Episode 37
June 22, 2017

Brick and Mortar Still Matters

The guys discuss in-store experiences that don't suck, and recap IRCE.

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Brian: [00:00:55] Welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:00] And I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:01] And today we are going to cover a lot of stuff that Phillip got to do recently. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:01:08] {laughter} There's a lot of stuff.

Brian: [00:01:10] And a lot of other stuff as well.

Phillip: [00:01:11] Well... A lot of stuff that we both have done. Let's be honest.

Brian: [00:01:14] That's true. That's true.

Phillip: [00:01:14] Let's be honest. You were at IRCE in Chicago. Come on. You were there.

Brian: [00:01:19] I was. But you did some pretty cool stuff like while I was working the booth, you were like out doing awesome stuff.

Phillip: [00:01:27] Well, that's... I was working the booth, too. Anyway, we'll get there. It's good stuff. Hang on, because this is going to be great. I know you hear IRCE, and if you're like me, you just kind of throw up in your mouth a little bit. But I promise you, it's gonna be a really great episode. So stick around. And just as always we want to remind you, we need your feedback about today's show. And I've got a couple of things that you can leave that feedback for. We just launched our redesign at FutureCommerce.fm. So we want you to go there and go ahead and smash that Subscribe button there at the top. And when you subscribe on iTunes or Google Play, make sure to leave us the five star review and leave us a little feedback. We want you to get engaged in the show and give us your take on things. Remember, you can always listen from your Amazon Echo or any Alexa device on TuneIn radio with the phrase, "Alexa, play Future Commerce podcast." All right. So IRCE. You were there. I was there. What's your hot take? Give me a one sentence review of IRCE if you had to do it.

Brian: [00:02:31] It was the same. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:02:33] The same, but smaller.

Brian: [00:02:36] The same, but smaller. It was about the... I mean, I don't know what the final numbers on the show were, but I felt like it was the same as it was last year, which was the same as it was the year before. There were a couple interesting things to note on the exhibit floor. And let's be honest, IRCE is all about that exhibit floor.

Phillip: [00:03:00] Yeah, it really is. Yeah.

Brian: [00:03:03] I feel like this is the first year where I feel like Magento was towering above everyone else.

Phillip: [00:03:09] Oh my word. Yup.

Brian: [00:03:11] As far as like their booth presence and the traffic to their booth. And I mean, as far as eCommerce platforms go, it was front and center. You know, obviously Salesforce Commerce Cloud was there. But that's sort of a larger part of the Salesforce offering.

Phillip: [00:03:30] Sure. Yep.

Brian: [00:03:32] It wasn't super imposing. I don't know. Same with Oracle and same with IBM. Their booths are a little bit understated. Magento's was like this two story towering booth of meeting rooms. It was crazy.

Phillip: [00:03:52] Yeah. Big, big, big space this year. Definitely a much larger presence than any years past.

Brian: [00:04:01] That said the Shopify Plus booth was fricking sweet.

Phillip: [00:04:05] Pretty cool, right?

Brian: [00:04:09] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:04:09] You know, Magento is all business these days, but Shopify has really nailed the sort of fun and as a lifestyle brand esthetic.

Brian: [00:04:20] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:04:20] Yeah. So they had the whole ski lodge thing going on, which was an interesting departure from all their VR talk last year. But very, very cool booth as well. Any other booths that were surprising to you?

Brian: [00:04:38] Not...

Phillip: [00:04:38] I'll tell you one.

Brian: [00:04:39] OK, go ahead.

Phillip: [00:04:40] Did you see a booth for Digital River?

Brian: [00:04:44] No, I didn't.

Phillip: [00:04:46] Yeah. And so I had taken notice of them a few years ago because they had this like virtual ski thing where you can like... It's an actual like... You put on actual ski boots and you sit on an actual thing and you physically ski on the ski simulator that has a screen that's like 360 wrap around like field of view and just like kind of incredible experience. And they made this huge splash a few years ago. I couldn't even find a booth for them. I'm sure that they were there, but it was so small I couldn't find it. So it just made me take notice. There are so many eCommerce platforms that used to have massive booths at IRCE that were nonexistent. They don't even exist anymore.

Brian: [00:05:33] That's exactly right.

Phillip: [00:05:33] Like Meebo is a platinum sponsor at IRCE... That was like, you know, they just acquired Marju, I think, which usually has a big booth. Volusion I didn't see a booth for, but FitForCommerce being like the third biggest booth that I saw... Shocker.

Brian: [00:05:50] That was a shocker.

Phillip: [00:05:50] I just don't get the landscape right now. It used to be dominated by payments, platforms and large eCommerce platforms. And now it seems like review platforms and email service providers. That's all that's left at IRCE as far as the big booths go. Anyway.

