October 5, 2017 | By

3 Big Takeaways from 2017

Last week was a big one for the eCommerce industry. Thousands of retailers, vendors, media and analyst descended on Los Angeles for 2017. This year’s show was billed as a complete re-imagination of the event – focused on connecting attendees with brands and leaders that get eCommerce and understand the trends that are shifting the industry. And it’s the trends I want to focus on today. What were the topics that everyone was buzzing about at the show?  Here are the top 3:

The Need to Get Personal
This was not a surprise to me – or anyone for that matter. Providing a personal experience for your customer isn’t just a hot trend, it’s a given. Business is up for grabs and those brands that can create a true connection with their customers are the ones that are going to win out.  Unfortunately, creating that personalized experience for every customer is not always an easy task. We chatted with a couple of well-known brands that previously had been sold in department and specialty stores, but were now looking to establish a “direct to consumer” relationship. In general, these brands have relatively small operations, but a big presence so it can be hard for them to scale to a degree that would allow them to deliver the exceptional customer experience  customers expect from such a well-known brand.   So what are they to do? This leads me to my next trend…

AI is More Than Just a Buzzword
AI was on everyone’s mind.  It came up in some capacity in nearly every conversation I had.   In fact, I spoke on a panel all around whether Retail is Ready for AI. The answer? Yes. Especially for the brands that I was referring to above.  Automation is helping these companies scale quickly by offloading some of the more simple and frequently asked questions and opening the support team up for higher value engagements.  But everyone agrees that AI alone is not the silver bullet.  It’s important to strike the right balance between automated and human engagements.  While AI is a great front line channel, not every query will ultimately be AI friendly.  As part of an AI strategy, brands should determine which situations are appropriate for which channel and optimize around that.  And always have an easy and elegant way to escalate to a human agent.

Retail is Thriving
With Amazon infiltrating nearly every aspect of our lives, and so much hype around high profile store closings — are people still going to stores to shop? The answer? Sort of. The reason I say sort of, is that for today’s customer the experience is not linear. Consumers aren’t just going to the store, or just buying online. There’s a new hybrid trend. Connected customers are searching — and in some cases buying online — but still going to the store to pick-up their purchases. People are browsing less, but go to the store the same amount – either to pick-up a purchase, to socialize or try out a new experience they can’t get online  (like new entertainment or food options).

Looking back, the theme of reinvention was really appropriate. Digital, mobile, artificial intelligence, virtual reality are all pushing the retail industry toward a reinvention of its own. Customers expectations are changing at light speed and it’s up to all of us to keep up.

For more information on the big happenings at this year’s Shop, check out the recap here.

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