Over 2000 Europeans – but also people from the rest of the world – came to Shoptalk Europe 8-11 October in Copenhagen to learn the latest and greatest about retail and ecommerce innovations and interact with other ecommerce people. The line-up of speakers was impressive; from tech giants like Google, Amazon and Alibaba, via established brands like Levi’s and H&M, to relatively newcomers like Chiquelle and Picnic.
I had to do some serious cherry picking since it was impossible to attend all tracks and follow all interesting topics and discussions. Managing my time wisely, I did managed to fit in a few meetings with interesting prospects, existing customers and partners between the tracks, where naturally our very own AfterPay was one of the topics, as the potential solution to many of their problems.
Buzzwords like Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) came quite often by during the many presentations and discussions. Again, I could confirm that technology is really the driver and the future surely holds many more new VR, AI and ML initiatives that will improve customer experience. And they will not only be taken by rich and powerful multinational corporations, but also by start-ups and new entrants will step into this market.
For example, it was really cool to see that MediaMarktSaturn already has pilot stores where personal assistant robots are used. They also use VR technology for customers in a few stores as well. Another interesting application was presented by Philips, using in-store light solution to improve the customer experience during shopping.
I am also curious to see whether AI really will grow exponentially, like RJ Pittman from Ebay predicted (see picture). The expectations are high and many small and large technology companies are working on AI applications aiming for further growth.
Another hot topic was the convergence of offline and online channels. In general customers doesn’t really care about channels – they just want to buy (or rent) a good or service whenever and wherever they are. New technologies will magnify customer expectations in the (near) future. Hudson’s Bay Company CEO Jerry Storch explained why they are still opening stores against the current state of retail mainly in US and Europe where retailers are struggling to keep stores open. According Hudson’s Bay’s CEO, key drivers to succeed are scale, differentiation, experiences, better use of real estate, value offering, great stores and great internet. I personally think that the last one will be one of the main drivers to success in the (near) future.
Finally, being a real payment geek, I enjoyed “the innovations in consumer payments” panel discussion, which was good added value for retailers and specialists in the audience. Representatives from Adyen, Amazon Pay and Samsung Pay were questioned by Mike Blandina (ex-PayPal and Google). Many innovations and initiatives in Fintech are happening nowadays, but retailers should still be able to apply them in their daily business. Just adopting whatever’s out there is not enough – they need to be relevant.
Companies like Amazon and Samsung can apply the latest payment technologies in most cases easier and faster than for (e)retailers where core business is selling goods and services. These retailers rely on existing technologies and payment partners to support them with the implementation of useful payment technologies.
All-in-all, we had three successful and consecutive days packed with the latest trends, developments and technologies for the whole retail echo system in Europe and beyond. This is an echo system where channels and boundaries disappear and where the customer will be more and more in the driving seat. Fuelled by new technologies, I believe we are entering a new era in retail. Let the journey begin!
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