What to see at Advertising Week New York: Blockchain, AI and the retail apocalypse

Not sure what to see at Advertising Week New York? With so many venues, speakers and topics, it can be overwhelming! We’ve broken down the three areas which continue to dominate discussions within the ad industry. We’ve also highlighted the talks we are looking forward to around each topic.

Why are people still talking about Blockchain?

It feels like we have been talking about blockchain forever, and that’s because we have. Ten years in fact! The first blockchain was conceptualised back in 2008 to serve as the public transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. It’s come a long way since then and many people believe that the technology will revolutionise numerous markets including the advertising sector.

With problems of fraud, complicated supply chains and lack of control over data privacy, many believe that blockchain could help to bring some transparency back into digital advertising. They believe this will be done replacing the current online model with one in which companies have more control over campaign performance tracking, and ensuring equitable outcomes.

Whatever your thoughts are on the technology it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. There are lots of discussions and talks planned around how it could disrupt digital advertising next week.

What to see at Advertising Week New York

Out of all the talks on blockchain this year, we’re especially looking forward hearing Venture Capitalist Bill Tai’s Blockchain Crash Course. This is happening on Thursday afternoon on the IBM Watson stage.

How much longer do I have to wait until machines can think for me?

AI is advancing all the time and Google recently revealed Duplex. This gives their Assistant the ability to make calls on your behalf. It can also book appointments for you like your haircut, or a table at your favourite restaurant! Scary I know!

Boston based emotional intelligence company Affectiva are also working on software which will allow AI to read facial expressions. This will open up the possibility of assistants being able to make recommendations to us without us needing to say a word to them!

AI robots

More and more companies are creating voice assistants, and piggybacking on the tech of Alexa, Google or Messenger to create specialised assistants. A good example of this is Diageo’s “Open the bar”, or Estée Laude offering nutritional advice, where you have the dialogue with the brand, not Alexa.

Our Futurist, Elena Corchero recently wrote an article around how AI and future tech will change the way brands communicate with consumers. She believes that if brands are not careful they will easily get bypassed by other tech savvy competitors. AI will be a huge talking point at Advertising Week.

What to see at Advertising Week New York

After appearing on our Home Show Live, we are looking forward to hearing IV.AI’s views on the impact of AI on different industries. We are also looking forward to IBM kicking off the week with their ‘Survival of the Fittest in an AI World’ talk.

Is retail dead yet?

shopping mall

Over the past year the conversation around retail has changed. Many thought that physical stores would eventually shut down and everything would move online. Although we have seen a lot of store closures and retail chains disappearing in the US, many retailers have embraced the digital era. They are finding new ways to attract customers with combined on and offline advertising campaigns.

Rather than seeing the online space as separate to the physical store, many retailers are combining their approach and using digital to attract customers to their stores. Amazon opened their first physical store in the US last year. It allows customers to shop by simply taking products off the shelf and charging them directly rather than having to queue at a till.

The online US lingerie company Adore Me opened their first physical stores last year. After seeing the benefits of having a combined on and offline presence, they have announced that they plan to open another 200-300 stores in the US in the next five years.

As retailers continue to see the benefits of a combined on and offline approach, they are looking for their ad campaigns to follow suit. Expect a lot of conversations around the benefits and drawbacks of combining online and offline advertising in campaigns.

What to see at Advertising Week New York

This year there are a number of talks on this subject. We are especially looking forward to hearing SET’s CEO Alasdair Lloyd-Jones on why he believes the retail apocalypse is a myth.

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In this week’s episode of the Unruly Home Show Live, Elena Corchero chats to Charlotte Morris and Jo Osborne, the founders of SkinNinja, an exciting new app that uses AI to allow consumers to be more informed about their personal care products. Charlotte and Jo demo the app, discuss the idea behind it, and how it helps consumers to make better decisions about the products they use.

The way retail exists today looks very different to how it did 10 years ago. With this in mind we decided it was time to rip up the rule book and explore new ways that retailers can engage with their customers, both in stores and online.

At our recent Trust Talks: Future of Retail event, we sat down and quizzed three experts from the retail space; Elena Corchero, Futurist at Unruly, Ricardo Varela, CEO and Founder of Localistico and Joshua McBain, Director of Consultancy at the Foresight Factory.

A recent report states that over the next 20 years, between 50% and 75% of transactions will be going globally through the Alibaba, Walmart and Amazon platforms. With this in mind, what opportunities are there for retailers to carve a niche as we see consumer behaviour is changing so greatly?