Brian: [00:06:11] Oh, you know, who else kind of made a splash that was interesting?

Phillip: [00:06:15] Mailchip?

Brian: [00:06:16] Well, WebLink.

Phillip: [00:06:17] Oh, yeah.

Brian: [00:06:18] Right. Well, WebLink was rebranded now as well as...

Phillip: [00:06:21] Workarea.

Brian: [00:06:24] Yeah they have two different products. Workarea and Orderbot.

Phillip: [00:06:27] Yup.

Brian: [00:06:27] And this was, I'd say, their biggest showing as well.

Phillip: [00:06:30] That's true. It was actually their biggest showing. And Orderbot, great branding. Great positioning too in the marketplace as far as like, "Hey, we get the challenges of eCommerce because we invested in an order management platform." That sounds awfully familiar. Hint, hint: Magento. So I feel like it's interesting. They're definitely... It's interesting how in one show, your whole take of the eco system can change, based on who's willing to spend some money. I think I'm more impressed with Magento than ever and a little bit worried because you look at how many of the very, very large players from five years ago are not around anymore. You know, ATG used to have a massive booth. Hybris used to have a massive booth. These are names...

Brian: [00:07:29] Did you even see Hybris' booth anywhere?

Phillip: [00:07:29] I didn't see SAP anywhere. I didn't see them.

Brian: [00:07:32] Yeah. They probably had a booth, but I didn't see it.

Phillip: [00:07:33] They were likely there. But they just weren't in a noticeable, you know, big splash spot. Anyway. Also noticeable was Visa Checkout who spent a tremendous amount of money. They're the ones who had the two story booth last year. Also sort of nonexistent. Anyway. Very, very interesting show. Well, what I found more interesting than anything sort of pivoting away from the show itself was the opportunity being in Chicago, because I have sort of been on this really interesting journey running for the first time in my life. I waited till 36 to actually start, you know, doing any physical exertion of any kind.

Brian: [00:08:21] But you're killing it. You're killing it, though.

Phillip: [00:08:23] No, no. I'm doing all right. I'm doing all right. There are plenty of people who are...

Brian: [00:08:27] You're killing it. You're killing it.

Phillip: [00:08:27] I'm doing alright. So I've been super interested in Nike as a brand for well, my whole life. But when you think of a massive, you know, global brand, you probably think of Nike. Right? And so there're only three Nike Labs in the world. One happened to be in Chicago on Magnificent Mile. So I took a stroll up there, and I stopped into the Nike lab. I was super impressed with their sort of reimagining of a retail experience. It was really, really impressive. So not only do they have product differentiation in the Nike Lab where they've really taken sort of the fashion forwardness of their sports apparel to the next level, to like, you know, straight up I would say borderline business casual wear. Like they're actually going to the next level. But they've actually sort of reimagined what Pop-Up Store like a concept store would look like. So the Nike Lab is really, really impressive. If you have a chance and you're near one, I believe there's one in New York and one in Chicago here in the United States. I would highly suggest that you go check it out just from a retail perspective, just to see. It's really neat. I was really impressed with a couple of things. And we have a lot to talk about. I won't spend too much time on it. I was impressed with a couple of things. First was some of their products were had really interesting design takes that sort of looked like they were less functional and more high concept like magnetic buckle closures. But in speaking to one of what they call their consultants, which are, you know, really just salespeople and speaking to one of them, they actually had a really cool story to tell around the magnetic closure actually being a route to accessibility and to provide people with disabilities the ability to have high fashion shoes that, you know, can self close that aren't necessarily just Velcro closures. And I thought that... But also, it's like a new take on a different sizing metric. So only having two or three sizes of shoes and then having various ways to sort of personalize them with buckles and bungee, which I thought was really, really interesting. Personally not in my style so much, but very, very neat. Also a little take on customization in the Nike ID kind of thing, which the customization has been around there for Nike for ages. But I just thought it was really, really impressive and it really was a great in-store experience. And it kind of made me notice that... Listen, there can't be a Nike Lab on every corner in the United States. But shopping can still be a destination. As much as we talk about digital commerce, shopping can still be a destination and experience. And when it's done well, when it's done right, shopping as an experience is better. The shopping experience in store can be a hundred times better than digital will ever be because it's fully immersive, and it is a tactile experience. And, you know, we forget about that. And we are throwing a lot of that away for convenience these days. And I usually argue the other side of it, which is, you know, shopping doesn't have to be a destination. It can be at your destination. But I was really, really impressed with the Nike Lab. And then aside from that, it sort of made me notice the really amazing in person, the brick and mortar commerce experiences I've had recently. I'd never been to an Ulta before. Have you been to Ulta?

Brian: [00:12:26] Not for many years.

