ChatGPT’s Quick Summary of Shoptalk:
“As an AI language model, I do not have access to future events or information beyond my knowledge cutoff date of September 2021. Shoptalk brings together e-commerce industry leaders to discuss trends, technologies, and strategies shaping the future of retail.”
Ha! I think I can best you this time, GPT.
Our Quick Summary:
Shoptalk 2023 brought us back to a sense of normalcy and rejuvenation. In 2022, there was true relief at simply being back together after a dark year sans Shoptalk. But this year, we were happily catapulted into the reminder of what we were all there for: the thrill and buzz of being able to talk to and learn from friends/innovators in retail and technologies.
Two major themes stood out: AI and greener business practices.
And… Pinterest came in hot!
1. Fear not the AI. Leverage it for what it is: a tool
We’ve seen the intense debate, fury, and confusion around ChatGPT on Linkedin, and at this point, it’s hard to say whether there is any consensus.
However, Shoptalk presenters summarized a couple of the main positive observations about AI.
Don’t Hold Yourself Back
One ChatGPT/AI camp argues for its utility as part of a balanced (tool) breakfast, and it notes the historical fear that people have had around emerging tech and its potential threats.
Patrick Duroseau, Under Armour’s VP of Enterprise Data Management spoke to this:
Technology is a tool. Don’t be afraid of it. When people embrace it and work with it, it’s like having a friend or teammate that can help you optimize your work. When they are afraid of new technology, they hold themselves back.
Don’t be the one protesting calculators!
Humans Are Necessary, Even with Useful AI
Barkha Saxena, Poshmark’s Chief Data Officer, noted that AI is only as good as the data it can find and that it fundamentally needs the human component.
Humans, she said, are necessary to have as part of the process to avoid potential biases, but AI can help what might be too complicated or time-consuming for humans to deal with themselves, such as fraud detection.
Poshmark is currently leveraging AI to offer customers data-driven suggestions: i.e., “Here are other styles you might like,” which can dynamically update web pages based on users’ browsing histories.
2. Sustainability & Going Green(er)
Birdies’ Sustainability Story
Bianca Gates, CEO & Co-Founder of Birdies, both commented on sustainability as a concept and shared stories how Birdies is tackling its mission to be greener.
“Sustainability,” she said, “Is a spectrum—not a destination.” Further, she asked the audience: what even is sustainable?
It’s a fair question, after all, as sustainability can mean different things to different people and different orgs, so perhaps the way to address the issue is via improvement, and improvement upon that improvement.
Gates explained how Birdies is now much more mindful about how they package products, how they ship, and what materials they use. The brand went to Vietnam, where their suppliers are, and started asking questions about what they were doing in order to get to a more sustainable place as a brand.
All told, Birdies spent a year redesigning the packaging, which is now:
- 100% recyclable
- Doesn’t include a shipper box (can both ship and return in the same box)
- ⅓ the cost of the previous boxes
- AND 50 can ship at a time, compared to 5; new boxes come preassembled, which saves emissions on each boat coming from Asia.
And as for their shoes themselves:
- 50% of the shoe components are fully recyclable. Although they found this was more expensive, it is still profitable.
Sustainability with BÉIS
Like Bianca Gates, Adeela Johnson, President of BÉIS, parsed the idea of sustainability, also calling it a “spectrum.”
Sustainability, she noted, can take form in many ways:
- Educating underserved communities
- Minimizing environmental waste
- Being mindful of materials, transportation, and packaging.
Furthermore, she talked about the economics and practical implementation of sustainable practices.
- The “Say-Do Gap:” 96% of people say they want to live more sustainably, but only about 16% of people will actually adopt more sustainable practices. So, from a brand standpoint, you can’t change too radically.
- Consumers don’t want to compromise on convenience, quality, or price.
- Brands need to consider how to achieve profitability while furthering sustainable goals. First, pilot a sustainable program, then scale it, then optimize it to ensure that costs make sense and so you can analyze performance better.
- Brands must collaborate with other industry leaders to reach a point of scalability so that everyone isn’t reinventing the wheel every time.
3. The Rise of Pinterest + Its Unique Positioning
Bill Ready, CEO of Pinterest, talked about the full-funnel nature of Pinterest and its ad power, and he highlighted benefits for retailers on Pinterest as an alternative to Google & Facebook, even indirectly throwing some shade at Amazon and digital marketplaces.
Pinterest is a full-funnel platform, he argues, because the entire customer journey takes places on the same platform, i.e.:
- Inspiration (users browsing and exploring and learning)
- Consideration (users thinking about actually buying different products)
- Purchase (the deed is done!)
Ready argues that retailers benefit from using Pinterest because Pinterest doesn’t take their customers, and it is not competing with retailers.
- Daasity’s take? This is the shade thrown at Amazon. Amazon notoriously anonymizes customers. Customers purchasing on Amazon are and will always be Amazon’s customers. Brands do not get user data from Amazon, and they need to piece together the concept of a customer via orders.
Further, he highlights some majorly Pinteresting data:
- 70% year-over-year increase of retailers bringing their catalogs onto Pinterest
- Currently, 450m active Pinterest users
- [Daasity note: can we call them Pinteresters? Bill, call us!]
- 30% year-over-year increase in product saves for retailers who add catalogs
- 40% of brands’ shopping revenue came from taking users straight from Pinterest to the retailer’s DTC cart.
- Brands can build their stories with images and video. Although video is only 10% of the engagement, it’s 30% of the driven revenue.
- More than 50% of Pinteresters say that they are on Pinterest to shop!
A Couple Other Key Messages from Companies at Shoptalk 2023
Sumit Singh, CEO of Chewy, warned against the “cancer of institutionalization.”
He explains that technologists love what they’ve built and will be offended when you want to “blow it up.” So, don’t underestimate the emotional element of technological innovation and development. You need to have empathy for the situation (of, e.g., needing to change what’s leveraged internally) and get them invested in what’s healthier for a business going forward.
Imran Khan, Founder of Verishop, talked about the importance of self-service.
Verishop helps small businesses gain traction and increase sales, and Khan noted that in order to have a successful SaaS tool, brands need to be able to get up and running on software quickly. In Verishop’s case, that takes about 30 minutes.
Now, we’re done talking shop about Shoptalk.
Pardon the puns in this piece, but Shoptalk brings out the creativity in us all.
Did you talk with Daasity at Shoptalk?
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