Join us for VISIONS Summit NYC  - June 11
Episode 295
March 17, 2023

Ideation Platforms Enable Creativity

As we sit in the middle of conference and expo season, we chat with Alicia Esposito about what she is excited about in retail right now and why, while also discussing the need for humans and community even with the advancement of AI technology. Plus, a special announcement about RICE X Future Commerce June 2023! Listen now for all of this and more!

<iframe height="52px" width="100%" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" seamless src=""></iframe>

this episode sponsored by

As we sit in the middle of conference and expo season, we chat with Alicia Esposito about what she is excited about in retail right now and why, while also discussing the need for humans and community even with the advancement of AI technology. Plus, a special announcement about RICE X Future Commerce June 2023! Listen now for all of this and more!

We Still Need Humans

  • {00:05:50} There are two key areas that Alicia is most excited about in retail right now: retail media and also the store become a place of community building and connection
  • {00:08:54} We’ve been talking about AI for years at Future Commerce, but now there are more practical applications that are enhancing customer experiences, and that is exciting
  • {00:13:08} “The use of these tools as an ideation platform and as an enabler of creativity versus a killer of it is the path that I'm more inclined to take.” - Alicia (We’ll still always need humans).
  • {00:19:55} “It'd be really interesting to see what would happen if you took something like Midjourney and you wanted to create something really broad market, down market, and made it really experiential…” Like Dollar Tree as experiential retail. - Brian
  • {00:23:42} Both Lyft and Uber have commercialzed the ability to jump to the front of the line, which a point of inspiration for everybody, and we will see this more and more
  • {00:26:08} How do we maximize on collaborations that bring the artistic community and the commerce community together better because there’s a huge opportunity there
  • {00:28:17} RICE (Retail Innovation Conference & Expo) is coming in June, and there are so many incredible speakers and content creators, including Future Commerce, lined up to be a part of it
  • {00:41:27} ChatGPT, the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, and other AI vehicles are all reminders that we need to exercise caution and we still have a lot to learn from each other
  • {00:46:58} Artists and people that do have deep transactional expertise and leadership in retail brands will share one stage together at the Visions Summit at RICE and talk about this thing that we all do, which is really try to affect some sort of lasting impact with a relationship with a customer

Associated Links:

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Brian: [00:01:26] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next generation of commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:31] I'm Phillip, and today we have our good friend and partner over at Retail TouchPoints and heading up our activation that's coming which you'll hear about in just a little bit at the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo. Alicia Esposito. Welcome to Future Commerce.

Alicia: [00:01:48] Hey. Thank you so much for having me again. I feel like we just keep following each other in life.

Phillip: [00:01:52] We sure are.

Brian: [00:01:53] Phillip, you were just on her podcast.

Phillip: [00:01:57] That's true. And by the time you listen to this, it'll have been syndicated. We're finding ways to draw more lines between actual real trade journalism and whatever it is we do here. {laughter}

Alicia: [00:02:11] And I will say, I got a new listener, at least one. Thank you, person, because our episode was shared in a Shopify email newsletter. Fun fact. The more you know. Which was very exciting.

Brian: [00:02:26] Nice.

Alicia: [00:02:27] Yeah. So we're showing up everywhere.

Phillip: [00:02:28] Very cool. I love that.

Brian: [00:02:31] One more Shopify listener.

Phillip: [00:02:33] That's what we need. Today we're going to talk about a lot of really interesting things. I think you have a perspective in the world around coming trends and applications of technology, specifically in retail, which is sort of your beat. But I'd love to get into that. First of all, we did talk quite a bit about the sort of trade show season that we're in. Coming up, you're going to be... You are on the road just like we are over the next few weeks. Are you going to be at any upcoming shows?

Alicia: [00:03:04] Yeah. So I personally am going to be a Shoptalk. So we kind of divide and conquer depending on the show. So that's my first time that I'll be there, which will be very interesting. And I think we have a couple of folks going to eTail. Not quite sure about that, but we do have a few team members actually going to Euroshop, which is in Germany, and that apparently... We talk to a lot of our community, like what show should we go to, where do we need to be? And especially on the design, store design and experience side, they're like, "Oh, if you really want to see what's coming and like what the cool new applications and even design methods are Euroshop is the place to be." So I'm excited to see and hear what comes out of that. And then of course, selfishly, our event in June, which we're really excited about.

