Thoughts from SF Fashion Week 2013 Retail Tech Panel


At the San Francisco Fashion Week this week I was priveleged to be part of the Retail Tech Panel on retail, technology, and fashion.  Moderated by Matt Cooke head of User Experience at Iron Creative, the panel included:

We covered a wide range of subjects on retail, stores, technologies, fashion and Silicon Valley.  Here is some of the highlights.  The meeting was very free form and there was a lot of interactions and unstaged questions.  I am going with what I remembered and some of the pre-arranged questions:

Are brick and mortar stores going to be extinct or just changing with e-commerce, omnichannel and mobile impact?

We all agreed that stores are here to stay, just changing.  Store design is evolving, popup stores are addressing short term trends, and consumers continue to look for products to serve their needs in the stores.  I quoted research from Cisco’s Catch Em and Keep the Digital Shoppers released in January 2013 that shows 61% of surveyed go to stores to touch and feel products, 49% go for immediate gratification and 41% go because they can try things on.

Cisco Catch Em and Keep the Digital Shopper Survey

includes global and country findings for Brazil, China, Mexico, US, UK,  videos and slidecast

What developments in retail technology are you most excited about?

I talked about the vision of Internet of Everything connecting all aspects of shopping from devices to people any time anywhere.  Mentioned the latest customer experience video from Cisco

When stores can talk, they get in sync with their shoppers.

What is the ideal consumer retail experience in the future?

Matt spoke about the total seamless shopping experience from consumers to the retailer regardless of anytime, anywhere, on any device, and go from shopping list to shopping cart to checkout across all channels for that retailer.

I pointed out that is what a retailer would want, plus consumers would want that seamless shopping journey across multiple retailers, ideally being able to do what Matt described across multiple retailers.

Tristan pointed the audience to check out  the Harvard Business Review Future of Shopping survey

Where would you like to see more innovation or R&D in retail?

We all agreed that can be everywhere.  Some of the areas include:

  • The importance for the product delivery and same day delivery as a speed race if you are selling generic products.
  • Use of brand exclusive products like retailer-designer collaborations to break the speed and price race
  • Companies like Betabrand Clothing which is changing how clothing is designed and manufactured (Disco tuxedo, however, is not something any of the panelist is ready to wear).
  • Use of digital signs, wireless technologies in store, plus the ability to continuous transform the physical fixtures or move locations as popups

Are retailers going to be in Experience Design rather than retail design business?

The panelists agreed that we are shopping is about experience, not just fulfillment of a product need.  You still need a product at an acceptable price that addresses a need for consumers to purchase, but the shopping journey is an experience that needs to be designed and managed.

How do retailers and brands differentiate in a perfect technology enabled world – where anything is available to anyone all the time?

The panelists spoke about various approaches from store design, brand imaging, making the perfect product to suit consumers, and the role of the retailer to curate and edit the massive number of items to a selection that consumers can make a decision on .

Some more thoughts from memory of the Q&A session:

Retailers are generally not technology leader adopters, they ask what the ROI is and who else has done it as part of evaluating new technologies

For startups in retail technology, there is a different approach if you are looking to be acquired by a retailer or you are looking to be a technology supplier for the retailers.

For new startup brands to succeed, they need to establish the short message and value proposition, and what makes them different in an area that the consumers care about.

For startups addressing retailers as a target market, the basic profit and loss problems for retailers hasn’t changed for years.  It is about getting revenue by selling products, and managing cost of goods sold.

The consumers are definitely in charge of the shopping journey more than retailers because of impact of technology, and retailers are challenged to respond in ways they haven’t had to before.

Technology that can deliver experiences using data collection need to educate customers up front on what the benefit is to the consumer and what is collected, and give shoppers choices.  Most people are comfortable with the shopping cart recommendation engine since they understand the value of the personalization, and consumers can opt out.  Newer personalization technologies that involve physical world data collection and analytics need to be transparent in all aspects of data and benefits to prevent backlash due to cultural norms and privacy concerns.

These are the questions and discussion points I remember from the event.

Special thanks for San Francisco Fashion Week, SFFAMA Inc Retail_Tech Summit for organizing this event.

Event was held at the Art Institute of San Francisco.


Photographs courtesy of Cliff Englert of Iron Creative

3 thoughts on “Thoughts from SF Fashion Week 2013 Retail Tech Panel

  1. Pingback: San Francisco Fashion Week 2013 Photo recap | Kenneth Leung, Thinking, Eating, Seeing

  2. Pingback: Thoughts from San Francisco Fashion Week ® 2013 – Retail Tech Panel | FASHION+TECHSF

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