A weekly podcast with the latest e-commerce news and events. Episode 205 is recap of NRF and CES 2020.
CES 2020 was in Las Vegas Jan 7th – Jan 10th.
NRF Big Show 2020 was in New York Jan 11-14th.
Scott Galloway (ProfG) hosting a 2020 Tech Prediction lecture the evening of Jan 14th.
PSFK Future of Retail 2020 event on January 15th.
We recap them all with a lens on what’s relevant to retailers and digital shopper marketers.
Don’t forget to like our facebook page, and if you enjoyed this episode please write us a review on itunes.
Episode 205 of the Jason & Scot show was recorded on Wednesday, January 23nd, 2020.
Google Automated Transcription of the show
[0:24] Welcome to the Jason and Scot show this is Episode 205 being recorded on Wednesday January 22nd 2020 I’m your host Jason retailgeek Goldberg and as usual I’m here with your co-host Scot Wingo.
[0:39] Hey Jason and welcome back Jason Scott show listeners well those of you that are regular listeners have probably realized we has been a little while since we put out a show
and the reason why is my colleague Jason here has been traveling like a crazy man.
[0:55] This is true I have my annual fun start to the year with the whole CES in RF Marathon which I just got back from.
[1:06] I thought this year you weren’t doing CS what what what happened we had a client call and Russia.
[1:11] Did end up yes having to go for a shorter than usual stay at CES but I did end up having to make an appearance.
[1:18] What happens when you’re the chief digital retail e-commerce strategist goes goes that way.
[1:25] Yes when you yes it’s true when you have that many words in your title like unplanned trips are part of the bargain.
[1:33] Coco we thought would use most the show to kind of catch up on that and then try to work some news in there too let’s start at CES in the first of all big question did you get any new gadgets.
[1:45] You know a disappointing year for me personally and part of that may be because it was a shorter trip the,
the stuff like the stuff I tend to discover that like I personally want is maybe deeper in the CES catalog and I maybe didn’t get to all of those booths this year I kind of had to hit the main.
Main Milestone booths so yeah nothing super excited I got I maybe have a little.
Personal problem hoarding Chargers and cables and so there are some nice new,
um third-party chargers for the Macbook so I did get a new anchor and the new hyper juice hundred watt charging systems.
Yeah no no super important purpose but yes I have some new Chargers that I have to hide from my wife I don’t think she even cares about the spending I think she just cares about all the space that the unused.
Chargers take up in our life.
[2:50] Yeah there’s a drawer there where they all could live.
[2:52] Yeah in my workshop it’s more of a a system of drawers for.
[3:01] They buy hcf like the 1985.
[3:05] I mean people people laugh at me but then we need to find a 30 pin Mac charger for iPhone 3 I have one.
[3:14] Boom I got it yeah.
[3:18] Yeah so yeah got some new Chargers and I did this is kind of CES adjacent but I did get all new
networking hardware for my home office so I think you and I both did internet connection upgrades.
For the holidays and I added a fancy new firewall router access point and switch.
[3:44] Furcal are you gigabit.
[3:46] I am so so Comcast just add a gigabit in my neighborhood so we upgraded to gigabit and then I’m using,
this cool new device called the unify dream machine,
which is from I want to say it’s a Ubiquiti networks and they do a lot of.
Commercial Wi-Fi equipment for like schools and institutions and things and so this is a a.
A Wi-Fi access point a firewall and and said a managed switches that are all controlled from their commercial software.
Way overkill for a home network but fun for tinkering.
[4:35] Yeah I think I’ve seen one of those is it a it looks like a little cylinder.
[4:39] It exactly so historically like they met they mostly make rack-mounted equipment and this is the first time they’ve,
they’ve made an all-in-one that that is supported by their sort of,
business level software and it looks like a cylinder and in fact it reminds people a lot of,
discontinued Apple Wi-Fi access point and so there’s some people from that we’re big fans of that,
that I forget what that was called like they are.
[5:11] I had one I can’t remember it’s called him.
[5:16] So yeah so people people think it’s the spiritual successor to the Apple.
[5:23] Cool what else any interesting Commerce news is he yes.
[5:27] Yeah I actually thought it was a reasonably important year for Commerce,
like the Super Readers Digest version on this show it’s the consumer electronic show I personally have been attending for 32 years it’s the largest trade show in the u.s. like 200,000 people,
many years ago it was a buying show where people from retailers would go to figure out what they’re going to carry for the year now it’s mainly a PR show where they try to generate Buzz for new products to,
sell more new technologies but it’s where a lot of consumer Technologies where watch for the first time so like the DVD player and the if you go back far enough the VHS.
[6:10] Tape system in the whole VHS beta War played out at CES,
and stuff like that in the Apple the Apple iPhone was famously launched during CES but not at CES as a Steve Jobs sort of did some clever counter-programming,
so people go,
both to like sort of do trend-spotting and see if there’s any major new consumer electronics platforms that are coming down the path and from that standpoint I would like there’s one big one that had the buzz I’ll save for the end,
but there was a lot of smaller more tactical stuff that I think is going to have a meaningful impact on,
retail in particular digital merchandising it retailgeek.
So most of the listeners of this show are probably familiar with e-ink if you ever had a currently have a Kindle book reader it uses e-ink,
and it’s a it’s an important digital display technology because it’s Dynamic you can change the image that’s on it,
it’s reflective so it works in super bright sunlight and it basically takes no power to display an image so you need electricity to change the image but once the image has changed.
It literally is moving ink around on the display and then you could turn off the power in the ink stays where.
