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Overheard at Shoptalk: 4 key trends on the future of retail

Each year, Shoptalk brings the world of retail and ecommerce together for three days to share knowledge, explore new technologies, and get a glimpse into what the future of shopping looks like. We were excited to return to Shoptalk this year to catch up with friendly faces, host a couple of events, and see what’s happening on the retail innovation front. We noticed four recurring themes that we think will be critical to shaping the future of the industry.

Engaging all senses. At Olapic, we’ve long understood the power of visual marketing. But this year, brands and technology providers alike were exploring ways to build a customer experience that covers all the senses – specifically noting the rise of voice. Personas such as Alexa and Siri have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, whether telling us the weather, giving us directions, or reminding us to pick up a gift for our sister’s birthday. Before long, they will all be even more critical to the shopping journey and creating frictionless, valuable experiences wherever a consumer is.

Another interesting development, surfaced by Sandro Corsaro, Chief Creative Officer of Fandango, was the idea of a brand jingle – an audio equivalent of a brand’s logo, tapping into our sense of hearing and helping us quickly make a brand association.

Computer vision & image recognition. While there’s room to infuse the customer journey with voice and sound to create a truly multisensory experience, imagery still does the groundwork. In a keynote from David Isbitski, Amazon’s Chief Evangelist for Alexa & Echo, we heard that 50% of digital shoppers say they are inspired to purchase via an image. On that same front, Syte, through its visual AI technology, is doing some groundbreaking work to bridge the gap between inspiration and purchase. Computer vision and its marketing applications have been in a nascent stage for years, but there has been tremendous innovation in this space. Syte is looking to minimize the work required by the consumer to find specific items, explore their options, price compare, and finally make a purchase. One of the most interesting capabilities was presented by Syte’s Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Lihi Pinto Fryman, when she showed how a consumer could take a screenshot or upload of a photo of an item, and within seconds, they display a carousel of similar products for purchase.

We saw more evidence that computer vision is powering the future of retail at a session with Pinterest. The platform’s offering, Pinterest Lens, which was closer to a science project just a couple of years ago, is now a general tool that helps people identify which products are right for them. Basically a “Shazam for objects,” Pinterest Lens extracts objects and aesthetic features out of an image, and can provide taste-based recommendations on those criteria within the mobile app. Pinterest sees a future where there’s seamless brand-to-consumer conversation within its platform and a quick path to purchase for consumers.

An era of true customer-centricity. We all know that today’s consumer is empowered, can find what they want quickly and easily, and do so at the lowest price. Even if you’re not selling to them directly, you are. Nilam Ganenthiran, Chief Business Officer at Instacart said, “It is a misnomer to think there is an online and an offline customer. There is just a customer. The best retailers think of the shopping experience as just one shopping experience.” In a session with Macy’s, the company echoed this sentiment and described its mobile app as the “digital flagship store,” the fullest expression of Macy’s. It’s not news that today’s brands must consider the full omnichannel experience, but as the number of available platforms where consumers can shop increases, personalization becomes key. In many ways, it is an art of merchandising combined with visual search.

Influencers, Influencers, Influencers. Last but by no means least, was the hot topic of influencer marketing, with brands like Billabong, ipsy and REVOLVE all citing influencer partnerships as core to their strategies. The common thread across all of the presentations was treating influencer engagements as collaborative partnerships – not one-off campaigns. REVOLVE uses a mix of experiential marketing and brand partnerships, underpinned by influencers, to drive engagement, but always ensures the partner align with its brand vision, whether working with someone like Nike or The Palms. Billabong cited 3 times higher engagement rates when using content from athletes and influencers rather than models. Billabong has built a community of like-minded influencers who are treated as creative partners – not employees – and therefore they’re inspired to self-create, which is an ideal relationship for them. At Olapic we know the most successful influencer partnerships are built on long-term, multi-moment agreements, trust, and a mutual understanding of the brand vision.

During Shoptalk, we were thrilled to host a lunch with a panel of influencers across lifestyle, beauty and parenting. Stay tuned for an article on those key highlights!

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