by Julie Smith -- October 10, 2014

It’s October, so it must be conference season - the time when retailers of all stripes gather to discuss retail trends and best practices.

Last week saw two strong summits hosted by and GeekWire.  Here are some key takeaways from each – both insights and tradeshow goodies. Summit

The conference hashtag (#shoporg14) will provide you with the play-by-play of the show (I also live tweeted it at @SmJulie). 

Speakers at the conference included REI’s CEO and SVP of Digital; the author of “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon”, Brad Stone; Kynetic founder, Michael Rubin; Zulily’s Co-founder/CEO/President; Birchbox’s Co-founder/CEO; and many more.

Here are the top 5 key insights gathered from the #shoporg14 conference:

1. Stores help digital; digital helps stores.  Stores have the potential to sell the brand which, in turn, boosts the online experience.  Customer Mobile in store can help boost comp store sales and mobile is also a great way to engage store associates (REI).  When someone becomes a @birchbox customer they double their beauty spend in just months across all channels, including in store which helps all retailers (BirchBox).

2. Customer needs are evolving.  Customers are beginning to demand authenticity, sustainability, and uniqueness in addition to the expectations for convenience, price, and selection.  When it comes to delivery consumers just want fast and free – but for many it is not about same day delivery - free trumps speed for most.  (Brad Stone, Zulily)

3. Everyone hates Omnichannel…as a term.  People love the idea of “one customer.”  Also, the customer doesn’t need to know how the sausage gets made – keep the commission conversation out of sight.  Enable sales associates to just serve the customer in whichever way works best for customers. (Lululemon). 

4. Marketing has become "Customer Engagement".  Marketing is no longer a one directional vehicle to inform consumers.  Marketing becomes a conversation focused on providing real value to customers that includes content and site merchandising. (Pet360)

5. Data data everywhere and not a drop to drink.  The biggest data problem isn't big data – it’s disparate little data.  While “big data” can help you think holistically about your customers, if you can’t synthesize the “little” data you may overlook key marketing and operational efficacy questions.

And now the goodies…check out my #haul video at


GeekWire Summit

It’s amazing the power-punch this conference packed into just one day, you can see some pretty amazing and outlandish comments on the hashtag #gwsummit (again, live tweeted @SmJulie).  Lots of top talent in the speaker line up.

Speakers at this summit included US CIO Steven VanRoekel; Zulily Chairman and Blue Nile founder, Mark Vadon; Walmart President/CEO of Global Ecommerce, Neil Ashe; T-Mobile CEO John Legere; Redin CEO, Glenn Kelmen; MOZ CEO, Sarah Bird; Couchsuring CEO, Jennifer Billock; and many more.

Here are the top 5 things everyone who is Geek Chic was talking about:

1. Everyone has opinions on mobile.  Everyone is excited about technology convergence overall…when will smartphones fly? Drones are all the rage in photography and communications.  No one likes the Amazon Fire phone (EVERYONE!). 

2. Team matters.  Much talk about hiring and motivating the right team.  Hire slow. Fire fast (CHEF).  Diversity helps create success - women in engineering helped us build a better culture. (Redfin).  Inspire the team around a mission…efficiency isn't a rallying cry. No free soda at the government, but the impact of work is profound – even when compared to Microsoft and the Gates Foundation. (United States CIO).  

3. Mobile is pervasive; payments are big and getting bigger.  Walt Mossberg asked, “When you are waiting in line at Starbucks, what are you holding in your hand?”  Poll results:  Wallet (0); Phone (everyone).  From Walmart “We assume everyone has smartphones. They do already or we'll sell them one.”

4. Measurement matters to the sharing economy.  It isn’t just about rainbows and new friends.  Companies need to focus resources on platform and community.  Key metrics are repeat business and fill (match) rates. (Rover, Couchsurfing, Uber)

5. Innovation creates opportunity.  Think of innovation as portfolio strategy and take enough risks to subsidize each other (Moz). Bad ideas and experiences can yield great innovations - Uber discussed the “car full of kittens” idea (and how it turned it into a successful promotion) and T-Mobile talked about listening to IVR reactions in real time to learn what is broken.

Even better goodies!  GeekWire #haul video:


Finally, a few bits of advice from the two conferences on paths to success: 

“Step out. Take it to the extreme.” (John Legere).

“Don't be afraid to fail and surround yourself with great people.”  (Michael Rubin).