A Look Back on Code Commerce

The two day Code Commerce conference, put on by Vox Media, was a unique and thought provoking event that brought together brand and commerce leaders for discussions, thought leadership and the occasional prediction (Short – Lyft; Buy Amazon). There were a couple themes that jumped out during the two days that are worth taking a bit of a deeper dive on, including Customer Experience, Innovation, Amazon and Women Rule the Future of Commerce.

Customer Experience was the dominant theme with many of the showcase brands and speakers, such as  Jennifer Hyman with Rent the Runway, Jen Rubio & Steph Korey with Away and David Kahan with Birkenstock. They used terms for their customers like, “she,”  “community” and “fans” showing that their focus is both personal and emotional. These brands get what their mission is and who they ultimately serve. While there was plenty of talk of valuation, growth and navigating the Venture Capital world, these leaders know their first objective is to meet their customers unmet need, to delight them at each point of interaction and to fulfill their brand promise through their products.

Innovation was on full display across all spectrums.  As I touched on above, paramount to the customer experience is making it easy or “frictionless” to do business.  Brands have a huge focus of continuing to innovate on how they can better serve their customers as well as how they are reaching their customers. An example of this is the use of influencers. It is forcing brands to let go of control of their marketing message to attract new customers and to spread their brand message through channels like Youtube.  We saw a poignant example with Choreographer, Kyle Hanagami and his collaboration with Calvin Klein.  

An additional catalyst has been the pronounced “Death of Retail, Department Stores & Fast Fashion” which has actually spurned tremendous innovation.  Brands can engage with their customers through experiences that allow them to interact with products in an emotional and visceral way. Digital Native companies have realized that physical space enhances their customer’s experience,  elevates their products or simplifies their service. Technology is making customers lives better in real ways through digital as well. Better visualization of a product through 3D rendering or Augmented Reality simplifies the purchase decision.  Technology and smart physical space will continue to allow great brands to make their customers lives better.

Next up, Amazon.  Every business has been or will be disrupted by Amazon.  With 100M Prime members in the US and 1/3 of commerce transactions, they are the 800 lb gorilla.  Each guest was asked “What about Amazon?” While each brand may attack the problem differently or be impacted differently, they will need a strategy to address Amazon across some aspect of their business.  

Last, but certainly not least:Women are taking the reigns of commerce.  Visionaries and Leaders like Jennifer Hyman or Rent the Runway and Real Real, CEO Julie Wainwright have created what is forecasted to be by 2028 a 200B market for second hand and rental commerce.  Or, women like Tara Walpert Levy of Google who are helping brands connect with creators on platforms like Youtube with technology like famebit and disrupting the traditional approach to attracting customers.  It should be no surprise that Scott Galloway, Entrepreneur, NYU professor and Chief Soothsayer has labeled the following three companies the chief disruptors and future of commerce: Rent the Runway, RealReal and Stitchfix.  All created and led by visionary women.

Kudos to the Vox team for asking the import and tough questions of their guests and putting on a great show.  It’s always important to step outside your day to day and learn from those who are doing it well. As we tell our clients every day, it’s about connecting with the people who are your customers and creating the experiences they want that drives results.  We saw that on display and it will be firmly entrenched.