The most important e-commerce meeting in the U.S. (world?) just concluded in Dallas, the National Retail Federation’s Digital Summit, which brought together some 20,000 leaders and practitioners for three days of presentations, case studies, discussions, workshops, and let’s face it, socializing. Now in its 15th year, the Digital Summit can boast some of the best and the brightest of the e-commerce world. Thanks and hats off to NRF CEO Matt Shay and the Fieldworksteam who invited me to present on one of the fastest growing fields in e-commerce: China. Here are the main lessons from Dallas….
  • Multibrand Stores Still Under Pressure.  Mike Amend of JC Penney explained that their product mix will grow from 50% proprietary brands to 70% in just a few years. A wise move in my view, but the broader question of how to refresh the brand still needs to be addressed.
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality. Google’s Sophie Miller explained how AR will shape customer experience, and Sephora’s Johnna Marcus took VR into the beauty space, allowing for experimentation and creativity. Why not try on 50 shades of lipstick when it is all VR?  Also, Johnna offered a well-received word of caution against trendiness in tech. All tech needs a “why.” It must be utility-driven and it must fit the business model.
  • Emerging Markets. SP eCommerce’s Marcelo Wesseler gave a strong overview of emerging market strategy. Remember, e-commerce penetration varies considerably across these markets so you need a strategy that can be calibrated.
  • Logistics can drive the transaction. Neda Nevab of Enjoy tied together a customized delivery model with enhanced installation to demonstrate that innovative logistics is not the tail of the dog. It can wag the entire transaction.
  • Millennials. Gabbi Baker and Hunter Thomas spoke about what this group wants: consistency across channels, a conversation not a sales pitch, and a merchant who anticipates needs.
  • Mobile and Video. Maz Sharafi from Facebook related two core truths: mobile is the starting point for digital engagement and video usage is exploding.
  • Data Analytics. Discussion of this topic was pervasive and a strong testament to the maturity of the industry.  Every other participant was in data analytics, process flow, scientific marketing or a related field.  The mathematicians are beating the poets.
  • It’s a big world. Every successful brand needs an international strategy.  The U.S. Department of Commerce (yes, I have a soft spot) has a special international e-commerce team lead by Josh Halpern.  Go see him as you think through your international strategy.
  • China. China. China.  OK, I have to at least mention China. David Roth gave a great talk on Chinese consumers. My message:  China comprises 40% of global e-commerce and the U.S. comprises 25%. So any global brand must have a China strategy.
Key takeaway: If e-commerce is important to your business, make sure you attend the next NRF Digital Summit.