Joshua McBain (JM): The type of impact that these changes will have on different brands depends on their customer groups, and the type of loyalty that they invoke with their customers. The key thing to understand for brands in this space is what the impact is going to be on your brand vs other brands based on your type of loyalty, positioning, and what you sell.

Ricardo Varela (RV): If you look at Amazon, they have recently done a lot of work with the Whole Foods brand by bringing it into the digital space. Going forwards, brands are going to have to decide the best way to reach their consumers, whether that be through digital channels, through physical stores, or through a combined outreach.

Elena Corchero (EC): Looking to the future, I wonder whether Brexit will change the availability of people that work within the delivery space. I also think that driver-less cars will bring about a real change in terms of shipping costs for retailers.

Thinking about Amazon, Alibaba and Walmart, a huge part of their future growth will revolve around voice. How can you see voice helping other retailers, and what opportunities does it present to them that we aren’t currently thinking about?

EC: I believe the car is going to be the biggest driver of voice command over the coming years. Using voice commands to carry out actions whilst you are driving is a necessity compared to when you are at home, where you have the choice to use voice or type in the command to your phone.

The main way voice will impact retailers through car is via impulse purchases. If we think about KitKat, previously they relied on consumers who were away from the home seeing or hearing an advert, remembering it, and then going out of their way to find somewhere that sold it. Whereas now you can take instant action by saying add to basket whilst you are driving, and by the time you get home the KitKat might be there.  

JM: What I think is interesting is the innovations that Microsoft are leading on, which is allowing brands to tailor their tone of voice depending on what service it’s coming from. For example talking to your BMW should sound different than if you were to talk to your Amazon Echo. Consumer’s don’t expect every service to sound the same and many brands are now becoming aware of that, and are starting to act upon it.

If you are a global retailer, how are you able to consider new trends and technologies to engage with your customers at a local level?

RV: Working at a local level is extremely important within the retail sector. Looking at Morrisons as an example, they have created creches in their stores that are located in areas where a lot of families live. Apple also state that each of their stores are unique, and what is in each store is different depending on where it is based.

It’s also important to use the technologies we have to communicate with customers by letting them know what services are available to them. A lot of the time brands will offer additional services like an in store creche, but people will not know about it because the brand has not done a great job of communicating it to their local audience.

“Where marketing starts and e-commerce ends is becoming increasingly blurred”

Is there a way that advertising can add real value, and become part of the end to end consumer experience within the media space?

EC: At Unruly we are studying this within the Home. Over the past year we have learnt that one of the advantages of advertising through the IoT, through voice, and through immersive technologies like VR in the home is that it all becomes part of this ambient era of advertising. Going forward this will hopefully help consumers to see advertisements as adding value to their lives rather than seeing them as interruptions.

JM: Where marketing starts and e-commerce ends is becoming increasingly blurred and I believe that we will see this continue as big social channels like Snapchat and Instagram become more and more shoppable. Social channels will become a great way for brands to work on a much more personal level with their customers, and will give them the ability to personalise their products and prices depending on the customer they are targeting.

We are looking to a world where most services will become automated. My fridge will be able to scan my items and automatically replace them so that I never run out of anything. With this in mind, does that mean that retailers are in danger of becoming more like logistics companies?

EC: I think it’s an advantage as having all that data and machine learning will allow companies to know exactly how much stock they need to hold in different areas.

What is also exciting is the way that AI will work within these situations. For example with the fridge, it could recommend different recipes that it thinks you would like depending on the foods that you enjoy eating on a regular basis. In order to complete the recipes you may be required to order in new ingredients which then opens the door up to new food brands.  

This Q&A was held at Unruly’s Future of Retail event in London. To see any of the insightful presentations available from the event, click on any of the below links to check them out:

“Convenience vs. Experiential : The retail trend landscape in 2018”, Joshua McBain, Director of Consultancy, Foresight Factory

How to empower brands in the home of the future”, Elena Corchero, Futurist, Unruly

“How startups can predict the future of retail”, Justin Cross, Head of Blink UK, MediaCom, Ricardo Varela, Founder, Localistico, Stepan Lavrouk, Customer Engagement Manager, Gyana AI

From gadgets to pens & paper to new clothes, the back-to school shopping season is right around the corner.

According to the National Retail Federation, the average US family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other school needs, down from $669.28 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $24.9 billion. And when you add spending for K-12 as well as college, it’s expected to reach $68B.

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