Editor's note: VISIONS Summit: NYC was made possible through the support of our partners. Thanks to Bloomreach, the platform for personalization in every channel.

And a special thank you to BigCommerce and Stripe, partners in global commerce innovation.

On June 11, 150 futurists gathered in the Celeste Bartos Theater at NYC's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to explore the intersection of commerce and culture.

Future Commerce, in partnership with Bloomreach, BigCommerce, and Stripe, hosted VISIONS Summit: NYC, a half-day event that delved into the concept of monoculture in the modern age and its implications on consumers — and the role that the retail and eCommerce executive has to play in fusing both commerce and culture.

The Summit brought together an eclectic mix of speakers, from renowned authors and journalists to innovative content creators and industry analysts—and ended in conversation with the one-and-only writer, author, and entrepreneur, Alison Roman.

Key Takeaways

Through a series of keynote talks, panels, and 1-1 interviews, futurists in the eCommerce industry gained much-needed insight into the evolving landscape of consumer behavior, brand-building, and the future of commerce in a multiplayer world.

  1. The Emergence of Multiplayer Brands. Phillip Jackson, the co-founder and CEO of Future Commerce, introduced the concept of "multiplayer brands". These are brands that invite consumers to participate in their creation process, fostering a sense of community and shared ownership.
  2. The Persistence of Monoculture. Despite the fragmentation of media, shared cultural moments still exist and hold significant power. Kate Lindsay, culture writer and author of the newsletter Embedded, pointed out that events like the Trump trial verdict or Taylor Swift's album releases create unavoidable conversations across platforms.
  3. Algorithmic Influence on Culture. Kyle Chayka, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Filterworld, illustrated how algorithmic recommendations shape our cultural experiences, from the content we consume to the products we buy. Chayka emphasized the need for more human curation to counterbalance algorithmic homogenization.
  4. The Blurring of Physical and Digital Spaces. A panel featuring Reggie James, co-founder and CEO of Eternal, and Ruby Thelot, artist and professor at NYU, explored how the lines between physical and digital realms are becoming increasingly indistinct. This convergence presents both challenges and opportunities for brands seeking to create immersive, cohesive experiences.
  5. Authenticity in Content Creation. Emily Hopkins, a YouTube content creator, shared insights on maintaining authenticity while navigating brand partnerships and audience expectations. Hopkins' approach underscores the importance of genuine connections in the creator economy.
  6. The Evolution of Media Consumption. Hitha Herzog, retail analyst and author, highlighted the enduring influence of traditional media while acknowledging the shift towards more diverse and personalized information sources. This evolving media landscape requires brands to adapt their communication strategies across multiple channels.

5 Practical Applications of This Knowledge

As one attendee noted, Future Commerce events “change your brain chemistry.” By introducing bigger ideas, and ‘peeking around the next corner,’ leaders in retail and eCom

It’s not enough to merely attend an event like VISIONS. We have to put this knowledge into practice. Based on our attendee feedback, here are some strategic applications that might help you to futureproof your brand’s digital strategy.

