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eTail West 2017: What We Learned About the Future of Retail

Posted by Phil Davis

March 09, 2017

etail-west-2017-retailers-1.jpgEven though Chicago was a pleasant (and uncharacteristic) 58 degrees, who can say no to visiting Palm Springs in the middle of winter and spending five days mingling with retailers like Disney, Nike and Samsung (to name just a few)? Last week, the TowerData team attended eTail West, an annual event dedicated to helping the retail industry expand and innovate.

Here are a few things we learned about the future of retail while networking with 1,200 retailers and 600 retail companies.

Predictive Analytics & Artificial Intelligence

From conversion optimization to omni-channel strategies to B2B e-commerce fundamentals, the presentations and panels at eTail West covered a lot of ground.

One of the more prevalent (and innovative) subjects examined was the growing use of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). With the help of AI and an algorithm that leverages a brand’s database, predictive analytics empowers a business to better understand its customers, what they’re doing and what they’re likely to do next. AI and predictive analytics allow brands to automatically create hyper-personalized product and incentive recommendations for every customer, leading to better engagement and more sales.

Whereas in the past speakers would advise companies on how to improve their customer relationship management (CRM), how to build customer loyalty programs or how to turn their email service providers (ESPs) into automation engines, we anticipate this theme of using customer data to fuel AI and predictive analytics will become an increasingly hot topic.

Connecting Identities Across Channels

In addition to predictive analytics and AI, another popular conference subject was using data to connect identities across the entire customer journey.

For example, on the second day of eTail West, employees of several large brands (including Williams-Sonoma, American Apparel and Oracle) led a panel discussion called “Consolidating Online and Offline Data for a 360-Degree View of the Customer.” During the discussion, panelists emphasized the importance of connecting the in-store customer experience with the online experience. They advised companies to:

  • Share order management information across channels to obtain comprehensive visibility into the order process
  • Establish real-time collection and publication of product data across channels
  • Integrate customer data with business objectives to forecast product demand and plan promotions

The ability to tie together a customer’s in-store, online, app and email behavior allows a brand to quickly identify the customer, regardless of the channel he or she is using. This is critical to a company’s success, as it allows the business to create a seamless brand relationship. And the most effective way to connect this data? An email address. More specifically, a hashed email address.

A hashed email encrypts an email address into a unique hexadecimal string that doesn’t change, no matter where that address is entered. Since the address is encrypted, the user’s privacy isn’t compromised. And because the hashed email is associated with only one specific user for the life of the address, marketers have extensive insight into how and where this particular individual spends their time online.

Plus, unlike cookies, hashed email addresses can track behavior across multiple devices. A hashed email empowers marketers to create a consistent, personalized customer experience across multiple channels and devices.

While getting the opportunity to meet with some of the biggest brands in the world was certainly one of the best parts of the conference, I (and the rest of the TowerData team) have to say the highlight of the week was co-hosting Party on the Point with Bounce Exchange and TurnTo. Eating Tex-Mex and chatting with other eTail West attendees during a beautiful evening on the JW Marriott back veranda is definitely tough to beat.

What were some of your big takeaways from the event? Tweet at us, post on our Facebook or connect with us on LinkedIn and let us know!

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