Phillip: [00:12:28] So it's interesting. So I've never been to Ulta mostly because I don't wear makeup, and I'd always sort of thought of it as a Sephora type store where, you know, it's a destination for every sort of brand that you could possibly want to buy. What I found was really interesting is, I went to Ulta specifically because I had to buy a specific type of shampoo. If you know me, I've got this crazy hair. I get a lot of product in that hair. And sometimes that product likes to really mess up my hair. So I wanted to go get this shampoos, like clarifying shampoo to like get all that crap out of my hair. And the only place I could buy it was Ulta. So I went there. And it's amazing, as a person who is... I'm doing a lot of talking on this episode just be forewarned. But as a person who is not quite a digital native, but who is very eCommerce minded and digital commerce minded, and I do a 50, 60% of my shopping on an Amazon app, walking into that store was basically like having a real world digital commerce experience. The way the store is categorized and the way that it is laid out, the merchandizing of the store is incredibly intuitive and kind of impressive and way closer to the way that we shop online than, you know, like a Target or a Walmart would be. And so having a mixture of categorization by brand, but also a categorization by purpose and need, which I just think is really phenomenal and having incredible depth of product lines in products that not just would be exclusive, but like the longtail of products that most people would never need. But they're there for completeness sake. And you only really get that anymore in digital commerce. So to have a place that IRL where all of this stuff is and can be a destination. And then besides products, services, right? And so they have a a blow dry bar and and sort of a salon there in the store. And I think the thing that sort of sealed the deal for me in saying, "Wow, these guys are doing retail totally different is that people who had color in their hair that were sitting around waiting were being escorted around the store and being given like personalized recommendations in front of the products, with the color in their hair and the foil and the whole thing. But they're being escorted around the store with a personal shopper. And the person's like, "And this is the product we just used in your hair," and blah, blah, blah. And they're like talking about it and then showing the competitor products to it. And this is why this is different. But it was such it was like having a personal shopper while you're in the midst of receiving the experience of having bought the product. And I was just blown away by that. So anyway, so those were two great commerce experiences. And I just thought that that was like something worth talking about that, you know, we don't usually talk about on the show.

Brian: [00:15:54] No, it's amazing, actually. This is amazing that you're talking about your experience because Ulta has actually been a darling of the market and has actually outperformed Amazon recently, which is mindblowing. And you can look this up, it's on Bloomberg in an article called Ulta is Retail's Beauty Queen.

Phillip: [00:16:24] Yes.

Brian: [00:16:24] By Shelly Banjo. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:16:25] Yeah.

Brian: [00:16:25] And essentially, Ulta has had fourth quarter sales. They grew 16.6% from the year before, making it its eighth straight quarter of double digits same store sales growth.

Phillip: [00:16:40] Oh, my word.

Brian: [00:16:41] Mind blowing. This is a company that's investing in their in-store experience.

Phillip: [00:16:47] Yep.

Brian: [00:16:48] And it is paying dividends. So merchants listen up. Do not ignore this. Give your customers are good in-store experience.

Phillip: [00:16:58] If you don't understand what... I guess if you're not near an Ulta it'd be really hard to explain. But I think like they have mastered and set up the store in such a way that it is a transformative, it is a different experience. And I think that that's something that you just would have to experience yourself and then contrast that, you know, leave Ulta and go straight over to Sephora and see what I'm talking about. It's a completely different experience. Yeah. Very, very, very interesting stuff. Sorry, you were saying something else.

Brian: [00:17:38] I was just going to add to that. There was a study put out by Coupon Follow recently that they did on millennial shopping? And Richard Kestenbaum brought some attention to this in his Forbes article from just last week on June 14th called This Is How Millennials Shop. There's a ton of really fascinating information. And I posted some thoughts on LinkedIn about this, and I'm not going to get into all of them right now. But just to highlight more of what you're saying about in-store experience, check this out. So right now, millennials have a reputation for doing everything on their smartphones. But actually the majority of millennials make most of their purchases off line.

Phillip: [00:18:25] Wait what?

Brian: [00:18:25] And about what a third... Yeah, about a third of millennials make the majority of their purchases on a desktop computer. Only 16% of millennials make the majority of their purchases on a mobile device. According to this.

Phillip: [00:18:39] I don't know. That challenges everything that we've been led to believe. That's an interesting study. What was the name of the site that did this study?

Brian: [00:18:50] Coupon Follow. It's actually pretty well documented. They did a really nice job on the study.

Phillip: [00:18:56] So who's buying overpriced Chinos from Bonobo's then? And why Walmart acquired them...

Brian: [00:19:03] Apparently only Walmart shoppers.

Phillip: [00:19:04] Apparently not millennials who shop in-store only because Bonobo's is the darling pure play eCommerce store that is apparently doing it all differently. Sorry, I didn't mean to segue, but I just did.

Brian: [00:19:20] Good segue.