  1. Leveraging Cultural Moments: Marketers can tap into monocultural events to create relevance and engagement. Swift response to trending topics, as exemplified by New Balance's quick reaction to Taylor Swift's appearance, can drive significant attention and sales.
  2. The ‘Omnimodal’ Interfaces of the Future: Brands should strive for a seamless presence across digital experiences… and those digital experiences are changing. From chat-based UIs to infinite short-form video streams—digital commerce is now multimodal. Consider how physical spaces have been altered by digital devices, and ask if the future is more—or less?—digital than today. Consumers increasingly expect cohesive experiences that transcend traditional boundaries; and sometimes those boundaries impose artificial limitations—like non-digital physical spaces.
  3. Authentic Creator Partnerships: Following harpist and content creator Emily Hopkins' approach, brands should seek partnerships with creators who genuinely align with their voice and tone, and lean into the relationship the creator has with the audience. This authenticity resonates more strongly with audiences and builds long-term trust.
  4. A Traditional Media Strategy: As highlighted by Hitha Herzog, while traditional media retains its importance, brands must also engage with emerging platforms and citizen journalism to reach diverse audience segments. Despite the rise of creator platforms and performance marketing, traditional media remains a powerful bar for brand legitimacy, a rite of passage that opens up
  5. Community Creation: Alison Roman, New York Times bestselling author and content creator, emphasized the power of community in driving engagement and loyalty. Alison also mused about the danger of reliance on ‘borrowed’ platforms. “I want to do things that don’t even require electricity,” said Roman with radical candor. Brands should focus on owning their platform relationships, creating spaces and experiences that foster a sense of belonging among their customers, and limiting the dependency on relationships that force brands into inequitable relationships with their customers.
Pictured: The entrance to the Celeste Bartos Theater at MoMA, the venue for VISIONS Summit: NYC.

A recurrent theme was the niche, controversial, or emerging trends that are shaping consumer behavior and brand interactions.

Kate Lindsay mentioned the "millennial pause" phenomenon in video content, where older millennials unconsciously pause before speaking on camera. Alison Roman, bestselling cookbook author and content creator, discussed the rise of "dupe culture" and its implications for brand authenticity and consumer psychology.

Pictured (left-to-right): Reggie James, Ruby Thelot, and Paul Canetti

The concept of "coastal grandmother" aesthetics was touched upon as an example of hyper-specific trend categorization. Ruby Thelot introduced the idea of "an app for Emily," suggesting a future of hyper-personalized software experiences. Reggie James alluded to the potential of "no-ship" social spaces, drawing parallels to private, camera-free venues like Berghain in Berlin; as well as new concepts like "home-cooked software" and the resistance to scalability in favor of bespoke digital experiences.

The most controversial topic of the day surrounded a recurrent theme: that AI-generated content creation creates scale without emotional connection, with many speakers pondering its impact on human creativity and curation in digital spaces.

Featured Keynotes: On Algorithms and Tinned Fish

Kyle Chayka keynotes VISIONS Summit: NYC

Kyle Chayka's "Filterworld" presentation illuminated the pervasive influence of algorithmic recommendations on our cultural landscape. Chayka, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture, argued that while these systems were designed to help navigate the vastness of the internet, they've inadvertently led to a homogenization of experiences. He emphasized the need for human curation to counterbalance this effect, citing examples like the Criterion Channel and independent newsletters as beacons of thoughtful content curation.

Alison Roman: our featured keynote interview at VISIONS Summit: NYC

Alison Roman, New York Times bestselling author and content creator, provided a candid look at the intersection of food media and commerce. In her interview, Roman discussed the challenges of balancing creative pursuits with commercial imperatives and shared insights on building a multi-faceted media presence while maintaining authenticity (and leaning in to millennial pantry trends like tinned fish and bougie pasta.)

As Kyle Chayka noted, where algorithmic recommendations have become ubiquitous, there's a growing appetite for curated, meaningful experiences. This sentiment was echoed across sessions, from Alison Roman's emphasis on community-building to Emily Hopkins' focus on genuine content creation.

