Brands are faced with the paradox of choice when it comes to deciding where to spend their money: Too many options can lead to anxiety, paralysis or worse.
At the Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas, we asked attending brands to share where precious resources are actually being diverted. While virtual reality may sound attractive and Snapchat is the hot social platform du jour, dollars are going towards technology that’s far less buzzworthy. The tech that’s calling for retailers’ resources is, for the most part, not sexy, like a supply chain streamlined by data or an improved mobile strategy.
One new technology that’s both the talk of the town and taking up actual budgets: Chatbots. We asked brand executives in attendance where else they’re spending their money. Excerpts, lightly edited:
Ratnakar Lavu, chief technology officer, Kohl’s
In terms of compelling up-and-coming technologies, I am interested in those around machine learning for automating operational functions, moving to the cloud, big data analytics for omnichannel fulfillment and chat bots for self service.
Sebastien Fabre, founder and CEO, Vestiaire Collective
We are looking at chat solutions right now to drive direct selling and increase supply through the global community.
Katherine Power, CEO, Clique Media Group
We are very focused on the unique search technology we are building in order to streamline the shopping experience for users on their mobile phone. Last year we acquired a tech company called Wantering to super-charge the production of our unique e-comm discovery app, as well as to help power the integrated shopping experience of our content properties. We are excited to be able to automate the editorial curation that we have been doing manually for years through this technology. You can expect to see this in action at the end of 2016.
Anthony Soohoo, CEO, Dot & Bo
The area that we’re investing heavily in is how to understand data within our infrastructure. We want to solve the supply chain, because when you’re shipping a couch across the country, it changes trucks frequently, and each time a human touches it, you increase the risk of damaging or losing an item. We want to reduce cost and improve tracking capabilities. It’s not as sexy as VR, but it’s the infrastructure that powers the entire business.
Nicolas Genest, chief technology officer, The RealReal
Two years ago, we were early adopters of Slack, and it’s changed everything about how our company works. It enables our teams on the West and East Coasts to work together, and cross paths at different points of the business. We use the same platform to monitor our business as we do for chatting and communication and that’s changed how we operate.
Vivian Weng, assistant vp of e-commerce and multichannel, L’Oréal
I manage our online retail business, and a lot of our focus right now is around content and creating perfect user experiences online. A lot of that has to do with how we can garner the power of user generated content and bring it onto our platform. That’s anything from reviews to actual user generated content to Q&A’s crowdsourced among consumers. We’re investing in how to harness the power of the content that’s already out there, rather than content creation.
James Rhee, CEO, Ashley Stewart
The majority of our focus is on CRM-driven marketing. We’re introducing this brand digitally and figuring out how to convey it in a way that is sincere in zeroes and ones and that’s not easy to do. Its not one platform, but the customer’s whole universe. Our customer is also mobile savvy, so we think about how we can speak to her mobile first.
Mariah Chase, CEO, Eloquii
We’re behind in mobile, so we’re investing there beyond the mobile web. The app is the retention play — we know that nobody is going to search, download the app and then make their first purchase with us. So, we hired a retention marketer. Our app is for our most loyal customers. We’re almost two-and-a-half years old, so we now have a handle on our what our most loyal customer wants, so we have to figure out how to make it easiest for her to shop. What she wants is early access to new products.