Brian: [00:03:57] Yeah, I'm gonna have to add Euroshop to the list for next year, Phillip. {laughter}

Alicia: [00:04:01] Yeah, I think they actually do every other year. I think it's their approach because it's ginormous. There are like seven different halls and stages. It's pretty, pretty wild.

Phillip: [00:04:14] Wow. The trade show and sort of expo season here in the United States actually feels a little bit like an endurance event from January sort of kicking us off. I think CES, depending on where you sit in the ecosystem, is sort of the beginning of it, and it kind of does, it runs all the way to June in RICE. So dividing and conquering makes plenty of sense. What are some of the things that maybe... Here's like a little bit of a throughline for you. What are some of the things from NRF to RICE that you think are what will be seeing quite a bit of and is this sort of far future early looks at what we'll all be doing in retail stores in the future or are they things that we can go see in the world right now and what are some of those that you would take note of?

Alicia: [00:05:07] Yeah, yeah, there are definitely a few key ones. So I think right now, especially at NRF, there was a lot of conversation, and Phillip I think we talked about this around getting the house in order, so to speak, especially with like the economic uncertainty. And I just had a conversation with Ken Pilot and he was noting that a lot of investments, at least what he was hearing in the market is like, "Okay what can pay dividends today, but what also has a long term path for longevity?" But I will note that innovation is still happening. I think that's, people think it's like an either/or scenario, but I think it's very much "and" right now and I think that the two key areas probably that I'm most excited about are retail media... So what's happening with new media and ad channels. How brands can show up in that point of inspiration. So we're covering a lot in connected TV, how retail media shows up in physical spaces. So obviously we're seeing a lot online, a lot Amazon and a lot of brands trying to replicate that model, but what are the opportunities of bringing that in store either through personal mobile devices, digital displays? Cooler Screens is a company that's trying to bring it not just to the cooler or the fridge, but also into store aisles and end caps. So that's pretty interesting at like a tactical store ops level. [00:06:45] But I would say in the more feel good, but also really interesting and innovative lens this idea of the store becoming a source of community building and also connection between surprising entities, if that makes sense. So not just like a point for customers to come together, but alsoprofessionals, creatives, artists and just really using it as a force to bring people together either through services or events or even, using CAMP as an example, like using play as a force to bring people together, where commerce kind of takes a back seat. So we're seeing that in a few different scenarios. But I think that artist lens and that creator lens is especially interesting for us, and is definitely one area that I personally am watching because I am, I guess as the professionals say, a bit more artsy fartsy than some of the retail tech reporters and content creators. [00:07:55] So I think those are the two things. But what are you guys seeing? Is there anything that you're watching or taking an interest in?

Brian: [00:08:03] I mean, ChapGPT is everywhere right now. Obviously, that's pretty hard to avoid and it seems to continue to flood my inbox, my Twitter feed, my LinkedIn feed. There's no end to ChapGPT content right now. And so, I mean I use that as a proxy. AI and employing AI seems to be the talk of the town this year and it makes sense because we're making leaps and bounds and things are being released and in packages that we can actually use them in now which is very very exciting. It's easy enough for a non developer or a non-technical person to pop on to ChapGPT and actually see real value out of it or a similar tool. Phillip, I'm sure you have more to add to that.

Phillip: [00:08:54] It's funny because what we've actually... What I think is happening is there's, rather than having these little pockets of AI investment and innovation, which was basically AWS services that were being rebranded for certain industries and trade, it is instead unifying around one instance of an AI that seems to have generalized value. So I think of OpenAI as sort of a Twilio. They have created a service that's extraordinarily valuable for us to build front ends in front of. And that's where this new explosion of interest comes from. There is a practical usage to creating customer experiences rather than operationalizing things like pricing models at scale. AI has been here for as long as we've been doing this podcast. Brian, We've been talking about this in certain applications for businesses, for job functions. It's just that it's never really been actionable for the customer experience. And that's the thing that everyone sees that they get excited about that unlocks things like marketing dollars.

Brian: [00:10:07] It's interesting though, because do you remember when like Watson AI happened and it was like literally everything in IBM rebranded as Watson. It was like Watson AI powers this or like Einstein at Salesforce or whatever. Everything went under the brand of AI and every product was AI driven, even though it was literally just like they were using the exact same algorithm that they had been using before the word AI took popularity. I think there's something a little different happening this time around, though, which is that it feels like you don't have to be so specialized. I think that's one of the differences.

Phillip: [00:10:45] Maybe.

Brian: [00:10:46] Yeah.