[7:26] Where it was and so it’s great for for not using a lot of power in an electronic book reader it,
great for having high visibility even in bright sunlight but a very common retail use case is it’s the main display technology that used for all the digital fact tags that I talk about all the time.
[7:45] And one of the big drawbacks of e ink has historically been that it’s only black and white or only black red and white or only black yellow and white so very limited,
color palette and so you couldn’t do really pretty,
just blaze you couldn’t use it for really pretty signs and this was the first year that they were showing full color E Ink that look very vibrant and High Fidelity and so.
You know we’ll see you that.
You know maybe we’ll have some color book readers in the near future and I suspect we’ll see it trickled down to a new generation of electronic.
Price labels and fact tags for retail stores.
So that was an interesting technology and a way cooler display technology was released by Delta Airlines of all people.
And and so this is a new technology to sort of replace a.
Video monitor in a public area and it’s called parallel reality and so Delta Airlines found this technology and invested in the company and they’ve announced that the first commercial deployment will be.
In the Delta lounges at the Detroit airport later this year.
And what this technology does is it lets a hundred people stand in front of a TV screen and have each of them get a different Custom Image that they see.
so very precisely depending on where you stand you see a completely different image so the use case for Delta in this Lounge is all the customers stare at the flight status display and they all,
see a display that only has their flight information or prominently highlights their flight information.
[9:32] Okay how does it know who’s looking and we’re there.
[9:36] So first of all as soon as you describe this to someone they’re like this sounds like it’s going to be some kludgy gimmick and I was super skeptical so two halves of this problem the first half is,
can you really display an image that that is high fidelity and looks like discrete for each person,
and I went in with very low expectations and I was kind of Blown Away like it it totally works,
the the demo they had their like there’s like the pixels weren’t tiny so you could kind of see the pixels and,
the display is made up of a bunch of.
Of multiple smaller displays so you could kind of see the frame the internal frames so I’d say it wasn’t,
but they were super open to saying yeah we know those are the visual flaws like we already have more advanced prototypes that solve those problems and what we deploy in Detroit later this year is going to.
Not have any of those those visual artifacts but basically what it’s using is,
beamforming where they’re essentially like each pixel is a projector and they can fire different color lights at different angles so by knowing exactly where your eyeballs are relative to the screen,
they can send you an image that’s different from everyone else so that’s the display technology as it’s kind of like a projector inside of a television or.
[10:57] Thousands of projectors inside of a television and it works remarkably well and then you’re very,
pertinent question how do they know who and where those eyeballs are to decide what to show each person and the answer to that is,
a combination of Wi-Fi RFID and your mobile phone so this is not,
this won’t work for an anonymous use case in the Delta model the reason they’re doing it in the lounge is everyone has to check into the lounge and show that they’re a member so when you walk into the front desk,
you scan your mobile app they’re using cameras similar to an Amazon go set up to track where you are in the lounge,
and they know who you are because you were holding a mobile phone with your unique ID on it to check in and then they’re able to deliver your your unique flight information to you so it.
It’s a kind of a combination of Amazon go for the identifying the person and their location and this new parallel reality display technology for,
for beaming the different messages and so it.
[12:07] It works better than I expected it seems pretty darn close to real we’ll see if they’re really able to get this in a while,
lateral out in an airport this year but like if it all works it’s pretty easy to imagine a number of use cases for public displays and checkout systems and things like that and retailgeek,
what it would be really handy to be able to show different images to different customers on the same monitor.
[12:30] Very cool was this the big one we’re waiting for or know there’s more to come.
[12:36] No no more to come so the another interesting technology that like was kind of spooky as Samsung was showing this.
These avatars did they call neon life into these artificial humans,
and so you walk up to all these five or six foot tall monitors and if there’s like a person in each Monitor and they can talk to you interact you with you and they look like.
[13:04] Completely real people like in so you would assume this was a video but these are computer generated people that are extremely lifelike,
and so the idea is that you could potentially walk into a retail store and you know there might be a artificial intelligence help agent.
That looks like a real sales associate that you’re basically looking at through a glass window that can talk to you in,
and be more human that was the kind of use case that Samsung was pitching the the more interesting use case to me is like an you,
render different shapes and sizes of people and put apparel on them so you know could you could this be kind of like,
a digital mannequin scenario for retail stores and.
It was scary life like in the one thing I would say is they would call this an advanced science project so these avatars apparently took a super long time to build and they say that this technology is still three or four years away from being completely.
[14:09] They have natural language parsing like kids or talk to them and.
[14:12] They did but that wasn’t part of the the magic so they were using that were using other Samsung artificial intelligence like in fact Bigsby is their artificial intelligent agent too
like decide what the Avatar was saying and to interpret what you were saying and so they weren’t claiming any like.
You know new new Evolution there what was new about this neon life,
technology was how lifelike they could make the visual representation of a person and essentially you know it’s,
it’s like the next step to like not paying actors to be in the movie and instead having these these digital avatars that.
That will be acting in all the movies and stuff.
But I you know if it gets commercialized I can imagine a retail use case for that the next product that really caught my eye in this got a lot of Buzz at the show and I think this was a,
a darn impressive product came from L’Oreal and it’s called perso,
Scot you may have followed this because I know you try to stay close to the beauty and cosmetics base.
[15:24] I do.
[15:25] But so the idea here is,
personalized beauty and cosmetic products that are formulated at home,
so so they initial concept has three different products there’s a liquid lipstick product there’s a,
liquid foundation product and there’s a moisturizer so each of these is kind of a.
