient Technologies, IBM, BrandAlley, Microsoft, Google, Ebay. Surprisingly many are sharing powerful tech with developers now. Microsoft has a concept of Conversation as a Platform to allow hooks for bots into their Cortana services. IBM was even trying to look like a hipster company with coffee and rock climbing. I guess they are thinking that millennials will want to roll their own AI solutions and they can grab the flow from solution to tools and feed their clouds ahead of AWS this time.
  • Amazon Prime Now - scaled from NYC out around the world amazingly fast. They have a cool approach to visual success by writing fantasy press releases at the start of a project. But at the same time, do we all really need stuff this fast? Tesco was talking about managing fresh food and it can be done well, at scale without a panic and sending couriers and drones all over the place. Maybe in future we will get some reward for planning. Great story on this from Picnic (mobile only) in Holland who has modernized the milk run. The sustainable food chain has its own intrinsic value that is worth waiting for.
  • Terry von Bibra - Alibaba Europe MD - showed insight into the China market and just how digital crazed people are out there. Ali pay is going nuts. Alibaba is taking a really different approach to bringing streamlined commerce out from cities to rural areas. 
  • Seb James - Dixon CEO - seemed quite focused, but chilled with his 27% UK market share versus Amazon at 8%. The physical store isn’t going away. There are many more changes to upsell and cross-sell when a consumer is in a positive interaction with tech and a good salesperson. How can you get AI into the hands/heads of sales people?
  • Jen Rubio - Founder - so smart to create a travel brand starting with direct online sales of luggage with phone chargers and then parlay that into $30mm venture funding and building a $50mm run rate in a couple of years. Strong on visuals, travel visions and tying into the excitement of packing for a great trip. Key to their in-store strategy is to make a store visit “instagrammable”.

Traditional retailers, already under massive pressure from Amazon and Walmart now have to contend with more complex tech and a new wave of online players coming onto the high street to exploit their niche, build followings and expand into lifestyle.

Publishers should also be worried as free coffee, free magazines are on offer all around.  As Jerry Fung said, “you don’t want to be a turtle.”

Thanks to #ShopTalkEurope crew. It was a really enjoyable event, top-level content, production, food and drinks and excellent DJ from San Francisco.