Alicia: [00:10:48] Yeah. And it's interesting. We're kind of digging into this. We're doing, oh my gosh, I think it's five part series on the different functional impacts of this AI explosion that's happening. And we're starting to connect those dots I think that both of you were talking about. But [00:11:05] I think the big thing that we're trying to dissect and make clear to our audience is this isn't a "computers are going to replace us all." That's largely, in my world as like a writer or a content creator, there's a lot of debate happening around, "Hey, can ChapGPT do the work for you and will that make you obsolete? We've definitely had a few debates within our editorial team about it, but I think the big outcome and the big learning for me is that these systems are only as smart as the information that they're getting. So they need a person to create these frameworks, to create these briefs, to provide the insight and the ideation that's required for them to spit out whatever it is you're asking for, whether it's a series of tweets, which I've done, I've tested it, and it's pretty good, not great. Or whether it's a full on blog, which I've seen Chief Content Officers do, and provide their commentary line by line of like what they got right, what the system got wrong. [00:12:13] But I've spoken with a few executives, especially in the world of store design, and this is where it gets interesting. So there are tools like Midjourney which allow you to share that input. So share key points, even creative briefs around requirements, what type of space you want to create, what elements to include, what brand it's for, and it spits out a store design like a full on working concept, and they're like, "We're not going to present this as our own to a client. That would be wrong. But this is a framework for us as a team. This is a working ideation. This is something that we can say, okay, what's right here? What's wrong? How can we build and iterate upon it so we have a better working model to present to our client or present to executive leadership if you're in house. [00:13:07] So I think the use of these tools as an ideation platform and as an enabler of creativity versus a killer of it is I guess the path that I'm more inclined to take because I'm like, "No, you're always going to need us. It's going to be fine." [00:13:23]

Brian: [00:13:23] Well, goodbye, blank page syndrome. That's what you're saying, right?

Alicia: [00:13:27] Well that's what a lot of people are saying. Yeah. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:13:31] In the role of in that sort of small team, small cohesive teams, if you're in a content team or maybe you're in a customer experience team, unless you're really disciplined in working with outside vendors and having to communicate requirements, you sort of fall into this trap that I've seen often where teams become very colloquial with each other and they sort of have a way of non-verbally communicating and executing a playbook without really driving that back to process so that it becomes enterprise value. And this is always a struggle when you're growing up as an SMB to create the things that become starting points for creation. It's the easier just to get straight into the work. And if there's anything that I'm realizing that these tools, whatever they may be, if it's ChapGPT or something else, is it's requiring people to think about how to instruct others to do the creation that makes them much more deliberative and much more thoughtful. And the time to creation is so short that they can be highly iterative in that process. And I think it gets us unstuck and it gives us a framework for doing that over and over and over again and getting better and learning from it. So I don't know that it displaces jobs. It actually might make SMBs better at the jobs that they perform now. But of course, retail, physical retail is not necessarily an SMB pursuit. So when we're thinking about these, you know, many audiences that we serve at Future Commerce and they all want to glean something off of each other. And it's an interesting thing to watch, especially around customer experience. You mentioned CAMP before. It's an interesting thing to watch as that CAMP and others sort of become a template for the reactionary movement. It's the anti movement to we're tired of boring retail, and we want to do something completely different. But not every store can be CAMP. Not every store can be hands on, experiential. And so we take elements of that and we bring that back to our own context. And I think that that's really the time that we're in. Any thoughts, any last thoughts about that, Alicia, before we move on?

Alicia: [00:16:33] Yeah. And I think I'm going to piggyback off of that point, Phillip, because I think it's a very important nuance here as we think about experiential retail, that model, it's not a copy and paste model. You simply can't do it. So I think that's a trap that some retailers probably fall into a little too easily. They're like, "Okay, we'll just build something similar and we'll just do it and it'll be great." It doesn't always make sense for the product, for the category even the customer. Maybe that's not exactly what they want out of going into the four walls of that store. I saw a really interesting example recently during NRF, actually during a store tour around Soho. The Golden Goose Store in Soho. So very high-end sneaker and apparel brand. First floor, a pretty standard layout format. Go downstairs and it's basically a full-on customization and repair workshop. So cool. So they have a wall of services. High-end services. Okay, So the highest price point I think was about $1,000 for a custom pair of sneakers. So high price point, very specific and tailored to their customer. But you can even go in and just do a simple repair of your Golden Goose Shoes or other shoes, I think. Or you can get customizations, you can get your little gems or new stitching on your sneaks and make them truly yours. Or you can start from scratch. They have different models you can pick and choose from. It's an open format, so they have people on the floor working and customizing shoes. You're standing next to them as they're going through that process, they're asking you questions. It's very consultative, but they have a booth where there's only one person in there that is specialized in distressing the leather. So they're fully trained. They know how to work the shoe the right way, make sure the product is good and you actually see it happening. It's like this concept of retailtainment, but in a way that is highly relevant to the customer and to the business. So I just thought it was a really powerful example to showcase like, okay, even this high-end brand is doing this in a way that really works, is exciting, it's fun, but people can go in and buy a $1000 pair of shoes, like not even blink twice.