A metal cylinder like like one of those Yeti mug type things a metal cylinder and using an app you say I want this color lipstick,
and you know out of a set of holes in the top of this mug,
that exact shade of lipstick or several lipsticks come out that when you then blend them together with a in applicator or your finger like mixed to the particular color that you ordered.
And so the foundation comes out in a color custom color that you ordered the lipstick comes out in a custom color that you ordered and the moisturizer comes out in custom formulation that you ordered so it may be has.
[16:34] You know more moisturizing or sunscreen depending on the environment you’re in or the the weather and a particular day and so the
to me the one that made the most sense in the kind of you know coolest use case is the lipstick they do things like you can point your camera at your outfit,
and it will recommend shades of lipstick that go well with your particular outfit and then it can produce,
that lipstick for you and so the reason I thought this was pretty impressive as it seemed to work really well people that tried it were seem to think it was,
not a gimmick that it was you know that they were quality products and they were totally legitimate and you know I’ve spoken to lots of women that think that the,
the custom shade of lipstick on demand would be,
total useful and I’ve smoked I’ve spoke to some women that think the custom foundations would be useful and I just think we’re at this inflection point when more and more products are going to be customized for each individual user so whether that means
they’re fabricated custom at a factory and quickly shipped to you or they have the ability to be customized in your own home this is essentially a
3D printer for Cosmetics or an inkjet printer for cosmetics and so I it to me it seemed like one of the first viable,
custom products in this category and one little Nuance that I thought was really clever about the whole thing.
[18:01] That the cylinder like could totally sit on your makeup counter at home and it seems like it would fit just fine but what happens when you want to take your lipstick with you and put it in your purse like that wouldn’t work very well so it turns out the top of all of these cylinders,
is removable and it’s magnetically attached to the cylinder so after you specify a color and it mixes some of that color up
you can just take the top of the cylinder off which is kind of the size of a makeup compact throw it in your purse and take your custom color with you so,
pretty clever and then you buy refill cartridges just like you’d buy refill ink for an inkjet printer.
[18:39] That’s where all the money is.
[18:40] Yeah oh for sure but so I thought that was super interesting when you get into the Health Pavilion,
there were a number of players like one that caught my eyes was called DNA nudge and these guys are essentially doing a DNA test
and then they’re helping you select,
Foods diet nutrition that match your unique DNA so again going back to this notion of customization that like,
you know the diet you select the foods you buy should all be predicated based on your your underlying DNA that they help you help you find.
[19:20] Did you just come back and say error you are 99% an espresso beverage.
[19:26] That is funny so I have.
Carefully avoided doing any of these DNA because I actually think there’s some like significant privacy concerns and I like I don’t know maybe I’m I’m.
Overly cautious but like I haven’t wanted to just give my DNA to one of these for-profit companies with like dubious privacy policies.
[19:55] I don’t know what about you Scott are you totally in on 23andMe do you do it like every month to see if your DNA is changing.
[20:01] I’ve done both yeah it’s pretty interesting.
[20:03] Okay yeah I will be honest I would be totally.
[20:06] Hi I don’t have any murders out there I’m worried about.
[20:09] Yeah well I read too much of a boring life to be very worried but I but here’s the thing you could have an interesting relative that you’re throwing under the bus by doing this.
[20:18] Yeah they shouldn’t do their crimes.
[20:20] My fair enough,
yeah so again I can see it I might be being a little silly on that but I haven’t wanted to do that so then you know it’s the car thing is a big thing here they are,
like the car car tech now tends to get launched at CES not at the auto show.
So you know there’s there’s you know some interesting electronic prototype cars that may or may not ever see the light of day.
The huge thing I noticed this year in the car Pavilion is that every car seemed to have an Alexa integration like that seemed like that was.
Taking over as the like.
New cabin Tech that everybody was marketing and so I think Amazon announced that they’re now over a hundred thousand consumer electronic devices that have Alexa embedded.
From more than 9,500 unique Brands and of course the new device with Alexa in it that I imagine you’re going to need is the Lamborghini.
[21:28] Yes absolutely.
[21:29] I think that will round.
[21:31] Finally took me over the edge.
[21:33] Yeah that around out your stable just fine
they’re like speaking of am Amazon Integrations I Amazon has a couple booths at the show they have a booth that’s primarily focused on the Alexa and a lot of third party you know,
demos with that they have a booth in the home automation section dedicated to key and all the last mile Solutions and things but in the Amazon Booth one of the interesting ones was.
This this cpg company Reckitt beckon sir.
Commonly called RB they make a bunch of products like baby formula and finish is their big brand of dishwashing detergent.
And so they have upgraded all of their packaging to have Dash replenishment built in.
So when you get low on baby formula the box that you bought your baby formula in just recognizes that and automatically reorders more baby formula and when you get low on those.
Those PODS of finished dishwashing liquid the package automatically orders more for you.
[22:47] The saw the Lamborghini thing in the it was funny there was like a poster which had like some amazingly handsome Brad Pitt of time looking dude and he said Alexa I’m hot,
and then she said she she knew to turn on the air conditioner.
[23:05] Yeah yeah context.
[23:07] So maybe wonder how often is Jason uttering Alexa I’m hot to his devices.
[23:13] Yeah I feel like that’s not even the most concerning thing you need to worry about me saying to Alexa.