Phillip: [00:19:20] It's interesting. We'll come back to some other thing. I have some other really cool things talk about for in-store retail experiences. But what you know, this Walmart Bonobo's acquisition completely overshadowed by the Amazon Whole Foods acquisition. But I think it fits in there in Amazon's brand new strategy. Right?

Brian: [00:19:42] To just overshadow Walmart on everything? {laughter}

Phillip: [00:19:45] {laughter} Well, not Amazon. Yeah, it's a yeah. It's like Walmart's new strategy is just to be the bridesmaid all the time.

Brian: [00:19:52] Walmart's new strategy. Right. Absolutely. Yeah, totally. Yeah. No, I totally agree. I mean, this is Marc Lore working his magic strings once again. And I think definitely out of the blue, although I would say with the acquisitions of Modcloth and Moosejaw, it shouldn't have been too much of a surprise.

Phillip: [00:20:11] No, it's not a surprise at all. And in fact, I even told you earlier on, I was like, isn't this old news?

Brian: [00:20:17] Yeah, I feel like it's old news, actually, but it's not that old. But Marc Lore is on a tear right now. You know, I think it's absolutely necessary, if Walmart's going to try and actually compete with Amazon, then they're going to have to move up market in some ways.

Phillip: [00:20:39] Sure.

Brian: [00:20:40] In the same way that Amazon is trying to move down market and up market and everywhere at the same time.

Phillip: [00:20:45] It all seems to definitely be in that fashion space. And maybe that makes sense with their current strategy. Definitely makes them hipper. I think the actual strategy is vertically integrated eCommerce.

Brian: [00:20:56] Right.

Phillip: [00:20:58] It's really, according to TechCrunch, in 2012 was the next big thing. So I guess it's finally arrived. You know, it's interesting that brands like this, though, that are still considered startups, you know, seven years later are just now being acquired. It makes me wonder if they, I mean, it's not cheap by any means. Three hundred and ten million dollar acquisition is a lot of Chinos.

Brian: [00:21:19] It's a lot less than thirteen point seven billion.

Phillip: [00:21:21] Yeah, it is a heck of a lot less. You know what I find more interesting than anything else? Andy Dunn, CEO over at Bonobo's, has to be an employee of Walmart for four years to get a 20 million dollar comp up. So that sounds awful.

Brian: [00:21:38] He's going to hang in there like Marissa Mayer at Yahoo! {laughter}

Phillip: [00:21:42] Let's hope he does a little bit better than Marissa. I hope he fares better. Speaking of Walmart, actually, this is about a month old now, but on Recode, Amazon market cap at four hundred fifty nine billion. Actually, it's really interesting because after the Whole Foods acquisition announcement their market cap went up 16 billion, and they acquired Whole Foods for thirteen point seven. So they actually got a two billion dollar market cap increase and a Whole Foods for free, which almost sounds like Amazon Prime deal, if you ask me so.

Brian: [00:22:18] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:22:18] But Amazon is now worth more than two Walmarts. Walmart's two hundred twenty eight billion. Amazon's up to, it's pushing 500 at this point. It's, you know, when is that going to end? {laughter}

Brian: [00:22:31] We briefly touched on this before. But Amazon is a new breed of company. It's not a monopoly. We need to come up with a term for it. But it's a business that's so spread out across so many industry.

Phillip: [00:22:45] Right.

Brian: [00:22:46] Their ecosystem is so wide that it's... I don't even know what to call it. We need to come up with a name.

Phillip: [00:22:53] So Modcloth. So can you see Modcloth or Bonobo's being sold in Walmart?

Brian: [00:23:00] I think that that would be weird.

Phillip: [00:23:01] It doesn't make sense, right?

Brian: [00:23:03] Yeah. I don't see that happening. I see them maybe doing something with brick and mortar. Because those are both pure play, right? Or Bonobo's had some sort of initiative...

Phillip: [00:23:15] So Bonobo's has been selling in like Nordstrom and they have their own, you know, pop up stores.

Brian: [00:23:21] Pop up stores, yeah.

Phillip: [00:23:21] But for the most part, it's not even really you know, you can't say that it's not purely eCommerce. I mean, they don't really have... Their strategy doesn't revolve around wholesale. But it's interesting. Man, I just find it very interesting.

Brian: [00:23:40] I wonder if they'll open some sort of high end brick and mortar store. I mean, not high end. But like upmarket from where they are and start combining some of these brands. I mean, Moosejaw sells Patagonia. I mean, this is a completely different market than...

Phillip: [00:23:56] Moosejaw is another recent Walmart acquisition.

Brian: [00:24:00] Yes.

Phillip: [00:24:01] It's an outdoor brand, right?

Brian: [00:24:03] Correct. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:24:05] Right. Interesting.