Phillip: [00:18:55] It's seasoning, right? It's seasoning. They couldn't do this at all of their stores and they probably wouldn't.

Alicia: [00:19:00] Right. Seasoning. It's the Salt Bae store, I guess.

Brian: [00:19:04] The Salt Bae store. Yeah. No, it's interesting. I think you're right. But this doesn't have to happen in just luxury. We've seen other brands do wild things like well, I mean I guess Filson is still luxury, but it's a little bit more mid-market than maybe the example you gave. They have a really similar experience at their flagship. And then if you go even further down, you start to look at experiences that like sporting goods stores sometimes have really incredible experiences around repairs or opportunities for hands-on experience, things like that. I think that...

Phillip: [00:19:48] Costco. Don't forget Costco. Product demos...

Brian: [00:19:50] Costco. Product demos. [00:19:52] Yeah. It is really interesting. It'd be really interesting to see what would happen if you took something like Midjourney and you wanted to create something really broad market down market and made it really experiential. You don't think of Dollar Tree as a place where you would need experiential retail. But actually, I would argue that some people use Dollar Tree as experiential retail. I would love to see what Midjourney would come up with to turn a Dollar Tree into experiential retail. [00:20:23]

Alicia: [00:20:23]  [00:20:23]Oh my gosh. I need to do this. Hold on one second. I'm going to get in touch with some people. Well, if you think about it, if you go to YouTube, there's a whole market for Dollar Tree hauls and crafts, like things you can make from these products. Why not have those demos in your stores? Why not have a community meetup where you do a haul and you learn how to create something? Oh, that's an idea, Dollar Tree. [00:20:48]

Phillip: [00:20:48]  [00:20:48]{laughter} You can reach out to us for consulting. We'll help you, Dollar Tree. [00:20:54]

Alicia: [00:20:55]  [00:20:55]You can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. [00:20:57]

Phillip: [00:20:57]  [00:20:57]Call me, Dollar Tree. [00:20:58] Trying to get that Dollar Tree money, everybody. I think there's an interesting shift of expertise and sort of crowdsourcing of inspiration that is available now that just didn't exist in a prior era. I think very a lot about the sort of mock-up culture which has become its own form of meme on Twitter. I've sort of started amassing these because I find them all very interesting. It's like, Instagram, but every time an influencer posts, it shows their checking account balance.  [00:23:12]And there's like a mock-up culture that sort of uses the tool of the standard SaaS or app product and the language of design used in there to make a commentary on the rest of our behavior that we actually all benefit from that ideation that's happening in public. And Lyft has commercialized something that is now becoming, I think, a point of inspiration for everybody. Both Lyft and Uber have the ability to jump the line. They've commercialized the ability to get to the front of the line. If you think that it stops at Lyft and Uber, you're wrong. Every single queue will become commercialized in the next 5 to 10 years and mock-up culture is proliferating that. I know you hate that, but it's just the truth. Self-checkout is a way of jumping the line because you're willing to spend a little bit more. It's not that you're spending more money, it's that you're spending your own time and effort to take your own butt through the checkout. [00:24:12] And so we are willing to make these trade-offs and more businesses will become, you know, Dollar Tree looks at a show like ours and says, "Oh, that's a really interesting affectation..." They're able to see all these things that happen in the marketplace. That is a point of inspiration for us to be able to create store designs. I think we're all doing that at scale now, which is a new thing in our trade, in retail trade that is new because generally, people in design and people the public discourse didn't care about this sort of thing.