I mentioned Samsung Bigsby earlier computer vision was a big thing I felt like half the booths were doing facial recognition for some nefarious purpose but Samsung built it in a refrigerators so,
in the past they’ve had these smart fridges that for example had a webcam in them so you could kind of like when you’re in the grocery store and couldn’t remember if you had eggs you could turn on a webcam and see the inside of your refrigerator.
Which I was like to point out probably wouldn’t help you because your eggs are probably in a in an opaque car turn it Carton and you can’t see how many are in there,
but that pesky detail aside they’re now using Bigsby to do image recognition and take an inventory of your refrigerator so the smart refrigerator knows like,
that you have a quart of milk and how many times you’ve taken it out and likely how much milk is left in that core.
[24:16] So that was interesting there were a thousand Last Mile solutions that at CES so lots of people like with,
clever approaches and not clever approaches to porch piracy to delivering to your refrigerator to delivering to your garage to your car trunk drones and robots,
Kind of improved efficiency for for bow pass orders for store pick up orders and a lot of technology for like building mail rooms,
notify residents when they have packages all sorts of stuff like that so this is not really a retail show and so it’s just interesting to me how,
booths were there like specifically solving a Commerce problem around the last mile.
Um so all those were interesting tactical things that I saw at CES that I think May,
may I make an appearance in the future of retail but by far the biggest platform that that you know was
the most strategically important that really had his coming out party at CES this year is the new wireless technology 5G.
So they’ve been talking about it CES for a number of years they’ve had prototype product but this is the first year that they have.
[25:38] Mass-produced products that meet all the certifications and work on networks that are deployed in the real world so this is kind of the
the first time that 5G was truly commercialized at CES and you know I I suspect in in the show’s heart of hearts,
like if there’s you know one news cycle that they want to win it’s the you know the wave of coming 5G products and that everyone needs to throw out all their wireless devices and by shiny new,
new 5G devices and then it’s going to magically change the world and there are crazy stats that they you know site about how much faster 5G is than 4G so,
you know hundreds to thousands of times faster bandwidth
way lower latency way more devices that can hang on the same networks and you listen all this and you go man 5 G’s going to change the world it’s the most important technology of all times and that’s mostly.
The articles that are getting written about it but as I talked to more engineers and kind of you know.
Really started to understand what was going on I actually am now somewhat bearish on on 5G I think it’s overhyped.
[26:56] Yeah yeah they always the one I see that for his hearse like some remote surgery over 5G and you’re like I don’t think five G’s going to solve the dead spots in fact up I have more dead spots because I won’t be honest meat hours.
[27:08] I’m not sure I’m going to be an early adopter of remote Robo surgery but if I am
I’m gonna insist that they have a wired connection to the robot and if for some reason they can’t have a wired connection I would way rather have a Wi-Fi connection to the robot then a 5G connection to the robot.
[27:25] Yeah we’re going to belt and suspenders that puppy yeah if we’re not yeah.
[27:28] Yeah so it’s going to be a long time before you ever going to do surgery on me with 5G but like here’s here’s the,
the huge Wrinkle In 5G that makes it kind of a mess technology for me is.
You know all these Wireless signals are over particular parts of the spectrum right and so like cellular signals and most of what we call LTE or 4G is,
in the 600 megahertz to 6 gigahertz range depending on which company and what what bandwidth they own and so 5G uses that same bandwidth,
and it uses some new band with that the government just sold the carriers that’s at a much higher frequency and so it’s what they’re calling this millimeter wave frequencies and so this is,
20 gigahertz 295 gigahertz a way higher frequencies than the traditional Four G’s and all of the,
dramatic improvements in bandwidth that they’re talking about only happen on those new millimeter-wave frequencies.
[28:34] So the the 5G technology works on the 4G frequencies and it is faster but it’s kind of incrementally faster in the same way that 4G was faster than 3G,
it’s so call it
twenty to a hundred percent faster and then you get this you know hundreds to thousands of times faster when you get on millimeter wave and
so couple problems with millimeter wave number one it’s mostly not built out and unavailable like there it’s,
there are rumors that the the iPhone that comes out this year that will be the first 5G iPhone,
may or may not even support millimeter-wave but there’s very limited coverage of millimeter wave in the United States like like when you don’t company says they have coverage in a city that’s probably one block that they cover
when this millimeter wave technology and then much bigger deal is that high frequency wave.
Is blocked by virtually any kind of structure so not only will it not go through walls it won’t go through windows,
um so you won’t ever get millimeter wave signal inside of a building for example.
[29:45] Think you’re gonna have to do your surgery in a tent.
[29:48] Yeah exactly so a legitimate use case is
hey T-Mobile can compete with Comcast for internet bandwidth for Scott’s home and if you buy it from T-Mobile what they’re going to do is put a millimeter wave antenna on the roof of your building and run a cable inside of your house and convert it to a Wi-Fi signal inside of your house
and because the millimeter wave can be really fast to that antenna on your roof like they can legitimately compete with your,
your cable modem but you are not going to have a phone that you walk around in your office that’s you know downloading movies in a second.
[30:32] Nursing so a lot of infrastructure to be built to solve this millimeter wave from.
[30:37] Yeah yeah and those those
like they need many more antennas and the antennas need much quote to be much closer together to really build out coverage for millimeter wave so it’s a huge National infrastructure problem
and it doesn’t seem like any of the carriers have really committed to like saturate their Market with millimeter wave yet so again you know most of what the carriers are talking about when they say 5G
is 5G over the existing 4G bands and,
it’s a little better like I’m sure we’ll all enjoy it but it it’s by no means game-changing so that’s that was kind of my,
my CES recap I think most people would say oh the big thing that’s going to change the face of retails 5G I’m pretty convinced it’s actually not but I do think a bunch of these display Technologies are,
potentially interesting and I really think that that this trend of more personalized products is super interesting for Commerce.
