Shoptalk 2017 First Day Highlights

March 21, 2017 by Paul Byrne

Shoptalk 2017 Overview

The 2nd year of Shoptalk is my first year of attendance. The conference boasts some impressive figures and attendees. There is definitely some useful content in the sessions and the marketplace has some great companies in representation.

The conference content falls prey to some pitfalls that I hope the Shoptalk folks address in the next iteration. These issues include:

Pitfalls I had hoped they would avoid

Corporate self-congratulation

Unfortunately, the Shoptalk leadership itself set the stage for this by spending the first 15 minutes of the opening general session congratulating themselves. In other sessions, whether it was the CEO of Target essentially giving an investor pitch or interviews whose answers were simply well-rehearsed corporate speech.

Shallow responses

It is understandable that companies want to guard their key corporate strategies and secrets, but, when I pay $1500 for a ticket to the conference, I expect invited speakers to provide some insight into their thinking that helps me understand the influences and thought process that led to key decisions. While there was some of that, too many of the corporate talking heads stuck closely to their PR teams talking points.

Ecommerce developer attendee perspective

Alibaba is HUGE (and maybe a security threat)

They North American CEO walked on stage with a well-deserved swagger and avoided the self-congratulation of the other CEOs who presented (noted exception - CEO of Levis was phenomenal). He also put them all to shame.

Alibaba not only owns the key marketplace for selling in China, it owns the main marketplace for foreign companies to sell in China (Tmall), the dominant payment processor, the dominant chat channel, the dominant logistics network, the dominant social media site (normally an app in China) and owns malls and shopping centers as well.

You can think of Alibaba as an eBay, Amazon, Facebook, PayPal, Snapchat, What’s App, and UPS that owns shopping malls for the largest consumer market (in terms of numbers for now, probably in total value by 2020) in the world. To keep tabs on people, the Chinese authorities just need a partnership with Alibaba (which you can be sure they already have). Alibaba made no bones about the fact that it uses all of its Big Data to dominate its market.

Ecommerce is becoming a primarily mobile experience

A number of presentations fed this idea, but, one, by the CEO of NewStore, Stephan Schaumbach, actually said it. While most of his interview covered a lot of known history, his forward-facing insights were  among the most powerful.

Disintermediation vs Retail Engagement

It’s clear that these two trends are working against each other. Brands are working harder and harder to reach customers and sell to them directly. They no longer see their web sites as just the ‘reference,’ but as a way to build relationships and transact directly with consumers.

Many retail brands (including Nordstrom, Target, etc.) are working to own the relationship as well. In fact, Target is accelerating its exclusive collaborations with designers in a sort of reverse disintermediation spearheaded by exclusive store brands. Many other retailers indicated they were following a similar strategy.

AI is a buzzword, but, is also a real thing

There are too many applications to talk about here, because everyone is using it and expanding it. One of the speakers said, “if you don’t have an AI strategy, you are going to die.” Wow.

What it means for small and medium sized businesses (SMB)

Razoyo is dedicated to taking the best ideas being implemented on large scale and brining them to our clients. It would seem like you need billions to implement these disruptive technologies and practices - and certainly billions have been spent on them. We are here at Shoptalk building relationships and strategies to bring those technologies to SMB commerce in a meaningful way. Look for more announcements in 2017 in this vein.

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