"Communication is a two way street."
That is the basis that formed WPP Stream, the most untraditional, casual, inspiring marketing conference I have ever attended. Coined as the (un)conference, Stream was founded by WPP with the intent of rethinking how we as individuals and marketers engage with one another, and through the brands we work to build every day.
So why is it known as the (un)conference? When you walk into Stream on day one, there is no agenda, two giant white marker boards with blank timeslots, an open bar and hundreds of creative minds brought together in the same place, from the chief creative officer of Facebook, a private investor from Scotland Yard, agency members from all around WPP such as Y&R and Ogilvy, and everyone inbetween.
This myriad of attendees are tasked to fill the blank timeslots with meaningful discussion topics. And over the course of the three days, you don't hear the session creators speak about their expertise, but rather, facilitate discussions in the form of a group brainstorms, to address some of the most relevant, crucial topics in communication today.
Everyone brings a different perspective, given the wide field of attendees, which makes for pretty engaging conversations.
Here are three key learnings I took away as a retail strategist and creative based on the conversations I engaged in.
1. An all-hands push on brand experiences
Thanks to overcrowded categories and behemoth brands like Amazon, retailers have begun to invest more substantially in the experiences around their product and overall brand story to stand out against the competition.
We talked about how this has come to life over the past few months, from creation of digital content like shoppable videos, or even full on physical partnerships, such as Gucci's newest experience in Shanghai called 'No Longer/Not Yet,' which explores the meaning of contemporary/untimely, as seen through the lens of multiple artists in one curated gallery at the Minsheng Art Museum.
Brands are beginning to understand and quantify that when shoppers fall in love with a brand through experience, their wallets open, even if they don't buy that very second.
2. The ever-changing path to purchase and the big picture story
We all know that shopping doesn't happen in linear patterns anymore... instead, most path to purchases resemble that of a pinball machine.
With the introduction of digital, mobile, and emerging tech, along with an overabundance of advertising channels, shoppers are now researching online, showrooming, taking to social media, gaining inspiration and advice from many small yet relevant channels, and ultimately, shopping all the time, whether they realize it or not.
At Stream, we discussed how brands have begun to cope with this new pinball path to purchase and where many are now finding success. Given the many channels shoppers engage with, we heard from many retailers taking the approach of creating big-picture stories around their brand and product, and telling those stories through varying lenses to match the channel where the story is presented. A simple yet relevant example is Buzzfeed and its collaboration with brands like Purina Puppychow.
To remain relevant and top of mind, many retailers at Stream, along with content curators, elaborated further that they have had more engagements with conceptual, relevant creative versus 'product-first' showcases. If it feels like an ad, consumers are less likely to engage.
3. Age of the "always-on" shopper
Mobile has become a critical piece of how we live our everyday lives, from navigation, communication and shopping.
With much discussion around the internet of things (IoT) heavy impact on device connectivity and increased functionality, along with the rise of data, retail is being heavily disrupted by predictive technologies, mobile payment systems, and data personalization.
While privacy issues were prevalent in all of the tech discussions, it seemed mass consensus was that as long as the data taken was used to help simplify and better your life, it was OK for brands to do so.
Zac Kraemer is global brand and business development manager at Labstore Global