[31:36] Cool so then you shot straight from Vegas Rider to New York and would a would you see it enough.
[31:42] I did so yeah I got to do a prolonged my New York trip this year so I got there a little earlier,
as you know you and I were nominated for an award for best retail media and we were one of the finalists so I actually went to the awards ceremony on Friday night.
And I’m sorry to report that we did not win yeah so not a very credible award obviously I’m teasing.
Is actually the first year of this particular.
In our Enterprise and what they’re trying to do is recognize suppliers for the retail Commerce industry because most of the awards are targeted at the retailer so that’s kind of appreciate that and that’s interesting and it was.
Very well-attended event for the first year but that sucked me into New York early so then I did the whole show I got to walk all the show floors,
and my limited time recap on all the show floors was,
that it was a very incremental year so rather than,
dramatically new stuff and new technology that you know didn’t exist at the show asked year most of the booths in the main exhibit Halls were.
Here’s our 10% better version of what we showed you last year.
[33:04] And a surprising amount of it was really oriented towards cost reduction and,
operations optimization so I would say like,
the it was rare to see customer-facing stories and improving customer experiences at retail it was mostly about taking costs out of supply chain and taking costs out of operations and Staffing and.
And increase Automation and that you know it things that are important to retail but frankly things I would argue like that’s been a play in retail for the last five years and most of the good retailers today have.
Taking most of the COS out and you know so now I feel like to really move the needle you need to be thinking about your customer experience and improving,
that and I did not see a lot of great solutions for that on the inner F floor this year,
the one kind of new use case that showed up in a bunch of booths is what I’ll call a smart shelf so this is like Amazon go like technology it’s like a shelf that.
[34:12] Either using cameras or sensors or cameras and sensors,
knows what’s on the shelf and it knows what you take off the shelf and it can probably recognize you and so sometimes this is used for self-checkout but way more often it was just used for inventory management,
for knowing when something was out of stock or helping navigate customers to the right product or or knowing when a products on the wrong shelf for all these kinds of use cases,
so I like frankly didn’t think the juice was worth the squeeze walking the two main trade show floors at in RF,
the the floor I had the most fun on is this Innovation Pavilion that they’ve had for the last couple of years but it was much bigger this year
and to me like all the exciting interesting stuff was was definitely in this Innovation Pavilion and so this is smaller companies tend to be,
startup companies a bunch of companies,
from other countries like Israel was particularly well represented and you know here you are seeing a lot of Last Mile Solutions you are seeing a lot of.
Like using cameras to solve fitment and returns and things like that so I just I felt like there was a lot more interesting.
New approaches to customer experience in The Innovation Pavilion than on the main main interest rate show floors.
[35:39] What was the strangest thing you saw.
[35:42] Strangest thing I saw I probably should have come to rehearsal and gotten that question ahead of time so I could have thought about it.
[35:50] Yeah well I’ll tell you an odd experience I had so you know I have this weird Affinity / fetish for these digital fact eggs.
And I keep predicting that they’re going to be a big thing and they never are.
So of course I had to visit all of the exhibitors at this boot at the show and there’s like six or seven.
Big manufacturers and then probably 20 little manufacturers of these things and then RF and so one of the companies I’m not even going to name them,
they’re noted in my mind because they were the first tags that Amazon used in the four-star store in Amazon has changed vendors and they now use a different vendor but this first vendor
um had a lot of interesting tags and some new new technology in their booth in the way I remember what I what I see at the booth in order to kind of type up my show notes is I
take a picture of the booth and then I type my notes below the picture in Evernote so I tried to take a picture of this booth and they
tackled me and told me that no photos were allowed and I’m like,
okay do you have like a brochure something I could take no no we don’t have a brochure.
So I’m like so wait you have a giant 30 by 30 booth at the show and you paid a bunch of money to come here and like.
You don’t in any way want anyone to remember who the heck you are or be able to contact you after the show.
[37:13] We were never here.
[37:15] Yes I.
[37:16] They make you delete the picture.
[37:19] No and I mean I could have but I mean I just didn’t even want to take a picture at that point I was I just thought that was so funny like
ten years ago that was about get super common thing and people are worried you’re going to steal their intellectual property but I feel like if you have intellectual property that you don’t want anyone to know about
don’t buy a trade show booth.
[37:38] Weird that is weird see I knew you had one in.
[37:43] So that stuff was all interesting I went to most of the Keynotes and I feel like this is going to be a Captain Obvious comment to you but
I mostly went all the key notes which are all these big retail CEOs
and I’ve mostly decided that it’s a complete waste of time going to any of these shows and sitting in on the on the CEO Keynotes.
Nobody ever said like they’re all perfectly media prepped and they mostly Play commercials about their businesses and no you know nobody says anything very like informative or,
you know that isn’t already on the public record at these things so I don’t know why I always get excited to hear you know some retail CEO speak when.
Like in reality like it’s not bad it’s just it’s just not valuable or super interesting.
[38:32] Yeah yeah it’s tough there at some point their public companies to so they’re in their quiet period by the time this show comes out so they can’t even really talked about you know anything that’s.
[38:43] Oh yeah no I don’t even.
[38:44] Air and yeah.
[38:45] I don’t even fault them but I just tough right and so you had like Kevin plank who’s you know the founder of Under Armour and you know he recently stepped down as CEO but he’s like.