Brian: [00:24:06] So it's a wide net they're casting.

Phillip: [00:25:51] In the arms race against Amazon, we have news out this week that Best Buy is using a San Francisco based startup, Lumoid, to enable a try before you buy option, giving Amazon potentially a run for its money against the in-aisle shoppers. Right? So, you know, from what I understand, it's... BestBuy.com is going to pilot it, allowing people to head over to Lumoid to actually rent the equipment. And this is something it's very popular in the camera industry. Have you ever done the, like, rental lenses or rental digital equipment? You ever do anything like that, Brian?

Brian: [00:26:43] Not, really. No.

Phillip: [00:26:44] Yeah. So BorrowLenses is probably one of the more famous brands, and they've done a lot of podcast sponsorships, things like that. But BorrowLenses, you know, these are companies that have really interesting business model of rental equipment where you can rent high end gear and and then return it after a particular period of time. But one of their really interesting differentiators in those businesses is that when you rent this sort of high end stuff, some of them have the ability to sort of... Well they're already assuming some risk, and they have some insurance and risk coverage there in the business, built right into the business. But they also incentivize their customers to buy the goods second hand or to keep the goods for a discounted rate or for the most... It's basically a loyalty play. But for the most loyal of customers that they earn credits in their rental to apply towards the purchase of a brand new item. And that's essentially what BestBuy.com is piloting. And with the potential hopes that it would be also extended to in-store. So it's an interesting thing. I don't know that it's going to... It's not by any means an Amazon slayer, but we will probably hear Amazon probably piping up saying, "Oh, we do rental, too, now," any day. So because that's Amazon's new model. Amazon is to retail, and service now, what Facebook is to Snapchat. It's like let's just rip off everything everybody's doing and say that we play in that space as well. It's interesting.

Brian: [00:28:28] Except for I would might reverse the tables there. I would compare Facebook to Amazon and probably not the other way around.

Phillip: [00:28:37] Now this is very true. Anyway, I find that endlessly fascinating but probably boring to talk about at length. I just find it very, very interesting.

Brian: [00:28:49] It's a cool feature. It's cool business model. I'm glad Best Buy is trying stuff still. {laughter} I can't help but feel like... You said our arms race earlier. And I snickered because there's no arms race. I mean, the Walmart is the arms race maybe. I mean, if we were gonna put this in terms of like... You know what? I won't even do that. So in short, I think, you know, maybe Best Buy will be acquired by Walmart or something like that at some point. I don't know. Or go bankrupt and then get rescued by Walmart.

Phillip: [00:29:28] Well. {laughter} Wow. I used to say that's never gonna happen, but I can't say that to you anymore because you called the Amazon Whole Foods thing. So I'm just not allowed to talk anymore. Anyway...

Brian: [00:29:46] The last thing I bought at Best Buy, I returned.

Phillip: [00:29:52] Oh, what was it? Can you even tell? Can you tell us?

Brian: [00:29:55] Yeah, it was like a TV antenna.

Phillip: [00:30:01] What what year was this? What decade was this?

Brian: [00:30:04] This was for somebody else. It wasn't even for me.

Phillip: [00:30:08] OK.

Brian: [00:30:09] Yeah, I bought it for someone else, and I took it their house, and I plugged it in and it didn't work. So I took it back. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:30:16] {laughter} What in the world?

Brian: [00:30:19] Yup.

Phillip: [00:30:20] So I actually I go to Best Buy every so often. It's interesting. I can't remember the last thing I bought there... Actually I do remember the last thing that I bought there. I bought an iMac, and I bought an iMac there three or four months ago when it was the day before Easter for my church. And the computer crashed, and it needed to be done like that day, something needed to be fixed. And I offered to help. So but that is the rare exception of when people go and buy iMacs at Best Buy, I'm sure. Anyway... Very interesting stuff happening there in that space. And I am going to keep an eye on it. Actually, speaking of, I have one other, you know, recent retail experience that I want to talk about. And this just happened two days ago. I was at the mall, which is... My mall is still open. It's not dying or dead yet. But the mall by my house is there. I specifically went to the mall because my kids love going to the mall. And so there's like a play place at the mall. And then there's a Build-A-Bear. They like to go over to the Build-A-Bear. Again, experiential commerce. Right? And so on the way out there is a a Lush bath store. Have you ever been to Lush? Do you know this store?

Brian: [00:31:57] Oh yeah.

Phillip: [00:31:58] Do you personally shop at Lush? Do you have any products that you frequent at Lush?

Brian: [00:32:04] I mean, those bath bombs or wherever they are.

Phillip: [00:32:10] Yeah, those are those are pretty sweet, right?

Brian: [00:32:12] Yeah, those are sweet.