Brian: [00:24:50]  [00:24:50]Right. Before it was like movies and stuff. Well, actually recently you saw like Wes Anderson, Star Wars, which was delightful. I've always wanted to see Wes Anderson, The Hobbit, because I feel like The Hobbit was a travesty. Love LTR. But The Hobbit was a disaster. And if Wes Anderson had directed it, it would have been amazing. {laughter} I love that we're seeing more opportunities like this where like, yeah, in retail and brand now we're getting an opportunity to look and see what it would be like if a different set of eyes or a different type of customer was buying from a specific brand. I love it. I love it. It's experimentation. It's, you know, and mock-up culture... Long live mock-up culture. I'm into it. [00:25:41]

Alicia: [00:25:41] Well, and it's funny you bring that up because even if we looked at the Nike and Tiffany collaboration, there were some mock-ups that I saw online that were, I'm sorry, better than what I saw of the actual release.

Brian: [00:25:57] Right.

Alicia: [00:25:57] And I was like, why aren't they reaching out to these people and being like, "Hey, we want to create this. We want to monetize this, but you get a cut of it or like you get some sort of ownership over this product." W [00:26:08]hen we think about bringing artistry back into commerce and back into retail, that's the opportunity. We have access now to all of these tools and an open forum, basically, for this ideation. So how are we bringing that community together and actually making it a reality for the brand? Because it's not just real time and it's relevant, but we know the product is good. That's the opportunity with collaborations, in my opinion. [00:26:34]

Phillip: [00:26:34]  [00:26:34]That's so true. And normal people all have the ability to ideate like this now. So we have this crowdsourcing of, sorry not to make a critique about normies. I'm exceptionally mid. But one of the interesting things is you can have millions of people all hacking on press releases which before was like the concept art of a particular industry, like vehicles in particular and transportation. Concept art drove our public vision of what was possible in public transit and then in futurism really. Iconography or our perspective of what the future looked like was driven by people that were concept artists that were thinking about what the future of transportation might look like. Now that power is in the hands of everybody. And so they can actually help pilot all kinds of industries, retail trade being just one of them. [00:27:31] All right. Let's shift gears a little bit because innovation is kind of your beat. The way that we sort of came into contact with you, Alicia, over the last few years is that you helped to curate the experiences and some of the talk tracks and people that should be speaking at the industry event that you helped to put on at Retail TouchPoints, and that's the Retail Innovation Conference and Expo. And that means that you have the unfortunate position, as I see it, to have to have your ear to the ground in a bunch of echo chambers and figure out who's who and who should be speaking.

Alicia: [00:28:09] So many. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:28:10] Give us a little bit of a once over about what to expect for this year at the Retail Innovation Conference.

Alicia: [00:28:17] Yeah, it's definitely a blessing and a curse being in this type of role. And luckily I have an amazing team that, even if they're in marketing or design or even on the sales side, they're always reading and sourcing things for us. We have an awesome advisory board that we're always asking dumb questions and they're giving us great answers and they're giving us a lot to work with around who they want to see, who they saw that was good, but maybe the execution wasn't right, so they'd like to see them talk about X, Y, Z. So we take all of this and really try to make sense of it for our audience and what we're trying to do. And really, at our core, we're trying to elevate some unheard voices in the industry and even in adjacent industries that retail can take inspiration from, which I think we're kind of touching on a little bit over the course of this conversation, but also experts in their field that can help unlock some new creative thought and new collaborative points that that folks can bring back to their team and ultimately apply. That's our goal. We want people to leave the room or leave McCormick and be like, "Okay, I have five ideas or three actionable points that we can bring back to our team, start to pitch, and build out. So we're excited about a lot of our speakers. I was actually looking at our site. I'm like, oh man, who do I even call out here? You know, we have some great folks such as yourselves that will be speaking and helping us out from a content standpoint. But a few key ones that I do want to give props to and prop up a little bit are [00:29:59] Ari Peralta. So he is a huge data guy, also a huge science nerd and wiz, but also lover of retail. So he studies and applies sensory design and neuroscience and basically identifies how the brain works and how do you apply some principles in your store experience and experience design. So he'll be speaking at the event. The working concept is from store building to mind building. So how do you kind of get inside how the brain works to make that a reality for your store experience? But we're also going to be working together on some content for Retail TouchPoints around how generative art, spatial sound, atmospherics, 3D signage, all of these seemingly science fictiony technologies, but very real technologies now, and they're being applied, how can they all be used to reinvent store experiences and actually impact the way a brand resonates? So that's a very exciting speaker and honestly a friend of the brand and we really appreciate him. [00:31:15] We also have Crystal Anderson, who is Co-Founder of "a very good job." So some folks may know her as the brains behind The Museum of Ice Cream. Refinery29's 29rooms. But her company now is doing a lot of amazing work with media brands. So HBO, Hulu, any new shows on direct mail activation, but also experiential spaces and events. So we're hearing all about this .We're talking about today, right? Experiential retail. What does that mean? Who embraces it, who consumes it, whether it's the customer or even employees and advocates for the brand. So I'm going to be chatting with her about how these experiences come to life, what needs to be done from ideation to execution and dig into some real examples. So that's another case where we're looking into entertainment and media for some inspiration. And we also have Evan Moore of NBC Universal, who I know you guys know.

