This quarter I focus on how Retailers are using technology to enable workers to be more productive. By designing labor out they are putting the consumer in control of the process, but also alleviate the perennial problem of staffing a workforce in a tight labor economy.
The wrap up to 2018 Retail does not disappoint! Travel the globe to hear about two different “shopping seasons”. Then hear about more data breach concerns. I share a new concept in hospitality that has garnered $40M in VC funding from silicon valley. CLEAR has new solutions to get attendees into stadiums safely. Lastly I deep dive this quarter on worker enhancements - with a focus on unattended retailing. Enjoy!
In just one week Money 20/20 will revolutionize Las Vegas! This is the one show during the year where global leaders from Retail, banking, FinTech firms and Investors come together to discuss the future of the industry. The theme for the conference this year is “The Money Revolution”. This year I’m joining the ranks of the “revolutionaries” and attending as the CEO of my own consulting business- quite the departure from being the corporate representative of a big company servicing the industry. That will bring both challenges and opportunities – and I’m up for the experience!
The opportunities far surpass the challenges. I was asked this year to Chair the Future of Retail and Commerce track at the show. What this entails is kicking off the track with a background chat at the start of the day. Then I will introduce each moderator as they take on their topic and welcome their panelists. This is a great opportunity for me to showcase the potential of what the future of commerce will look like. The lineup is spectacular- we will start the day with fresh research from Michelle Evans at Euromonitor as she releases this body of work for the first time. It will cover their projections for commerce in 2040! Perfect for the snarky folks that point out 2020 is just 15 months away…. Then we move to a fireside chat by Jordan McKee, director at 451 Research and Roger Hochschild the CEO/President of Discover Financial Services. They will be looking at how traditional card networks will evolve and compete in the future payments industry landscape. James Wester from IDC research will have fireside chat with Ernie Garcia III, the CEO of Carvana about how purchasing a car is changed by partnering with fintech partners. I’ll then wrap up the mornings sessions by bringing to the stage Will Glaser. He’s a three-time successful entrepreneur with a triple major degree from Cornell! His current venture is Grab and Go which is reinventing the self-check experience in Retail.
Then we get to break for lunch- before another amazing lineup. After lunch I will briefly recap the highlights of the morning then set the stage loose for Lynsey Thornton, VP of UX to host a panel discussing how technology is changing the landscape for SMB retailers. Next up will be a panel moderated by Julie VerHage from Bloomberg and executives from Pay Pal and Adyen. They will share new consumer research on consumer shopping preferences, behaviors and preferences. After that we will welcome James Wester back as he has an interview with Robert Clarkson, GM of North America from Pay Pal. They will discuss how the success of a payments solution is dependent upon a rich ecosystem. The question on stage after that will be: Are Credit Cards Dead? Steve Mott will moderate a panel that discusses how new methods are gaining traction that will be faster, cheaper and more secure than traditional credit card networks. With that there’s just one last panel. Jordan McKee will come back on stage to discuss with Michel Leger how retailers are upping their game now that foot traffic is back in store. What a busy day! Throughout the day the audience will be responding to my question of the day- what is the most revolutionary technology they see as transforming retail and commerce.
If you will be at Money 20/20 I would love to connect. If you can’t be there be sure to check back as I will write up a post-show blog with the highlights! Viva la Revolution!
Summer has flown by- I’m hoping all of you enjoyed time relaxing, seeing new sights or unplugging from the crazy world of retail. Now that kids are returning to school and work is getting back to its fast pace it is time for the Q3’18 newsletter. Consistent with the prior formats I’ll share what is new in each of four key sub segments of retail as well as do a deeper dive on AI/Machine Learning technologies. Enjoy, Michelle
What’s new in Retail Tech
While many want to tell the salacious story of the “Retail Apocalypse”, the reality is the US Retail sector is doing quite well. On August 13th the National Retail Federation increased its projected Retail sales growth in 2018 to 4.5% over 2017 levels- an increase from the prior forecast growth of 3.8-4.4%. This is despite the increased threats from Tariffs on imported goods. Industry research firm IHL Group notes that this year the number of bricks and mortar stores is on the rise in a few categories- most notably mass merchandisers/superstores (up 1490 stores), convenience stores (1566) and restaurants (1823). Specialty and clothing retailers are declining store count this year- but overall the entire industry is up (3835). While the mix of retail sales continues to migrate to e-commerce paths I’m seeing a renewed effort by retailers to improve and redesign the customer experiences in store. This means investment (finally!) in store technologies- especially those that enable an omnichannel experience. For instance, SW solutions that enable new fulfillment methods like Click & Collect or Buy online and pickup in store. So as much as it is exciting to tell the story of demise you can’t count the retailers in the US as “down for the count” with a broad brush. Some brands that are attuned to the customer are alive, well and thriving!
New in Payments and FinTech
The Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) has been having a busy summer on Capitol Hill! I was able to get a policy update from CEO Jason Oxman at the Mobile Payments Conference last week on the most recent developments. The OCC is now enabling FinTech firms to get a Federal banking license. This will enable FinTech firms to now operate consistently across 50 states without having to analyze regulations and local policies. In the past, FinTech firms either had to go “state by state” or work with a national bank partner. This should increase innovation and offerings so expect to see more from strategic players in this market (example- Kabbage, CAN Capital). In addition, the ETA has been analyzing and supporting testimonials to Congress on the impact of Trade Tariffs. The original proposal was for tariffs on all POS solutions made in China that import to the US- which would be a 25% increase in price for Retailers to pay if they are in an upgrade cycle. The ETA was able to influence removing this tariff, but now they are appealing the new proposal which is a 25% tariff on the parts used for POS systems. Lastly- there have been updated statistics on the Zelle peer to peer money transfer product from Early Warning- it has now processed the same number of transactions as the incumbent- Venmo from Pay Pal. This horse race for the leader in peer to peer payments will continue to be interesting to watch!
New in Hospitality
Have you ever been disgusted by a dirty glass at a restaurant or bar? The experience is far too common- so a startup called SinkTech is working to solve this pain point with Internet of Things (IOT) tech for the standard three compartment sink used across the industry. The key to clean glasses is a three step process: soap, rinse and disinfectant dip. The challenge is the water level, temperature and cleanliness must be constantly monitored and yet many workers are too busy to stay on top of these levels consistently. In steps SinkTech! Their pumps fit into the drain plug of the sink and connect to the faucet taps. The system can now consistently monitor the level, temperature and opacity of the water 100% of the time. The platform is also cloud connected so a manager can check the status regardless of where they may be- even from summer vacation! If there is a metric out of spec the pump will dump the sink and refill it to the specified level and temperature. Bars and Restaurants will not only have happier customers but also eliminate fines for non-compliance. Truly a win-win I’m looking for an end to the lipstick of another person on my drink….
New in Event Venues
Events are always striving to have a full house for the performers. Many times tickets are freed up at the last minute and it is a challenge for the event venue to quickly monetize on these great seats. For instance, in many sports contracts players get seats to home games as a part of their benefits. However, if the seats are going to be unused they are to be returned to the team 24-48 hours in advance of the event. Broadway may have figured out how to solve this with same day ticket booths- but for many event venues this is a perennial problem. Reply Buy is a startup that is solving this problem with a digital platform. Teams sign up to use Reply Buy and consumers can gain access to the platform for free. They then select which teams they are “Fans” of and the will get a SMS text when tickets are available for purchase. The consumer can then “reply” to buy the tickets using a credit card on file. Reply buy has 100s of teams set up on the platform and adoption is spreading quickly. Full disclosure I’m a big fan of this digital distribution method and have invested in Reply Buy as an Angel round investor.