ShopTalk 17: Retail Brands Focus on Amazon ‘Work Arounds’

For many brands and retailers, working around Amazon is the new reality – even as they participate in Amazon’s marketplace, and/or use Amazon Web Services, fulfilment and payments.

Amazon “work arounds” were clearly the main focus for the 5,600 attendees at ShopTalk17 this week in Las Vegas. Those taking the stage were clearly bent on re-establishing themselves as “fashion authorities,” leveraging their local proximity, establishing loyalty and new customers with special events and other experiences, and making technology and logistics work their way.

High on the list: fast delivery; fast mobile sites; participation in more marketplaces; enhanced personalization via artificial intelligence, data mining and voice search; and virtual reality/augmented reality.

“It’s become a different shopping experience in the last 18 months,” noted eBay President and CEO Devin Wenig. “We’ll be successful by being less like our competitors, not more.”

Indeed, giving shoppers a great experience was a common theme by many of the show’s 325 speakers. “Experiences matter more than ever before,” said Adobe head of retail industry strategy Michael Klein. Retailers and brands need to “bring together content and data for acquisition, conversion, loyalty and advocacy.”

Rebecca Minkoff is among those pushing the envelope on the experience front. The high-end women fashion brand recently partnered with several other retailers and brands to conduct a “take over” at The Grove mall in West Los Angeles.

The retailers hosted a Yoga class, added pop up stores and took over the store-to store Trolley. President and CEO Uri Minkoff said over 1,500 people participated in the effort, which was a typical component of a “two year business transformation” to bring the brand closer to the customer via personalization, experiences, data and seamless payments. “We have to build our audience so we have enough scale as a brand,” he said.

Staples CTO Faisal Masud, a former Groupon executive, said that it all comes down to retailers focusing on their own internal transformation, rather than being completely obsessed with their competition. “The structural environment in retail today is what keeps traditional retailers from competing,” he said.

The goal for a company like Staples is not to focus on being the biggest online retailer – although that would be great end result. “It is to be more of an extension of a customer’s office. Focus on your customer,” he said. They may have more options than before, but “they are still your customer.”