I had the pleasure of attending Shop.org 2017 in Los Angeles where executives from Disney, TechStyle Fashion Group and Walmart, among others, shared their experiences. Although Amazon did not present at the conference, industry analysts shared their views on how Amazon operates with attendees.

Disney embraces artificial intelligence

Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media Michael White talked about Disney’s technology initiatives. He believes that artificial intelligence and machine learning are the future of retail. Within machine learning, he’s focused on natural language processing, text to speech/speech synthesis and computer vision. Machine learning is a key component of Disney’s new website, ShopDisney. It enables product recommendations, visual search and product categorization.

TechStyle Fashion Group focuses on three pillars for success

The co-founder and co-CEO of TechStyle Fashion Group Adam Goldenberg shared the three strategies behind the JustFab, ShoeDazzle and Fabletics brands:  going online first, vertical integration and agile customer acquisition.

By starting online first, these brands benefited from a faster customer feedback cycle, instant national availability and data driven personalization. The company believes in full vertical integration from supply chain to technology to data science. The company invested US$100 million to build its own technology software, which allows for better integration among different functions. The vertical integration also helps with agile customer acquisition. The company has its own creative team, studio and media buying team which allows the company to test TV commercials, ads and website styles quickly to ensure the most efficient customer acquisition.

Marc Lore highlights Walmart’s strategies

President and CEO of US Walmart Ecommerce Marc Lore explained that his acquisition strategy has two components. The first is to get into long tail categories and connect with millennial shoppers. The long tail categories are to drive growth at Walmart.com and Jet.com and the ability to connect to millennial shoppers is more of a strategic objective.

Other plans are to have the best sellers in top million SKUs and use Walmart stores to deliver products quickly and inexpensive.

He shared his thoughts on the future of retail. He focuses more on what technology enables as opposed to what it does. In the case of voice commerce, the winner will have the best answer and to have the best answer, merchandising is key. He also believes that voice commerce will be paired with virtual reality.

A peek into how Amazon operates

Bryan Eisenberg, partner at Eisenberg Holdings, talked about Amazon’s four key pillars that has enabled its success: customer centricity, culture of innovation, corporate agility and continuous optimization. Amazon takes a long term approach to customers, believing that taking care of them will lead to long term success. Its culture of innovation is reflected in the US$16 billion spend in research and development—more than what Google, Apple and Facebook spend. To be agile, Amazon has small, cross functional teams that can see a project through to the end. The company is never satisfied and always optimizing for the best experience.

Scott Galloway, founder and Chairman of L2, highlighted that one of Amazon’s advantages is the ability to position itself with investors to get capital cheaply and use that capital in research and development. The research and development leads to new billion dollar businesses. Amazon is destroying the notion that businesses need to focus on core competencies.

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