I really love trade shows.
Is that weird?
Ok, it is not Katy Perry dancing with sharks weird, but it probably is a little peculiar (and also Shark-fabulous).
I love trade shows because they are a fantastic place (or should be) to learn and to broaden one’s horizons. Trade shows are like Christmas morning — we don’t know what to expect from them, but, when they are done well, somehow we leave them with new presents or discoveries that we never would have found on our own.
Last week I had the chance to attend a key industry trade show, Shop.org 2017. By virtue of your support of this blog, I attended Shop.org for free as a member of the press – thank you readers!
It was such a cool experience. I had no obligations to anyone or to any company. I was completely free to roam the floor (and Los Angeles) and to immerse myself into anything that caught my fancy.
Setting aside the entire trade show solely for education was cathartic. Our industry is changing so fast that often times it can be overwhelming to keep up with all the change. The show helped me to reset my mind, to reevaluate my beliefs, and to recharge my evangelistic vigor.
So today I am introducing a new Four-Part Series — Shop.Org Observations.
My plan is to come to you multiple times over the next few weeks with some of the key morsels I took away from Shop.org 2017. Some of what I share with you may be good advice, some may even be bad advice, and some, I hope, may even make you want to pull a Joel in Risky Business and say WTF?
No matter where you ultimately come down on the positions or ideas that I share, I hope we can all agree that what is most important is that we keep the conversation going together with a bias-to-action towards the future.
Now, if you are an avid reader of Omni Talk, then you already know that my #1 “What the Fuck” technology retailers need to start experimenting with is scan-and-go technology (for new readers: you can see my Retail Dive article highlighting this belief here).
Scan-and-go crosses the chasm — it is the technology enabler that puts data at the center of the new flywheel of retail. Scan-and-go has the potential to be the Golden Gate bridge between the online and offline worlds, i.e. the gleaming beacon that connects the ageless Marin Headlands (stores) to the ever-so-hip San Francisco (e-commerce)
I saw two things that make me giddy with “the possible” of scan-and-go at Shop.org. The first I will share via video, and the second I will share via description. I have zero relationship with either company. I just get excited by them both.
Invertex shows you what is possible if you think of a consumer’s phone as the remote control for a physical experience. Take a look at the below:
I love the above video for a number of reasons:
#1) Invertex’s CEO David Bleicher was a great sport.
#2) It highlights how easy it is to start fitting mobile applications into scan-and-go technology platforms. Start experimenting with them, and the user will tell you quickly which ones he or she likes or doesn’t like.
#3) The technology requires minimal investment — notice, the only elements required for deployment are an app and a tiny stand to help measure your feet. From an omnichannel perspective, product isn’t even required!
#4) The technology has many potential offshoot applications beyond what you see demonstrated above. So many things in life require “measurement.”
#5) The technology has immediate applicability in shopping for kids shoes. It solves a real pain point.
Adults know their shoe sizes pretty well, but parents rarely know the size of their children’s feet.
A store that employs this technology would literally get me up off my couch for a visit because I could scan my kid’s feet, see everything available in a store and on a retailer’s website in a given size, and then just have a few options sent to my home for try-on with a quick press of the button.
This would be a far better experience than what I do now. Rather than take my little Omen-like Damien to the store and try to wedge him into multiple pairs of shoes, while his brother hangs on my back or decides to play hide-and-go-seek without telling me, I could instead quickly scan his feet, order some shoes, give him a new pair one morning at home, and return the ones I don’t like, and he wouldn’t even think twice — it might even get him into something other than TMNT or Spiderman, which I know moms would love too!
Scorecard: 5 seconds of shopping with my toddlers vs. the terror of frantically finding a store employee to help me locate my kid who didn’t tell me he thought it would be funny to hide in a rack of apparel.
Can I get an AMEN!
In reality, as a consumer with children, I might even purchase the foot scanner for my home too, depending upon how expensive it is. It isn’t crazy to think about — it is far more useful than a smart refrigerator!
While I didn’t shoot a video for this one, FINDMINE is cool. It leverages AI to help customers coordinate their outfits. Here is a simple summary of how it works:
The user goes into a mobile application, takes a photo of a clothing item that he or she likes, and, voila, artificial intelligence serves up many options to pair with the specific clothing item the user would like to wear.
Similar to Invertex, I like this technology for a number of reasons:
#1) It highlights how easy it is to start fitting mobile applications into scan-and-go technology platforms. Sound familiar?
#2) The technology requires minimal investment. Deja vu anyone?
#3) The technology has many potential offshoots and immediate applications beyond what you see demonstrated above. So many things in life require visual “pairing” — home furnishing, dating, even food plating. Seriously, have we met before?
#4) The technology runs off of Slyce’s visual scan technology, which, if you remember from the below, is essentially the same thing around which Amazon is building capabilities.
There are enough leading indicators for us to believe with good certainty that the age of “the physical world as our scan-and-go store front” is coming.
The technologies I highlight above are only samples — samples of the potential we can all work towards together if we embrace scan-and-go shopping and payment technology as a new platform for engaging our customers.
Similar to what I espoused in my article on Affirm, continued experimentation with new technologies on top of a scan-and-go platform not only bends the spoon but, just like the Oracle-wunderkind said to Neo, it also hints at whether we even need the spoon (i.e. legacy retail practices) at all.
Be careful out there,
P.S. If you enjoyed today’s Part I — More Scan-and-Go Horizons, please remember to subscribe to the blog for updates to the remaining parts in the series. Here is a taste of what to expect:
Part I — More Scan-and-Go Horizons
Part II — Why I Get All Ben Stiller over Location Technology
Part III — Tech that Speaks to Me like Jennifer Love Hewitt
Part IV — 3 Simple Ways to Make Retail Trade Shows Even More Katy Perry-Fabulous
P.P.S. Part I Travel Note of the Week — I took my toiletry bag out in the security line, and the woman next to me remarked, “You take your electric toothbrush with you when you travel? Aren’t you worried your battery will die?”
I simply stared back at her blankly and rubbed my elbow.
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Chris Walton is an accomplished Senior Executive with nearly 20 years of success within the retail and retail technology industries. He is well-versed in merchandising, store operations, inventory management, product design, forecasting, e-commerce, pricing and promotions, and tech product development.
Chris was most recently a Vice President with Target, where he led the retailer’s Store of the Future project and also ran the Target’s home furnishing division for e-commerce. He previously worked for GAP, Inc., as a Distribution Analyst and Manager.
Chris holds a BA in Economics and History from Stanford University, and a MBA from Harvard Business School.
He likes to dress as Darth Vader for Halloween, and his wife also frequently asks him to ask Alexa, "to turn off the music."