Like Chief brand evangelists or something.
One that got like a little heat Michelle gas is the CEO of coals we’ll talk about this later but like you know Cole’s kind of underperformed a little bit for holiday and,
and so that’s that’s interesting but she also won the,
the internet Gala award as the person of the year and there are people that are pointing out like what’s the state of our industry of like the.
Person of the year is like a CEO that’s like let a company for five years that mostly has been in sales and market cap decline over that entire five-year period.
[39:32] Emma close a bunch of stores they’ve closed Less stores than a lot of other retailers.
[39:36] No I would say they have performed better than most of their peers and their Peril I think that’s true and that’s why it’s kind of news that their their performances starting to,
to soften the the one thing that maybe was newsworthy about her Kina like obviously they get a bunch of Buzz for
being the first ones that were all in on like allowing Amazon returns and their store.
Um and I don’t know why this gets so much coverage I mean it’s an interesting tactic but to me it’s not a game-changing thing.
But you know a big question has been like how valuable is that to Cole’s like is it working and and she gave a full-throated defense of the tactic and said that it’s working.
Quite well and that we’re happy we’re doing it and that we’ve expanded it to all stores but then she said like two sentences that didn’t like,
and I’m like.
[40:38] It was very vague yeah.
[40:39] Yeah so so I don’t know so that was a little interesting.
[40:43] It was interesting there’s a lot of pictures on social media accompanying that article and they showed Kohl’s store and had a tiny little coal sign and it was just surrounded by Amazon promotional materials all throughout the front of the store and then inside the store.
[40:56] Yeah and I think one of the things that’s happening is you know Cole’s is always been heavily promotional.
Like I think when you return something to Amazon you get like a fifty percent off of a Cole’s item certificate that you know they’re trying to juice you too.
To buy something presumably it’s super little margins when you’re on that visit,
so that stuff got a lot of Buzz as you know but listeners may not know a lot of my time as in RF gets booked up with,
these these various committee and Council meetings that are going on and so you know we’re members of the digital Council which is a big group of.
Of people that are primarily focused on digital Shopper marketing.
And so you know they have a long meeting at the show and you know I’m still on the board of what used to be called shop dot-org now called the digital Advisory Board.
And we have a long meeting during the show and there’s usually some interesting content at those meetings so I would say both of those meetings were good and I’m probably biased because I was the speaker the digital council meeting.
And I gave a presentation about like what western Brands can learn from China so sharing a bunch of,
interesting tactics that are going on in China that my hypothesis is you know that people ought to be trying in in the west and.
[42:22] Is this the salty wait for you tried to get your your prediction of QR codes out there.
[42:28] Potentially I’ll do anything I can.
[42:29] Talk about it the Ulta.
[42:30] I’ll do anything I can to win the forecasting battle against you just got so yeah.
No I did not I did not hit that hard but I got good feedback and I enjoyed doing it it’s a scary audience because you know I talk to people all the time but this is like.
50 of my closest work friends that are all like smarter and more digitally savvy than me so like if you say something wrong.
They’re pretty likely to call you out on it so which is not necessarily as true in my day job.
[43:04] So I was pleased that that went well and then in a rare treat for me I stayed for a couple days after an RF this year,
and there are a lot of events that other people program to take advantage of everyone being in town for an RF,
so PS FK is a research company that does a lot of great retail content they do a bunch of retail tours in New York the week of in our.
And they had kind of a direct-to-consumer day where they had a bunch of leaders from direct-to-consumer companies come in and talk and so,
I got to send it on that and that was kind of interesting content I think I inadvertently got some Buzz cuz,
unlike some of these really polish CEOs for the big retail companies like the CEOs for some of these startups probably share more information than they should and so one of the founders of neighborhood Goods was there there there.
[44:00] Kind of new retail concept there are like a retail Marketplace so vendors paid rent space in their store they open one store and,
Texas in Dallas there now they just opened a second store in Manhattan and they’re about to open a third store in Austin and in our industry via all the Talking Heads I would say they get a ton of Buzz,
you know the one thing they don’t do is disclosed like any sales data so you know you never know how meaningful their sales are but the CEO at one point mentioned that their best-selling skew by volume,
by number of units and dollar volume is a t-shirt with their logo on it.
[44:42] And so I you know in my mind thinking like that probably says all you need to know about you know how much of the vendors products they’re selling that are paying for space in those stores if they’re evil logo t-shirts their best.
[44:55] Ouch then he went Savage on social media.
[44:58] I did not mean it to be super- but I just thought that was an interesting data point and then I went into the belly of the Beast,
our friend Scott Galloway who loves his predictions as you’ll know.
He had an event he’s a professor at NYU and he gave a lecture at NYU,
kind of a couple hours sharing his recap of his 2019 predictions and doing his 2020 predictions so I sat in on that and.
I don’t think any of the predictions were very new to those of us that follow him regularly like you know he tends to be pretty repetitive and and so these were mostly repetitive,
predictions but there was a question and answer session afterwards and I thought the question-and-answer session was really interesting and people people asked him good questions and he had you know insightful answer so that would that part was fun.
[45:56] Yeah he’s a very anti Sheryl Sandberg Casper and then he’s he’s been antitussive for a long time and he’s gotten his like face ripped off by Tesla this.
[46:06] Yeah so it’s funny.
[46:08] Predicting it will go bankrupt and you know there’s crazy and it’s fraud and.
