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business data Podcast product Retail Startups

Making retail relevant

Physical retail traditionally exists in a vortex of information, which doesn’t make sense for brands these days, says Matt Alexander, co-founder and CEO of new department store Neighborhood Goods, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

The company’s inaugural space, which launched in Plano, Texas, in late 2018, carries a selection of new and established brands in an environment that is hyper relevant to both its location, and its customer, through the use of data. 

Alexander’s view? Success lies in information. “If you’re a direct-to-consumer, digital-native brand, you’re going to look at this world, and you’re going to say: ‘We should be able to capture a certain amount of informative data to dictate how we should run that store, and how we should merchandise [it]’.” he explains. “That’s what they do on the web all day long. The moment you land on any of their websites, they know a huge amount about you, and exactly how you’re interacting with that site. And they optimize around it.”

His brilliant phrase: it’s all about operating in an economy of relevance. 

It’s for this reason many legacy retailers are otherwise struggling, he explains. In a basic sense it comes down to them not creating the goods, services and experiences that they know for fact the consumer wants. There is therefore a lot for them to learn from D2C incumbents – from Everlane to Casper – who have placed this front and centre in their strategies. 

Join us for this episode as we also explore why experiential retail needs to go beyond just putting a ball pit in the store, how modern brands are using the physical space for entirely new reasons, and why Alexander believes legacy retailers may still have the ability to play catch up after years of ignoring consumer needs after all.

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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e-commerce Podcast

Why Pinterest pushes shopping over commerce

There’s a big difference today between the role of commerce, and that of shopping, says Tim Weingarten, head of shopping product at Pinterest, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

“Commerce has this implication of pushing for the transaction – about reducing friction in the conversion. Whereas shopping is one of joy. It’s one of serendipity, it’s one of discovering something you didn’t know existed,” he explains.  

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It’s that mentality that underpins everything his team does at the company, focusing primarily on how to better the user experience with discovery and personalization at its core. This includes the introduction of a series of tools that filter and predict needs – from Pinterest Lens, which allows customers to find items from the database by photographing similar ones, to the newly announced Catalogs feature, where brands can upload their entire product catalog as shoppable pins.

What makes Pinterest stand out among its competitors, is that its users navigate the platform for entirely personal reasons, such as renovating their kitchens or achieving the perfect hairstyle, as opposed to pushing aspirational content to followers, Weingarten comments. Being able to capitalize on that then comes down to having the right algorithms in place.

“The more data you have, the more you can personalize. But on an e commerce site, the only data they have is based on prior transactions. That’s a very sparse dataset and it happens very infrequently. If you switch gears to Pinterest, what you have is someone visiting every day doing this authentic thing – saving things for particular use cases. This engagement signal can be applied to all products… And because we have this authentic form of engagement, we’re able to understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and actually personalize it to your tastes,” he says.

Pinterest has been around for nearly a decade with a quiet yet steady climb to the top. As of 2018, users on the platform had pinned 175 billion items on three billion virtual boards. The company is now on track to top $1bn in revenue, and is rumored to be moving forward with an IPO this summer at a valuation of $12bn.

During this conversation recorded at Shoptalk with the Current Global’s Rachel Arthur, Weingarten dissects how Pinterest is only getting better at predicting consumer needs before they’re voiced; shares how the platform balances being commercial with keeping the joy of inspiration alive, and hints at the types of technologies he’s looking at to further personalize the shopping experience.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Podcast technology

Amazon Alexa’s founder on how voice tech will impact retail

William Tunstall-Pedoe

“The vision is that everything will respond when you talk to it; you’ll be surprised when it doesn’t reply,” said William Tunstall-Pedoe, the creator of Amazon Alexa, at a recent event hosted by FashMash in London.

The UK-based inventor and entrepreneur, whose startup Evi was acquired by Amazon in 2012, was talking about the expectation he has for voice technology, or what’s being increasingly referred to as the “zero interface”, down the line.

Right now, the technology is incredibly nascent, but its application in the future is only going to increase, he argued: “AI and voice tech have the potential to overtake humans, but I couldn’t predict when. An effective virtual sales assistant, for example, would be transformative, but the detail is lacking right now.”

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Tunstall-Pedoe, who recorded a podcast for TheCurrent Innovators that has just been re-released from earlier this year, particularly sees this as the case when talking about retail. Today, he suggests voice technology is only applicable to shopping at a very basic level – for groceries, for instance, or for replenishment of households goods like detergent or toilet roll.

In fact, only about 100,000 people have reportedly bought something via voice interface more than once thus far, according to a report from The Information. But, voice commerce sales did reach $1.8 billion in 2017, and they’re predicted to hit $40 billion by 2022, a study from OC&C Strategy Consultants shows.

