Boston may not be the first place you think of when you hear the words shopping, fashion, retail, or ecommerce, but if you were in attendance at last week’s State of Innovation conference you just might. The conference was attended by more than 1,000 business leaders and professionals, and included high-profile speakers, like Governor Deval Patrick and Jonathon Kraft, as well as panel discussions focused on current and future innovation in the mobile, retail/ecommerce, transportation, venture capital, education, robotics, advertising, and fitness industries of Boston.
The retail/ecommerce panel was stacked with local innovators including: Greg Selkoe, CEO and founder of Karmaloop (a CQuotient customer); Susan Standiford, CTO of Rue La La; Mark Bollman, president and founder of Ball and Buck; and Larry Meyer, CEO of UNIQLO USA, which will be opening six new stores in Boston and surrounding areas by next year. The panel was moderated by Rob Go of NextView Ventures and touched on a number of industry trends including mobile, omnichannel, the differences between brick-and-mortar-based and online-based brands, and much more.
Being a retail personalization company we were most interested in the panelists’ thoughts on data and its role in retail. As a CQuotient customer, we weren’t surprised that Greg felt strongly about the impact of customer data and analytics on his business. What did surprise us, though, was that Rue La La is still struggling to collect omnichannel data. Susan stated that she would love it if she could get a better understanding of who their customers are across devices. (Enter shameless CQuotient plug here.)
But in all seriousness, it’s always shocking to hear that despite the availability of innovative technology like ours, the lack of omnichannel analytics is still plaguing even the largest retailers. UNIQLO, a Japanese company that has expanded to the U.S. hasn’t even wrapped its head around the importance of technology in the retail environment, focusing almost exclusively on brick-and-mortar.
Our favorite part of the panel was Greg’s discussion on how powerful content is for his business. We’ve seen first-hand how relevant, personalized content can move the needle for retailers and Greg has built his business on that premise. Greg said that Karmaloop is a “media company that monetizes through ecommerce,” and I think that other retailers could learn a lot from this strategy as Karmaloop clearly “gets” their customers. It is this understanding and their ability to act on that understanding that has made them a leader in streetwear fashion and culture.
Greg called Boston one of the “most improved” cities when it comes to fashion and we agree, but for different reasons. As technology continues to play a bigger role in the retail industry we see Boston playing a bigger and bigger role in the space, and it was great to see these innovators come together and shine a light on Boston’s role in retail.
Did you attend the retail/ecommerce panel at the State of Innovation conference? Let us know what you thought of the discussion below or on Twitter.