[46:13] Yeah yeah he thinks it’s way overvalued and he
it’s kind of funny because he talks about he like he openly talks about this he’s like people that agree with me tend to agree with me on most things I got like he’s you know philosophically aligned on most things but he’s like most of the people that follow me,
like Tesla way more than me
and they have way more digital privacy concerns than I have so he’s like whenever I share my position on those two things I tend to get creamed and so like it almost became a joke like people standing up there were like challenging him on his,
Tesla predictions and like you know people came up and like made an argument for the Tesla evaluation and why it was reasonable and stuff and so there were some,
pretty funny back and forth on that stuff and he was making fun of the fact that like that’s most likely what he’ll get murdered for,
and then he did a podcast after this event where him and Kara Swisher who generally agree on most things on their podcast like got in a pretty heated argument,
on the whole should Apple unlock the terrorists phones and and Scott comes down heavily on absolutely Apple like should,
should immediately unlock the terrorists phones in the privacy concerns are kind of,
BS in Scott’s mind and so and he recognizes that like,
that’s the other thing he gets a lot of heat for is that most people that follow him don’t agree with that position.
[47:43] Wasn’t swisher and RF like interviewing the politician or something.
[47:46] She was I don’t remember who she interviewed because that was during one of my meeting so I missed it.
[47:53] I think it was Paul Ryan I didn’t understand what the heck that had to do with retailgeek.
[47:57] Yeah so there’s kind of a tradition that interrupts like a big part of interests job is Lobby is federal lobbying and it that’s particularly relevant right now because why.
These privacy laws that all the states pass are passing have.
Potential major intended and unintended ramifications on retailers like a lot of them like arguably make it illegal to run a loyalty program for example,
um so so the lobbying is a big deal in RF it’s a lot of their energy as in lobbying and so if you look at the keynote speakers over the last several years in RF
they had Bill Clinton shortly after he went out of office they had George Bush Senior shortly after he went out of office and so they tend to have a
a big name politician and this year it was Paul Ryan but I didn’t get to see it
I didn’t hear any particularly newsworthy things come out of it but I can’t speak to it firsthand.
[48:53] Furcal anything else we need to know about NRF.
[48:56] So that was my in a referee cap that kind of match up with what you followed on social media in the news or did I give you.
[49:03] Was it seemed like kind of the the timing was interesting because you know at the same time you had the Casper S1 filing drop in this kind of,
pivoting to General news but kind of overlapped with an RF a fair amount then you had a fair amount of bad news from Q4
some of this it’s hard to tell if it was just kind of there’s a bunch of retailers that are kind of in that Molly gedan bucket that held on through Q4 is it’s kind of crazy to once you make it to August you might as well not close any stores until
until January so it’s hard to know how much is kind of an overhang kind of a holiday overhang and how much is kind of.
The holiday actually wasn’t as good as we thought were those some of the topics that NRF.
[49:47] Yeah so not in the formal presentations but in the sort of hallway conversations this this was a big point right and,
you know you and I have talked about on the show we were talking about it in December that I sort of felt like it was going to be a soft holiday that you know they were going to be
profitability challenges in talking to people at this show one of the interesting things that kind of reaffirms that it was a soft holiday is
there is apparently like a ton of excess product in the market which has not been the case the last several holidays and so retailers are getting asked to take a bunch of.
You know deeply discounted inventory from manufacturers and what we would call distressed inventory,
that there’s a glut of that on the market this year and so that’s a bad sign it means retailers didn’t sell through all their inventory the manufacturer didn’t move as many units as they expected and now they’re going to liquidate all that inventory at low cost which.
You know means consumers closets are going to fill up with with cheap clothes and you know it’s going to be longer before they can they can sell new stuff and you know a bunch of more of this like.
You know desirable Brands will show up in TJ Maxx and,
places like that so there’s a bunch of negative ramifications and you know it’s.
[51:06] The my theory is like it’s for two reasons like,
that we just did have a soft holiday and people didn’t sell as much as they wanted but the last several holidays I feel like retailers have been super careful about constraining their inventory and being really smart and using a lot of,
new modern tools to predict demand better and so they actually,
we’re in really good inventory positions the last couple of years and what’s different this year is potential fear of tariffs,
and so my my theory which I have no way to validate but my theory is that a lot of manufacturer is particular know they’re getting their goods from China.
Made more stuff before tariffs kicked in as a hedge against potential tariffs and so they just ended up with higher inventory positions and they’ve been you know trying to sell that through to retailers,
and so as you know we have a glut of product and that that actually bodes,
poorly you know for the end of Q4 but also for q1 sales across much of a bunch of retail categories.
[52:14] So I during the show or around the show you know there are bunt you know holiday earnings announcement started to come in.
Before this show MasterCard released there.
Sort of holiday recap and MasterCard has this product called spending pulse where they Aggregate and anonymize all the,
the spending behaviors of everyone that carries a MasterCard branded card.
And they said holiday retail sales were up 3.4 percent from November 1st to December 24th and the online sales were up almost nineteen percent and so those are decent numbers,
that would calm pretty you know favorably with last year I think those are very similar to last year’s numbers.
And that would imply that everyone had a decent holiday but then the individual retailer started announcing their earnings and nobody has earnings.
That seems like they jive with that Master card number right so so not shocking the JCPenney was down but they were down you know lower than expectations so they were down seven and a half percent which is huge,
we alluded to this earlier but Cole’s was down point two percent and they’ve been one of the,
the you know better performers in the apparel category for a while so the fact that they’re down was was alarming and surprising.
