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Rewind with the highlights from FWD23: Retail

Panelists presenting to audience

Digital technology is foundational across all business sectors, causing enterprises to continuously shift and adapt to market changes and business operations. The retail industry is especially challenged as pressures on the bottom line come from all sides.

E-commerce, omnichannel, and hyper-personalization influence customer behavior, while supply chain complexity continues to present problems. A brand is no longer a standardized experience. It's a unique relationship, bespoke to each individual. Every person has their own brand experience now, and that fundamentally changes the nature of retail.

So, what do retailers need to know and do today to empower innovation and keep pace with their customers? Digital technology may have posed challenges, but it also offers solutions.

At FWD23, a conference hosted by Kin + Carta, over 30 retail executives came together to discuss these common challenges and present some incredible solutions. Discussions focused on ways to simplify the customer experience, transform retail services, and leverage the power of retail through data, technology, and the digital experience.

Insights that promise transformational opportunities

The presentations and panel discussion by leading executives surfaced thought-provoking and actionable ideas that can make a difference to the retail bottom line. Here are key highlights from each session.
I think that, over the next two years, there will be drastic changes in how we work with data. Company roles will be very, very different. Everyone must become more data literate than they are right now.
Megan Brown, Global Analytics and Data Science Leader at Starbucks

Personalization: One step at a time 

Embracing experimentation and collaboration as we navigate market volatility and uncertainty can help drive transformative change. Personalization is essential for retail to succeed in terms of meeting customer expectations and achieving business objectives.

Surprisingly, personalization can be done in six easy steps:

  1. Define the opportunity and make sure you know all the players.
  2. Play with the data (the data scientist's favorite step).
  3. Start competing models and iterating.
  4. Measure success - the only way that you know have the best model, that the model is running well in production, and that you're driving business KPIs.
  5. Test your model in the real world - try out the whole process until you have it right.
  6. Make sure you have the infrastructure and harden your data platform.

The true value of generative AI

Breaking through the hype around Generative AI can give you a realistic look at what it can do, where you could start, and the challenges involved. One of the most powerful things about Generative AI is the ability to expand the canvas of opportunity for our customers and what we can do for those customers in any given interaction.

Understanding your data foundation and where you're going with it is very important. You must have a strategy and a plan, be sure to think big, start small, and be bold. Always allow room for trying things out and experimentation. By starting small you will be able to deliver value quickly, proving the ROI within weeks instead of months, and the experimentations will let you continuously grow from there.
The world of brick-and-mortar and traditional retail and the future of e-commerce has not come together yet. And we’re right on the cusp of being able to do that. With Generative AI we can do this in ways that we could never do just with data alone.
Cameron Turner, VP of Data Science at Kin + Carta

The trends and technology unifying the retail experience

Industry experts helped cut through the noise of buzzwords and trends bringing clarity to leaders on how they can think about personalization, better serve their customers, and positively impact internal efficiency.

  • MACH & composable are not always interchangeable. 

    They are somewhat interchangeable in the sense that they're both about agility and flexibility. Composable solutions take or leave feature functions within a platform environment and bring best-in-breed solutions. MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless) is a set of technical principles that bring together individual pieces of business functionality that are independently developed, deployed, and managed.
  • Content variations are a barrier for personalization.

    So many organizations in the e-commerce space struggle to create just one version of what they're going to represent to customers, let alone many versions to test and optimize. Generative AI has the potential to unlock personalization for things beyond just products, for example, brand imagery.


  • Consumers will expect different experiences than they have now. 

    A dramatic evolution in how we shop is on the horizon. It will be more important than ever for product companies to be micro-focused. Content creators for manufacturers will have to excel at explaining why their product is different and better and sellers will have to be better experts at understanding their customers than all the other sellers out there.
  • The future will hold the ability to turn personalization off. 

    Personalization can make some consumers feel like they are in a bubble, only seeing limited offers or products. To avoid feeling like their view is too small, we are moving towards a world where consumers will have the ability to turn personalization off and back on when desired.
  • Prepare for a digital conversation experience. 

    Today we personalize based on past behavior, which doesn’t allow for a customer's context to change over time. Start to think about how to incorporate zero-party data to best serve your customer today and use that data to inform a fine-grain attribution model to help tailor their unique experiences in the future.

  • Physical and digital need to come together. 

    Think about ways to use technology in the physical environment as well as online to support and enhance both experiences. By adopting an omnichannel approach, retailers can create a unified and consistent customer experience across multiple channels, such as websites, mobile apps, social media platforms, and physical stores. Physical stores will need to evolve to continue to serve a role in the buyer’s mind.
Retail is a big word. Retail is online. Retail is in stores. I think blending the two is going to be important. If you're doing the same things in the store today as you did five years ago, I think you need to consider that.
Tom Ingoglia, Director of Enterprise Architecture at US Foods

Attendees and presenters alike were not talking about big tech investments that stretch shrinking budgets. Instead, the discussions looked at how organizations can build on what they already have, leveraging data and AI technologies to optimize internal processes, enable intelligent decision-making, enhance how businesses attract and retain customers, and unify the customer experience.

This is Innovation in the Everyday: practical, predictable, and providing growth when you need it: right now.

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