Phillip: [00:32:14] Yeah. So, essentially we're walking by, and I have my two kids with me, my two girls. And as we're walking by, there's somebody standing in the door and they're like, "You girls want bubble hats?" And they're like, "Yeah." And I'm thinking, what the heck is a bubble hat? I don't know what a bubble hat is. They've got this, you know, dish with bubbles in it, you know, from one of their bath bombs or something. And it's just full of bubbles. And they invite the girls to come in and play with the bubbles. And they put bubbles on their head. And that's a bubble hat. And they're there. And the girls are loving it. And I get to chatting with them and like a schmuck, they roped me in with my kids and then now I'm going wind up spending money there. But I actually had this really amazing conversation with one of the store managers. And she was talking about how they run Demandware, and she was talking about all the issues that they were having with their in-store mobile POS. So we're having this really interesting conversation, which also then turned to, you know, me buying beard care products, because I'm a schmuck. But as we're having this long conversation and it really was a lengthy conversation, we had this really wonderful conversation, 15, 20 minutes, the entire time the sales associates have, like, fashioned a little like play area for my kids. They got this, like, bath bomb stuff and they crumbled it up and they letting my kids play with it like it's Play Dough. And then they went and got like little star cookie cutter things from the back. And the kids are like cutting out these cookie cutter things. And then they put all the stuff together as samples for mommy to take home. And we walked out of there with seven, eight bags. I bought one thing, but we had all these things that they were like entertaining my kids, so that I could be sold on the side. And I just thought, holy cow, this store, at least this store, gets it. Because my kids were having an experience, and they were being entertained, and they really loved the like... They just had this whole system set up where they knew what to do with small children that come into their store, which otherwise would be a nightmare. My kids want to pick up everything. And if you've ever been into this store, there's stuff stacked up and piled up in like in stacks that I'm just terrified that one of my kids are going to pull out and knock the whole thing down. You know, the stuff it's setup like this market, but it's soaps and, you know, it's crazy. And but I just I had this wonderful experience talking with the sales associates. They were very knowledgeable. They were very smart people. And they seemed like deeply interested in, you know, in my skin care regime, which is kind of interesting. Again, not an experience that I think I could have had online, certainly not in the, you know, keeping my kids entertained while we're having this conversation. And everybody was sort of all in on it. I just thought it was really interesting.

Brian: [00:35:24] Yeah, no, I think you're hitting on something that's really important to families of young children. And that is part of the shopping experience is to be able to focus on what you're doing and actually think about it and be thoughtful of it. But also, you don't want your kids to either, you know, one, be bored out of their mind or two, running around the store while you tried to focus on something. And you want them to have, you know, a good experience. And that's why I like IKEA has their small land or whatever it's called...

Phillip: [00:36:00] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian: [00:36:01] And other really smart brands have put together experiences for children, and I think that's going to continue to be a winning strategy in retail and in-store experiences, because at least if you're your target market is families, you have to have something like that.

Phillip: [00:36:19] Yeah, well, I don't know that you could say that... Like, my perception of Lush prior to two days ago was a vegan bath and body works, you know, run by Wickens. That was my perception of Lush, which I've kind of I've always sort of loved their kind of like down and dirty marketing, and they have like this really strong brand voice. Never, ever have I considered once that they were kid friendly, and I will absolutely visit them again based on that experience. I just thought it was phenomenal.

Brian: [00:36:59] Again, this just gets back to what we've been saying. Do not ignore in-store. You can make money in-store.

Phillip: [00:37:05] Yeah.

Brian: [00:37:07] And GenZ, which is, you know, the next group with purchasing power... IBM just released that study before with NRF before The Big Show that said, "GenZ wants to shop in-store. They just expect you, brands and retailers, to interact with them differently and give them a different experience than their parents had."

Phillip: [00:37:34] Yeah, I think that's it. Also I think, somehow, I just I have to believe, and I might be wrong about this, so I'm open to being corrected, but I have to believe that the people that are working at the stores where I've had the best experiences are not Bargain-basement employees who are being paid as little as humanly possible. They are people who intensely care and are passionate about the things that they're selling, and they seem very invested in it. That's just my take. I think that when you invest in a workforce that actually likes the products that they're selling, they're gonna do a better job.

Brian: [00:38:17] Great point.

Phillip: [00:38:18] Yeah. Anyway, interesting. So I didn't want to monopolize the whole show, even though it's kind of happened. I just I feel like it needs to be said that retail is getting a lot of flack, but it doesn't it doesn't all have to be bad experiences. It doesn't have to be doom and gloom. There are good experiences out there.

Brian: [00:38:40] Yeah. And I think this goes back to what we've said before. The brands that are dying right now are just not providing the kinds of experiences that people are looking for today.

Phillip: [00:38:53] Yeah.

Brian: [00:38:53] I think. I mean, at least that's part of it. That's part of it.

