It’s going to be uncomfortable…

Apr 17, 2017

The 2017 Shoptalk event in Las Vegas was impressive, from the gorgeous Aria Resort and Casino to talking robots, from 500+ CEOs to ultra-innovative booths. The experience included the techy-trendiness of Google, Amazon, artificial intelligence start-ups and more – so the main overarching consensus throughout the event was “wow, this is inspiring.” But another underlying feeling was “a lot of things will be uncomfortable for a lot of people here.”


Uncomfortable 1: Amazon is going to kill your business. 

Nearly every single presentation talked about the ongoing threat of Amazon (some were clever enough not to name their competitor specifically, so they referred to them as “that company in Seattle” instead). The presentation by Peter Faricy, the vice president of Amazon Marketplace, was tremendous. Peter asked the hundreds of people in attendance if they were members of Amazon Prime – arguably 90% of them raised their hands. He talked about how unique visitors, who spend 75 minutes on Amazon, helped create 600K jobs, and how the company gave $1.5 billion in loans to small businesses. He touted how Amazon has become the 5th largest digital media publisher in the U.S. (and, yes, it’s ok to go back and reread those stats – because all in attendance quite possibly did a double take themselves).


Peter further outlined how Amazon is creating additional benefits for (and value to) its Marketplace customers, such as intellectual property protection, access to 300+ million consumers, small business loan programs, world class fulfillment and services, and more.  All of this has resulted in a powerhouse of an organization that is going to put a lot of companies out of business. They are offering more products, bigger value-added services, faster delivery leveraging the most modern technology, and a streamlined competitor-crushing experience – with Prime being the Usain Bolt (one of the fastest Olympic athletes, ever) of customer programs.


Uncomfortable 2: Trust the machine.

One of the most intriguing conversations I had at the event was with Or Shani, of the company Albert (  Or is leading amazing and exciting changes in machine learning. Albert is an A.I. tool for marketing decision making, developed by a team of experts in biology, neuroscience and cyber-security. Our chat pivoted to the fact that when Albert spits out a recommendation for a firm to allocate their marketing dollars, or even further, if Albert decides to change an allocation (uncomfortable part), the team might not understand exactly why or how Albert came to this conclusion, nor do they even question it anymore! In fact, Or said they stopped questing Albert since he’s always right. Wow!


Which CMOs across the U.S. are ready to accept machine learning conclusions, trust their output implicitly, and have those recommendations be implemented in real-time? Better yet, with an Albert, do we even need a CMO? And how do we know this approach is right? Well, we don’t, but we trust the machine. This is where Kobie is helping our clients move their marketing and loyalty strategies, and it’s scaring a lot of people – but not us. See Albert’s bio here:


Uncomfortable 3: Payment processors.

The biggest players in tech and retail are pushing their payment services. Think Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, Google Wallet, and Alibaba Pay. In fact, at the event, American Express, Alibaba and Amazon were all sharing information about the ease of implementation into their platforms, the overarching benefits of their programs, and the conveniences of automated reporting. The two primary benefits of these integrations are: getting access to their user base for an expedited checkout and developing additional trust in the security of the transaction.


Broadly speaking, if I’m purchasing products from a website that I don’t frequent, using my American Express or Amazon login is very convenient – it has my credit cards saved, shipping and billing addresses ready, and they are trusted companies to process a payment (rather than an idontknowyou.russia.who). Nonetheless (uncomfortable part), you are giving the leading tech and retail giants access to your purchase history, even outside their brands. Meaning, to us marketers, they know that someone purchased something from your brand at a given time and day (maybe better than you yourself do).


Being as smart as these firms are, can they denote from this information who made the purchase and what they bought? Can they then use that information to communicate to your consumers with extremely targeted advertising? The answer is yes.  So it’s not just uncomfortable but crucial for we brand marketers to balance the benefits of payment efficiency with sharing important transaction data with a potential competitor.


According to a study by Cisco, by 2020, more people will own a phone than have electricity. Think about that. Consider the global marketplace impact that will have. With this acceleration, will these technology advances help companies look out for their customers? Will these technology advances help or hinder the customer experience and associated customer loyalty? Just ask. We’ll give you insight to help manage the customer journey and look out for your biggest asset – your customer.