A: The companies that I expect to do well at differentiating themselves going forward are the ones that aren’t just selling you some generic thing that you could buy anywhere. They inspire some kind of emotional connection. We talked about personalization and data but it’s also the full experience of it all. Let’s face it, if I want to buy something that I just need quickly, and it doesn't matter what brand it is, or the quality isn't that big of a deal, I'm likely going to go to Amazon. I'm going to get it tomorrow and it’ll it probably pretty cheap. It’s hard to compete with that head-to-head.
But we see more and more companies like TOMS Shoes, where you buy a pair of shoes and they give a free pair to somebody in a less-developed country. These sorts of philanthropy-driven businesses create a real connection with consumers. Others may promote the fact that their products are sustainably built, or maybe how they’re made in the U.S. and are thereby helping our economy and American workers.
It may be just telling a story about why they exist, helping you feel a connection to why the founders built the product in the first place and why they're passionate about it. Creating this kind of connection with the company makes more clients want to shop with them versus the larger, faceless corporations.
And then, of course, it’s important to pay off that connection with a great experience, whether it’s physical or digital. I think in the future, the companies that are going to be successful are the ones that make those digital and physical experiences that complement each other. In other words, finding ways to marry the experience with the transaction.
You can have the e-commerce business that’s driving a lot of the transactional piece and you can have tailored experiences with data on your digital storefront. But how are you able to introduce those kinds of things into retail with in-person digital experiences? In store, how can they detect who you are so you can self-select what you're interested in, or so they can show you new things in the store based on the interactions you've had with the brand before? There are shoe stores using AR to show you different types of shoes on your feet, or the price of different options online, and so on. Finding ways to deliver these digital experiences in physical locations is going to be really interesting.