Phillip: [00:38:59] Yeah. And I think that because of that, I always have to kind of go back to you have to make good products, you have to provide good service, but you have to provide something different. There has to be a differentiator. You can't just be one in the crowd. I think that's really what it comes down to.

Brian: [00:39:19] Classic marketing.

Phillip: [00:39:20] Yeah, that's what it is.

Brian: [00:39:22] Yeah, totally. So, before we head out, two little hardware things we should talk about. First of all... Well three. Three little hard things we talk about. First of all, give your take on your Echo Look, man.

Phillip: [00:39:39] I'm sorry, say again, you cut out there, what do you say?

Brian: [00:39:41] Did we lose each other for a sec there?

Phillip: [00:39:45] Yeah. Lost you for a second there. Yeah. Sorry. Say again.

Brian: [00:39:48] OK. No talk about the Echo Look. Do it.

Phillip: [00:39:52] Oh jeez. Yeah. We should probably have a whole stinking episode for that. Echo Look. So first blush, great device. Solves a problem I didn't know that I had. Which is I didn't know that I liked the daily style selfies. That's kind of... I didn't even know. I didn't know that I liked selfies, to be quite honest with you. I find it really interesting. A lot of my wardrobe is sort of the same thing over and over in different colors. So I find the the style comparison to be a little less useful, so to speak. So, you know, comparing one style with another, it seems to favor very, very, very stylish, well, very colorful things, I should say. And but I think it does a wonderful job. One thing that I've had a problem with, with the Look is, and quite a little bit frustrating is, there's nowhere to put the look in my house that makes sense that isn't within earshot of another Alexa device. And this is a problem because when you say, Alexa, take a picture, another device that doesn't have that capability, has no means of fielding that request. So having to change its name is sort of annoying.

Brian: [00:41:13] That's because you have like 200 Echo devices in the house, right?

Phillip: [00:41:15] No, I have four.

Brian: [00:41:19] {laughter} Well you have enough now.

Phillip: [00:41:21] Yeah. I have enough now to create a small AI army. No, no, no. It's like, you know, it replaced one of the dots in my bedroom. And so I had no use for that device. I considered briefly gifting it to somebody or maybe as a give away or something. It is one of the classic dots with the rotating ring on the top. So not one of the lower end ones. It was one that I spent a lot of money on that nobody would ever want now. So I'm like, you know, what am I going to do with this dot? So I did bring it. I brought the dog with me to Chicago, to IRCE, and having an Alexa in my hotel room was awesome, being able to play white noise to go to sleep, getting news briefings, asking about the weather, all the stuff I'm used to doing that I can't do when I'm on the road. Sort of transformative. So kind of loved having that. And I actually got the idea from Emily Pepperman, who's a member of the Magento South Florida Meetup group. So shout out to her who she travels with her Echo. I think she brings the whole dang Echo with her wherever she goes. But I thought it would be a lot harder than it was, you know, setting up the even with gated Wi-Fi in the hotel. It was super easy to setup. So I was very impressed with that. But yeah, overall, the Look is really cool. You know, mounting it, putting it somewhere where it makes sense to be at shoulder height is actually problematic. The only thing that I have the shoulder height is a dresser in the closet. Don't really want that thing staring at me while I'm getting dressed per se.

Brian: [00:43:16] So you're not that kind of person but you're not so much that kind of person that you don't want it in front of you.

Phillip: [00:43:23] Yeah. I don't what I want to be able to step in front of it purposefully and take a picture rather than it like incidentally be able to see me. I mean, I have to make the NSA's job a little difficult. Right?

Brian: [00:43:36] Speaking of Amazon, little bit more hardware talk. The Amazon Wand, which has been out for a bit, I believe. Right? This is kind of another... Isn't this the second generation of it?

Phillip: [00:43:48] It is. I think it was sort of gaited to specific devices before. Now it's like... Or specific products or something. It was like a dash wand. Yeah, it was an Amazon Dash. Now this is officially an Alexa device.

Brian: [00:44:03] Yeah, correct. Yeah. So and then that's basically free on Amazon right now.

Phillip: [00:44:07] It is basically free. Yes.

Brian: [00:44:10] Because if you buy one, and that's like 20 bucks, and you get a 20 dollar credit back, and if you spend money on Amazon like a majority of Americans, then that is free.

Phillip: [00:44:21] Yeah. So that's that. And that's kind of an amazing thing. Goodness gracious. How are they going to... I don't know. They have subsidized some of these devices hardcore. But to just give an Alexa device away for free now, that's a new thing, right?

Brian: [00:44:42] Yeah. That's insane. I can't help but wonder... This should get pretty much high technology into everyone's hands in America. Like everyone can get one. Everyone can have a voice assistant.

Phillip: [00:45:02] You get an Alexa. You get an Alexa. Everybody gets an Alexa.