Phillip: [00:32:22] Yeah. And big friend.

Alicia: [00:32:25] Yeah. And we're really excited about that because, selfishly, we've been watching the headlines from their developer conference and how they're kind of embracing new advertising models, bringing the point of product inspiration to their content, making content shoppable and more immersive. So it's perfect timing for us honestly, because they're kind of riding that wave. We're going to see some new applications and examples of how they're bringing that to life, whether that be through media partnerships, through retail media, through live shopping. So I think he's going to have some really interesting takeaways for us. And then for the heritage DTC folks or the DTC operators that want to like dig into some first party data strategies, we also have Nick Bodkins of the brand Boisson. So he is a brand builder, but also a full on marketing nerd, which I really appreciated. I interviewed him for Retail TouchPoints just to learn about the brand, and out of nowhere he just like got into their first party data engine and he was talking about infrastructure and how they're collecting the data, how they're using it. I'm like, "Oh, there it is." You can tell when the switch flips and people get really nerdy and excited about something. So we're going to get into all of that with him during his dession. So I just ramble on because we're just so excited about all of the different voices and all the different folks we have.

Brian: [00:33:45] That's a killer line up.

Alicia: [00:33:46] We're really stoked about it.

Brian: [00:33:47] Yeah, I love that line up. Did you say heritage DTC operators? Did you say heritage?

Alicia: [00:33:54] I think I did. Honestly, I think I blacked out a little bit. Sorry.

Brian: [00:33:59] Love it.

Phillip: [00:34:00] Speaking of Echo Chambers, it's funny how quickly things have sort of come around that the direct to consumer eCommerce pure play movement is a legacy business now. And I think for most parts, with the exception of a few interesting bright spots around technology or maybe marketing technology that changes every month or two. It's hard to keep up with all of it. These businesses have a pretty established playbook. And so really it comes back down once again to its product innovation. It's are we creating things that people really want and need and how do we get in front of those customers and how do we... Today it's I'm sure it's still that we're still talking about TikTok and YouTube shorts. But the way in which you do it is functionally the same as it was 5 or 10 years ago. It's just the channels in which those customers live in are different now.

Brian: [00:35:04] The one addition to that, Phillip, you're right, there is a playbook for DTC, especially in like the DNVB category but [00:35:16] I feel like something we've all been talking about through this whole conversation that I feel like is not set in stone is experience. In-person experience. That's actually the frontier for DTC right now. And that's why there's so much emphasis being put on it because, well, we had a huge blip in our in-person experiences and we're coming back and we're like, "Well, it's great to be in person, but what else can we be doing?" And so I feel 2023, 2024, even 2025, we're going to be seeing some serious changes to the way we shop. And that hasn't changed for 30 years in many ways. In many ways, we're still shopping the same way that we were 30 years ago when we go in store. Not online, but when we go in store. It's kind of the same thing. [00:36:09]

Phillip: [00:36:09] Can you tell Alicia that I've been coaching Brian to say things that we can clip for YouTube Shorts? He's good. Good work, Brian.

Brian: [00:36:17] Subconsciously {laughter}

Alicia: [00:36:21] Well, so just to to dig a little bit deeper into that point because my team will kill me if I don't mention this. We've actually had to adapt and revise our session agenda and framework because of all these changes that are happening in DTC and what those players are really thinking about and focusing on strategically as well as tactically. So we're looking at CPG for a lot of this and we have really emphasized bringing in the right mix of CPG brands and operators that are doing some really interesting things. So we have Calvin Lammers joining us as well, who I know you guys know, formerly of Truff, but he's going to be talking about the evolved role of DTC for CPG brands. There you go. But we also have Liquid Death is going to be doing a session which we're very excited about, about the diversity of revenue models and product development. And I keep getting retargeted for a Liquid Death vintage concert tee that I just keep eyeing and it's haunting me. They just do such a great job with collaborations. And product development from that standpoint. And then Bubble Skincare is doing some great work around community development and using their community to guide brand decisions whether it be product innovation, branding, packaging and of course what stores to go into from a wholesale standpoint. So we're really trying to take, again, finding inspiration and insight from. possibly unlikely sources. We want to be able to create a destination where the big guys or the big retailers can actually not just do business with some of these great CPG brands but also take some inspiration from them as well.