Scenes from VISIONS: NYC

Pictured: Future Commerce co-founder Brian Lange
“Commerce is identity exchange. And the brands that you all are building or helping build through technology or whatever roles you play are helping facilitate the creation of enclaves for customers to come in and escape the entropy of our world.” – Brian Lange
“We're living in this era of algorithmic culture that has been homogenized into a set of tropes that can be found everywhere and are repeated infinitely.” – Kyle Chayka
Pictured: Future Commerce co-founder, Phillip Jackson
“The future is multiplayer. And commerce is culture.” – Phillip Jackson
Pictured: Eternal founder, Reggie James
“We tend to hit these just accelerated ‘Internet superhighway’ vibes mentally. And then you step outside, and you realize, actually, the pace of the environment is significantly slower, and the culture hasn't changed that much.” – Reggie James
Pictured: NYU professor, artist, and cyberethnographer, Ruby Thelot
“The future of software and digital experiences will resist scale. I think it'll be more custom and bespoke.” – Ruby Thelot
Pictured: Futurist, Founder and Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia Business School, Paul Canetti
“Like, there's human artifacts that we've introduced that at some point were, you know, considered on the cutting edge and intrusive.” – Paul Canetti
Pictured: Writer, cultural critic, and author of Embedded Substack, Kate Lindsay
“I feel like the barometer when something has hit monoculture is when Twitter is just unusable if it's something you don't want to talk about.” – Kate Lindsay
Pictured: Journalist, author, and retail analyst, Hitha Herzog
"News organizations have spent billions of dollars making sure that their brand equity is never diluted… there’s a reason that The New York Times has prestige. That’s not going away." – Hitha Herzog
Pictured: Alison Roman (left), and Future Commerce Head of Insights, Rachel Swanson
“I'm very much a Luddite. The things that bring me joy are cooking and writing, two things that you don't really need electricity for." – Alison Roman

Understanding the Monoculture

‘Monoculture’ is defined by our shared cultural experiences that transcend individual niches and create collective moments of engagement. These diverse experiences can be cultural events, digital or broadcast media, musical genres, fashion trends, or aesthetic trends.

Despite hyper-personalization of media and the proliferation of algorithmic niche content streams, these monocultural events persist… and continue to shape consumer behavior and brand interactions.

In our opening session at VISIONS, Phillip Jackson, co-founder and CEO of Future Commerce, introduced the concept of The Multiplayer Brand, emphasizing how commerce is becoming increasingly participatory. This shift requires brands to navigate a landscape where consumers are not just passive recipients but active co-creators of brand narratives.

By understanding how monocultural moments emerge and spread, eCommerce teams can:

  1. Identify opportunities for timely and relevant brand activations
  2. Develop products that tap into broader cultural trends
  3. Create marketing campaigns that resonate across diverse audience segments
  4. Build community-driven experiences that foster brand loyalty
  5. Adapt to quickly-shifting consumer sentiments and behaviors
Pictured (left-to-right): Phillip Jackson, Hitha Herzog, Kate Lindsay

As Kate Lindsay, the “barometer for a monocultural moment is when a topic dominates conversations across platforms,” making it all-but unavoidable for users. For brands, recognizing and engaging with these moments can lead to increased visibility, relevance, and consumer connection. “Why do brands latch on to Taylor Swift,” asked Lindsay. “To game the algorithm. Because that’s what people are talking about and [brands] want to be part of the story.”

Embracing the concept of monoculture within the framework of multiplayer brand dynamics, organizations can build more resilient, adaptive, and engaging presences in the ever-evolving world of commerce and culture.

See Around the Next Corner

As VISIONS Summit: NYC drew to a close, it became clear that the future of commerce lies in embracing the participatory nature of brands and culture. The event underscored the importance of adaptability in navigating the eCommercesphere; where consumer expectations and technological capabilities are in constant upheaval.

VISIONS Summit: NYC served as a clarion call for industry executives to pick their heads up from their own timelines and algos, and look beyond short-term trends and tactical maneuvers. The future of commerce and culture demands a holistic approach that combines technological innovation with human insight, innovative decisions with creative intuition, and global reach with personalized experiences.

No small task, to be sure. But our subscribership are futurists who shape culture and commerce. This is what we do. The challenges ahead are significant, but so too are the opportunities for those willing to embrace the multiplayer future of brands, commerce, and culture.

Photography credits: COMMON INTEREST, Jesse Tyler

Videography Credits: Future Commerce, Jesse Tyler, JT Turner, COMMON INTEREST.

VISIONS Summit: NYC is presented by Bloomreach, BigCommerce, and Stripe.


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