Brian: [00:45:02] Exactly. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:45:06] Yeah I'm not so excited about it that way. I think there will be people who see no use for the device.

Brian: [00:45:18] Yeah. For sure. For sure.

Phillip: [00:45:18] I don't know. Could you see yourself using this? What's the point. How do you see yourself...

Brian: [00:45:23] I don't know. I actually debated whether or not I'm going to get one. Because I don't know if I really want to go around the world with an Alexa Wand where I can scan something and buy it from Amazon on the spot. I don't know. I don't know if I want that in my hands or in my wife's purse or wherever. Or in my back pocket, wherever it is.

Phillip: [00:45:48] Sure. Yeah.

Brian: [00:45:49] It's very easy when you have Amazon Prime to just buy things.

Phillip: [00:45:58] Sure.

Brian: [00:45:58] There was an article out recently about how someone who used Amazon a lot, and they did a little calc on how much they've spent on Amazon and they tried to think back on the actual value that they got from all that they spent. And they couldn't really show it. And there was like hundreds of thousands of dollars over the two year period. And so I tend to think I don't want to give myself too many easy ways to spend money, even though I already have them. I don't need more.

Phillip: [00:46:32] Yeah, I think... So I see it differently. I don't see this as a... I mean, Amazon probably wants you to see this as a consumption device or like an in-aisle consumption device.

Brian: [00:46:48] Yeah sure.

Phillip: [00:46:48] You know, in particular, it's actually hobbled. They gimped it in a couple of very specific ways. Number one, it will not play music. So this is not a replacement for my travel Dot. I think specifically it's aiming at like Amazon Fresh to sort of get people to build up shopping carts where they could comparison shop an aisle. They've had this ability, the scanning of barcodes has been enabled in the Amazon app for three years now.

Brian: [00:47:20] Sure.

Phillip: [00:47:20] That's not a new thing. I think it's just giving people the ability, the ease of use. What I want it for is a completely different thing. If I could use this barcode with an Alexa skill for my fitness pal so that I can track the food that I eat through the day.

Brian: [00:47:45] Ooh, I like that. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:47:46] "Alexa, tell my fitness pal I just eat this." And it's like, you know, scan it. Boom. How much of it did you have? Bang. And it would be a completely app free experience. That could be killer. It is the only use case that I can think of for a barcode scanner outside of what Amazon's already doing with it. But I think I would love that if it could do that. I doubt it will. So but I just think it's very, very interesting. And having Alexa in your pocket might be kind of a cool thing, especially from Q&A or recipes or... I don't know. Anyway, one step closer to Alexa everywhere.

Brian: [00:48:28] Adding stuff to your to do list, things like that could be really useful. So yeah. It's definitely... Yeah. I mean it's definitely a nice device that they released.

Phillip: [00:48:39] I mean if you have your home automation setup, you know. Yeah. Sorry. You're trailing then again. But yeah. Being able to control your home automation from the driveway, you know, if you forget to turn out the lights, you know, and Alexa is already set up and you can ping the thing and say, "Alexa, turn off everything," you know, that might be cool.

Brian: [00:48:57] Yeah. For sure.

Phillip: [00:48:57] But I don't know. It's an interesting, interesting thing. Maybe we'll have to... We're gonna have to figure out a way to get review units of this kind of stuff, because I'm kind of I'm kind of tired of buying Amazon devices every three months.

Brian: [00:49:11] {laughter} Yes.

Phillip: [00:49:12] Speaking of the Echo See is on the way. I just got a shipment notification. I'm like, oh, yeah, I did preorder that. Why did I buy that? I do not need this. But I'm sure you'll hear more about the Echo Look and See from me in the future. But it's interesting.

Brian: [00:49:32] Good stuff, man. Well, another episode in the book.

Phillip: [00:49:34] Yes.

Brian: [00:49:35] We managed to go on for nearly an hour here.

Phillip: [00:49:37] Yeah. It was gonna be a tight 30 minute episode. And this is what's happened. Yeah, but thank you for listening to Future Commerce, and we want your feedback on today's show, so make sure that you give us some feedback on the Disqus comment box below on the web site, FutureCommerce.fm. And if you're subscribed on iTunes or Google Play, make sure that you give us a five star review and please visit our sponsors, give them some love, because that keeps the lights on, keeps the Alexa devices powered up. But it also keeps the show coming to you. And we want your voice. So make sure that you get in and give us some feedback about some of the things we talked about. Are you using a dash wand? If so, we want to know. Maybe you've recently got an Echo Look. We want to hear about that as well. You know, maybe you've had a really great, you know, brick and mortar commerce experience recently. We want your feedback. So make sure you leave that for us. Anyway until next time...

Brian: [00:50:31] Keep looking towards the future.

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