Phillip: [00:38:16] On that note, on taking inspiration and bringing things back to your team. I think it really harkens to the fact that especially in eCommerce, this is an industry that has more technology and more engineering and design prowess than it has been about the trade of being a merchant. And I had an interesting back and forth on Twitter where a friend of the show, Alex Greifeld, had sort of drawn attention to a legacy merchant who spent 20 years, I think, at Nordstrom, a guy named Kevin Hillstrom, who wrote a whole piece about sort of the solar system of product categorization and merchandizing and how customers create relationships with your brands around these different stratospheres of the way products are sort of categorized and organized in your brand. And I was like, whoa, I've never heard it put in these terms. I love a freaking metaphor. Let's go. This is great. And I had people like sort of messaging me like, "This is like 101 stuff, Phillip." And I'm like, yeah, because we don't really have a trade in eCommerce. We don't have an actual, the industry really is only about 20 years old. A lot of people like myself were technologists that fell into the retail trade, never really learning how to be a merchant. And this is the necessary role of the ecosystem, especially around the learnings that you get from the expo industry and from trade associations. We lean on the Retail TouchPoints of the world to help to educate us, especially if you're a technologist, because this may be one on one stuff. We don't have 101 people in these businesses, especially if you're a pure play eCommerce brand. And so we need to be educating each other and creating more community around it so that we can learn. We should be removing the stigma around admitting the fact that you don't know everything. It's okay to not know everything and it's okay to not be aware of the 101s, because I'm sure you don't know much about engineering and I could teach you a thing or two as well. We need each other, right?

Alicia: [00:40:49] I don't know much about a lot of things. I'm just going to repeating what I hear from very smart people I get to speak with.

Brian: [00:40:55] It's difficult to keep up with all of human knowledge. {laughter}

Alicia: [00:41:00] That's what ChatGPT is for.

Brian: [00:41:03] That's right. That's what ChapGPT is for. That is 100% correct. Actually, I could go off on a whole tangent just on that. I'm not going to do that on this episode, but man, go back and read something I wrote in 2017 and that's exactly right. ChapGPT will be all of human knowledge. In fact, most of what we're going to have to do is just determine which part of human knowledge we want to be influencing us.

Phillip: [00:41:27] Actually, can I build on that for a second? I don't want to... I'm going to reference a podcast. But this was actually brought up recently on the All-In podcast, Jason Calacanis' oft-cited, billionaire, public think tank. And they mentioned, so I've got to give credit where credit is due. I wasn't aware of it until they mentioned it, but Michael Crichton wrote about something in his book. It was a theorized effect. So he called this the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, where if you have deep expertise on a subject, when you hear other people talk about it, you think, Wow, that's a really shallow take. So if I'm listening to the news and I hear someone talk about retail, I hear someone talk about eCommerce and Shopify, I think to myself, that's a little bit of a shallow take. But when I hear them talk about anything else, I immediately, because. I'm not an expert in that area, I think that they're very credible and knowledgeable. They have deep insight and deep revelation about this area. I don't apply the same sort of critique to they're talking about public issues and public health and social sciences and political science. I don't have the same sort of level of critique when they talk about those areas as I do when I'm exposed to their lack of depth around my area of expertise. And I think the same kind of critical thought needs to be applied to ChapGPT. It is not necessarily the abundance of all human knowledge and a repository that we can query that gives us access to all of human knowledge. It is literally a calculator. It is a calculator that is statistically calculating what the next best word to put out would be based on prior input and the thing that you asked it for and if we gave... It's not saying it's not useful. It's saying that we need to apply a whole lot of critical, a lot of critique around, and a little bit of... We need to use it with caution into how much we really place stock into the things that it's saying are valid or factually true.

Alicia: [00:43:47] There was an interesting article around is ChapGPT or these AI vehicles a source of getting truth and accuracy or if could it be a possible Pandora's box for misinformation and disinformation. So we're getting into the factual and journalistic integrity of these tools, which is where I kind of nerd out. But it's definitely interesting. We'll see how that goes.

Brian: [00:44:14] But according to Ben Thompson, it's just going to be Her. We're just going straight to the movie Her and it's game over.

Phillip: [00:44:20] Put the earbud in my ear...

