Editor’s Note from Shop.org

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Last week, more than 3,500 retailers, vendors, media and digital experts from near and far converged on Los Angeles for NRF’s annual Shop.org conference. The theme of “reinvention” permeated nearly every presentation, from Tyra Banks’ personal narrative opening the event to the “life after the Lakers” story shared by Kobe Bryant at the close of the conference.

The buzz of activity at the event was palpable, as attendees explored new technologies and immersed themselves in stories intended to educate and inspire. STORES was onsite and will share coverage of some key sessions throughout the month; we begin with a few key impressions from the event.

It was impossible to silence the chatter about artificial intelligence, machine learning, the shift to voice/conversational commerce and the adoption of augmented and virtual reality. Speakers and attendees alike were bullish on AI and voice, in particular; most are embracing these technologies at record speed and expect them to make an immediate impact.

The Amazon effect was palpable, with everything from the Whole Foods acquisition to the location of the next headquarters to Amazon’s next move peppering conversations. Smart retailers — big and small — shared stories of pivoting and rebranding to meet opportunities. Walmart eCommerce U.S. President and CEO Marc Lore stressed the need to keep innovation alive even inside a big corporation, while Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of Business and the author of multiple books, talked about how we can all get better at recognizing and championing ideas.

Despite new store closings and stories of companies immersed in reorganization, speakers shared stories of retail on the rebound. Ashley Stewart continues to make strides literally against all odds, and DSW announced a new brand mission, focused on building engaging customer experiences, shaking up traditional assortments and supporting associates with new in-store technology.

Attendees also got a lesson in “Galloway’s Anatomy.” Scott Galloway, a clinical professor of marketing at the New York University Stern School of Business and author of “The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google,” deconstructed the strategies of these mega-companies, sharing how they manipulate the fundamental emotional needs of today’s shoppers at a speed and scope others can’t match.

Announcements were plentiful: Disney’s Michael White announced the launch of an all-new ecommerce platform and shared news of Disney partnering to livestream daily parades from the theme parks into the stores; Minted announced plans to explore wholesale and licensing.

Shop.org demonstrated its own reinvention, as NRF re-engineered the conference to create an environment that truly blended content with commerce and beckoned attendees to network.

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