A more intelligent system is needed to make that a reality, Tunstall-Pedoe suggests. “What we really want is a kind of superhuman sales assistant that you can have a conversation with – an AI that would be showing you product, answering questions and taking into account your circumstances to sell you something. It has the potential of basically what a really good sales person would do.”

“It shouldn’t be that surprising that people are not doing that much shopping of new products just with voice assistants right now, they want to see it and touch it. We are very very early right now; we are only nibbling at the edges of buying things… Once you can create a sales assistant at scale, then that would be transformative. But for very personalized experiences, that is not possible just yet.”

What he does suggest for today, is that retailers and brands remain focused on making the best products possible, and learning to describe and categorize them as tightly as they can. With consumers demanding more personal and relevant interactions, it’s only going to become more necessary to feed the machines (as such) with the right information in the first place, he comments.

After all, the superhuman assistants of the future may well be about surfacing the best product for their humans in question, but that’s only the case if they know about them in the first place.

Having departed Amazon in 2016, and since been working with a multitude of startups around the globe, many of them focused on all different areas under the artificial intelligence header, Tunstall-Pedoe is bullish on this direction of travel. “There is a lot of technology in the future, that hasn’t been invented yet, that is going to make this better. It’s a very exciting time and it’s only just beginning.”

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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data e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail

Farfetch on the store of the future

Rosanna Falconer and Sandrine Deveaux
Rosanna Falconer and Sandrine Deveaux

The store of the future is about solving the problems of today in an innovative and meaningful way for the customer, says Sandrine Deveaux of Farfetch, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to guest host, Rosanna Falconer, at a live FashMash Pioneers event in London, the managing director of the e-commerce company’s store of the future division, explains that her focus in not just on new technology for the sake of it, but on creating better shopping experiences driven by personalization.

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Following the announcement of Farfetch’s Store of the Future concept in April 2017, Deveaux has been building a series of beta tests in place in Browns East in London, Thom Browne in New York and Chanel in Paris. But the result doesn’t mean big flashy screens or variations on augmented reality, as she is so often asked about.

Instead, it’s about better servicing the customer; understanding what they want when they walk into stores thanks to data, but also making things like the payment experience a much more seamless one.

She says the store of the future is really about offering the experience of Apple, but the convenience of Amazon, so as to keep in line with increasing consumer expectations.

And so the end goal,for her team, she says, is to provide brands and boutiques with full visibility around customer behavior and customer intent, mirroring what’s possible online in the offline space.

“85% of customers, we don’t know anything about them. So that’s what the store of the future is really getting to – it’s about how we leverage the platform we have with Farfetch, and try to really look at online behavior and take that online behavior into an in-store context,” she explains. This is something Farfetch calls “enabling the offline cookie”.

On this episode, Deveaux also talks to driving disruptive innovation through healthy internal tension, how she’s changing the way luxury brands think, and why the ultimate sales associate for the store of the future might just be a unicorn.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail

How Walmart creates growth with design

Liz Bacelar and Dan Makoski, Walmart
Liz Bacelar and Dan Makoski

Design is all about helping shoppers live better lives, says Dan Makoski, vice president of design at Walmart, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar, founder of TheCurrent, during a live recording hosted by MouthMedia Network at Spring Place in New York, he explains how the enormous e-commerce redesign he has spearheaded for the world’s largest retailer, all came down to this focus on elevating the shopping experience for the changing customer of today.

“Design is best when it serves people. And all people need great design and that’s why I am excited to experiment with Walmart, which is this everyday brand, and see how design can make a difference,” he explains.

This intention to emotionally connect with the consumer through design came from the top, Makoski notes. The permission he was given to think about people’s hearts from the CEO, was a big leap for a commercial business of this size, he adds. But it’s that style of leadership, coupled with the smart investments the organization has been making in other e-commerce businesses, that is keeping it competitive with, and still more than three times the size of Amazon, in overall revenue.

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That’s not to say the company doesn’t still have a lot to do, however. Its online sales alone are less than a tenth of what Amazon makes ($118.57 billion vs. $11.5 billion respectively in 2017), making this redesign part of a big strategy to drive growth.

When Walmart bought Jet.com a couple of years ago, Makoski explains, there was a sense of courage and of charting new territory in the e-commerce space. The aim has to been to channel that focus on innovation through the design of the new website to create something for both the shopper and the business, to ultimately add value to each.

Dan Makoski“The conversation at Walmart has not been, let’s change ourselves. The conversation has been, we are the world’s largest company, we are the Fortune number one, our retail footprint is 1.5x the size of Manhattan. And, our customer base is not monolithic; it’s not just one type of shopper, so let’s bring in Jet.com, ModCloth, Bonobos, and let’s create a redesign of Walmart that now allows us to [have] a wider conversation,” he comments.

During the episode, Makoski also dives into the power of thinking about human language, how the retail giant is continuing to compete with Amazon, and just how his work assists large corporations to think about innovation in new ways.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.