Brian: [00:44:23] That was his conclusion. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:44:25] We would be remiss if we didn't actually bring it up. These are topics that I think we will be covering in-depth with people from both inside and outside, far outside of our industries at the Visions Summit at RICE, which we're so excited to partner with you on.

Alicia: [00:44:43] Yay.

Phillip: [00:44:43] This is kind of our first announcement of it on the podcast, but the actual ticketed event site will be coming shortly. Why would you ever put your credibility on the line Alicia and allow us to do this with you?

Alicia: [00:45:00] {laughter} I mean, honestly, I think we're kind of getting into it over the course of our entire conversation. The opportunity to learn from others that have areas of expertise that you don't, but also to have the communities where there's some crossover maybe, but it's unlocking a completely new dimension and new value for building our community out. We talked about the long-term run of conference and expo season in retail. And I think we talked about this in our last conversation. There's a place for all of it. And I think every show, every destination probably has a sweet spot and unique facet to what they're trying to create, whether it be size or scale or C-level focus or what have you, and we really want to create something unique and create a dynamic space where those thought-provoking ideas come to the surface. And I actually think the first time that we ever spoke, Phillip, was we covered some of your reports on Retail TouchPoints. So we always knew, not just the credibility of like, okay, you guys know eCommerce, you know what's happening in DTC and CPG, but like, oh, they cover it in a completely different way than we ever would. And I think that's where it's not competition. It's if you want to call it cooperation or collaboration, but there's just a gelling of ideas where it's like, okay, we see where you're going, we want to go there, and we started to but you guys do it better if that makes sense. And I think that's really where we want to go. And I think we are in good hands and we just appreciate what you guys are creating and we're really excited about it.

Phillip: [00:46:51] Yeah. And thank you so much for partnering with us on it. We're excited. It's coming up soon. We're going to put out the official official announcement and drive people to an actual ticketed site. But our goal really is to have, like you said, people from the arts and from the performing arts, people that do have deep transactional expertise and leadership in retail brands to all share one stage together and talk about this thing that we all do, which is really try to affect some sort of lasting impact with a relationship with a customer. And we all do that. We all have our own way of accomplishing that in various areas of society. We all have the same kinds of challenges too. One of the speakers that we're lining up to speak at the Vision Summit is someone who's a film critic, and they understand film history. And there is an art form that is only a hundred years old. And they have been through all of this before. There is a stigma about talking about small indie creators who effectively make art and how do we bring our critique to that art without tearing down the creator and destroying their credibility in the process? And the critic class is a necessary component of us having a curation of we have too much art. If brands are art, we have too much of it. What is the good art? These are necessary components of having an evolving ecosystem that is becoming much more transcendent as a commercialized form and vehicle for artwork. So why don't we talk to people who understand art as a result? And that's just one of many panels that we're putting together for the Vision Summit. And I think that's what's really awesome, is that being able to create that sort of space in that conversation and in otherwise very tactical trade show event where teams do have to leave with a certain number of technologies and a certain amount of inspiration of what we can take back and put to work. But I'd love to leave them with the final note of and here's why it all matters at the end of the day, right? So yeah, I'm so excited for it. And if you want to learn more about the vision summit at RICE, the best way to do that is to be on our respective newsletters and we'll link those up in the show notes coming very, very soon. Can't wait to see you in June at RICE. Any last words, Alicia?

Alicia: [00:49:25] I got nothing. I'm worded out. {laughter} Thank you guys so much for having me. It's always a blast. Just figuring out where we're going to go with these conversations, right? Because there's so much to talk about. There are so many exciting things happening. I know it's easy to get lost in the gloom and doom of recession, operational efficiency, you know, return on investment. We've been covering a lot of it on Retail TouchPoints. So to get into the creative side and the artsy fartsy side that I love so much is always fun.

Phillip: [00:49:55] Amazing.

Brian: [00:49:56] Awesome.

Phillip: [00:49:56] Well, it's always great to have you. Thank you so much for collaborating with us.

Alicia: [00:49:59] Likewise.

Phillip: [00:50:01] It's been wonderful. Thank you all for listening to Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast and other Future Commerce properties at And hey, join the newsletter. It's in your inbox three times a week. A little bit of inspiration, a little bit of critique, and a whole lot of fun and you'll stay up to date on when Visions finally goes Live, our Vision Summit as we're making our way on the road to RICE. Get that at Thank you so much for listening to Future Commerce. Thanks, Alicia.

Recent episodes

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.