[53:32] L Brands was down 3% Macy’s was down,
point seven percent which they had been up the previous quarter so that was a big holiday Miss and then I think to me the one that was most surprising and alarming and kind of triggered some,
some stock alarm Bells was Target and their same-store sales were only up 1.4 percent versus,
5.7 percent last year so that was a big mix against their guidance and you know you,
you listen to that bloodbath of retailers like almost nobody you know performing above their comps and you try to reconcile that with the whole industry being up 3.4 percent and it just doesn’t make sense to me I think,
I think that Master Gardener is just wrong or or like there there’s something unique about MasterCard carrying people that you know is different than other spending.
[54:27] Yeah yeah the.
Jury’s out I think until we see how Amazon and they report on the 30th and will be here on the Jason Scott show recapping that for everybody that’s going to be really really important and then the second most important going to be Walmart and I’m not sure,
you there in Feb 18 kids are in that off-cycle yeah.
So it’s going to be awesome to see how that goes because if they both didn’t do well then it really is a head-scratcher but even if they you know let’s say Amazon grew like 25% or something.
It’s kind of makes the,
you can get the e-commerce number to 19 percent but like what the heck happened to the rest of retail who actually grew everyone that we know that reporting didn’t it would have to be Walmart or you know.
Someone else I don’t know,
Costco yeah maybe it’s the dollar stores there’s there has been a bunch of strength and kind of like what we call the value plays the dollar stores the Wholesale Club’s the T.J.Maxx has maybe those are the guys that kind of saved the day and there’s haven’t reported yet.
[55:47] Yeah but I think no matter how you slice it like this is another version of bifurcation that like you know if holiday sales are robust like they were not,
robust for everyone that there were you know huge winners and losers and you know if that was the case which it certainly seems like it was
you know you’re going to see that play out in you know future store closures and bankruptcies and all the other things that you know retailers have to do when they start to get into distressed.
Situations and you know along those lines I think we have already seen a bunch of announcements now that they’ve gone through holiday,
the upcoming store closures.
[56:30] Any other news you want to cover.
[56:33] I mean those are the big things like just to recap the store closures real quick like that was like expresses closing a hundred stores JCPenney’s closing 6 more stores
Pier 1 is closing half their stores Bed Bath & Beyond closing 40 stores,
a slightly surprising one of me is bows which had a chain of company-owned stores.
Is closing all of their bricks and mortar they’re going to be you know a pure brand and Direct online sales only so you know a significant amount of store closures to start the year,
so it’s kind of falling into your whole you know Mama gettin story that you like to always talk about.
And then I guess just a couple of small little news items that are like you know pretty interesting in the Commerce base Google made an acquisition of this company called pointy.
[57:25] And I wouldn’t expect people to necessarily recognize pointy but pointy is a,
a data company that makes it super easy for particularly small retailers to upload their store inventory to Google.
So that lets you do local inventory ads where we’re like you know you do a search for a coat and Google says oh that coats in stock in this store that’s a block from you.
And it also you know facilitates the sort of instant purchasing Google and a lot of other things and so it’s it was interesting that Google’s acquiring this capability to help retailers on board.
Their inventory to Google much easier that you know could be the first of a bunch of steps we see in Google trying to get more serious about Commerce,
and then you know the Gap had previously announced that they were going to split Old Navy off from the rest of the company,
and they kind of had assigned CEOs and then this month announced that they’re actually not going to do that they fired that CEO in the,
the son of the founder I came back to run the company so so a lot of drama going on at the Gap right now.
[58:44] Yeah well I think they were another example like I,
I don’t know I think it’s a high level the story was a bunch of the Gap brands are underperforming the one Gap brand had been performing strongly was Old Navy and you know so there’s an argument that like.
Old Navy wasn’t getting full credit in the public markets because they’re being dragged down by these other brands so you split up.
The strong brand Old Navy from the weaker brands,
and you know maybe you can carve out more value that of course ignores the fact that,
like all of these Brands share a shared infrastructure the same it stuff the same e-commerce stuff the same supply chain stuff when you split them up you got to spend a minimum shh money to rebuild that you know.
For both companies and and I think the thing that made this untenable was.
Old Navy didn’t have a great holiday either and so you know they were left with the prospect of potentially splitting up and having two distressed Brands neither one performing very well and.
You know they just spent a bunch of money and and you know their employees Focus was all put on this this.
Split instead of focusing on on customers and in the right product in the right right brand positioning for that stuff so so I think it became scary and they pulled back.
[1:00:08] Must be frustrating imagine if you were on that team and you probably had to separate all the point-of-sale systems and the customer databases and.
[1:00:18] Yo and I’m.
[1:00:18] Pretty far down the path.
[1:00:19] Like I’ll be honest I’m sure there were people that were far down that path and the whole time they were doing it we’re saying this is stupid we shouldn’t be doing this and now they’re pissed that they wasted all that.
Because it’s yeah it’s not going to see the light of day but you know sometimes those are unavoidable things like you know there,
there are storied brand I hope they find their way through it.
But Scott that’s probably going to play be a good place to wrap it up because we have hit our usual 1 hour mark so we’ve used up more than our allotted listener time,
as always if people have a comment or question feel free to drop us a note on Twitter or Facebook
and for sure we need to get those iTunes reviews going for the 2020 year fresh reviews are super important so if you haven’t written a review for a podcast yet we’d love it if you jump over to iTunes and write us that review.
[1:01:15] And make them five stars thanks everybody.
[1:01:17] Yeah until next time happy commercing.
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