Digital Leaders NY

Dr. Terri Kennedy at Digital Leaders event at the Harvard Club

THE BUZZ: On Tuesday, June 23rd, 2013, I participated in the Digital Leaders event at the Harvard Club of New York City. Digital Leaders is a global network of the most influential leaders in the Internet, mobile & digital industry.

I was delighted to join this intimate invitation-only event as a Web 1.0 Internet pioneer. I founded VH1 Interactive and VH1@Work Radio Network in the early 1990s and was VP of Business Development & Operations for the MTV Networks Interactive group. We launched six digital cable networks, and tested early PC/TV and cell phone applications.

Monty Metzger, Chairman and Founder of Digital Leaders, hosted the evening. It was a very interesting mix of digital influencers, founders, techies, startups, investors and visionaries. The intention of convening was to collectively re-imagine, re-think and re-create our world.

Here’s some food for thought from our discussion:

Global Retail in a Digital World
Torsten Waack von Wasen, Managing Partner of dgroup USA spoke about “globalisaletion” – global retail in a digital world:

* People can buy anything from anywhere. How will this change retail? For example, the tradition of Christmas shopping in New York at Macy’s can be done online from London. Therefore, in the future, consumers will define themselves by style versus location. Traditional retailers will need to innovate to compete with digital native companies.

* The location of distribution and inventory don’t have to be the same. For example, products can be made in New York and sold in California. Companies that acknowledge that and have back-end communications that speak to each other across locations will succeed. There will also be collaboration of multiple retailers with open sourcing platforms to reach economies of scale.

* People who have a global mindset – thinking outside of their own culture in creating their businesses and products – will have the edge.

The Role of Data
Andreas Wiegend, Founder & Director of the Social Data Lab at Stanford University spoke of the power of social data:

* As Andreas said, “Data is the new oil.” The decisions we make – from where we will eat to who we date – are increasingly made from the data we share, social data. How will this change social norms?

* More data doesn’t necessarily make better decisions. It may be harder to distinguish what is valid and data can feed on itself. The more people believe it, the more “correct” it may seem. If so many people believe in something, how can it be wrong? A point I made was, if we all believe in “big bad data” then that can lead to “big bad decisions.”

* The fact that we have the data doesn’t mean we have to use it. For example, do we want our health insurance to depend on DNA (simply because we have access to DNA information)?

* Increased access to information can actually decrease the value in the exchange of it. In the past, businesses were based on information asymmetry. In the future, decisions will be based on information symmetry.

Digital Product Explosion
Uli Held, Director of Global eCommerce Operations at arvato systems spoke about the digital product explosion:

* In the digital world, cost of inventory and distribution change – or possibly even go away. In addition, it is easier to make different digital versions for different consumer groups. This increased flexibility is good but it also brings on increased complexity.

* Just because you can make various versions of a digital product, doesn’t mean you should. Multiple digital versions can lead to inconsistencies such as in content and product descriptions.

* For the consumer, the digital product explosion leads to the paradox of choice where more is not better. There might be too much choice for the consumer. Sometimes less is more – or at least the illusion of less through filtering and customization.

* Since digital retail is global then we also have to think about language versions, different pricing approaches, types of devices, etc. How should you manage that? What do you sell where? What is the right price point across countries?

* In this new world, brand trust becomes more important.

Smart TV / Over-the-Top Video (OTT)
Sab Kanaujia, Chief Strategy Officer & EVP of Total Media Networks SA spoke of Over-the-top video:

* In the future, consumers will decide what to watch, when, how and where. The only medium that can fulfill that vision is the Internet. Over-the-Top (OTT) Video is professionally-produced video (versus consumer-created) delivered over the public Internet (versus cable, satellite, closed network).

* OTT is Mobile. Mobile growth is outpacing PCs and is being used to watch video. Your mobile device is a screen you always have with you and the WiFi infrastructure is growing to meet demand.

* Growth of OTT will be international, particularly from emerging markets. They can leapfrog in terms of distribution methods. Three-quarters of the population have mobile access. The opportunity: there are 400 million pay TV subscribers in the emerging markets and 5 billion mobile phone subscribers. Content providers that close that gap will win.

* OTT can be personalized based on feedback received on interests and habits – for each member of the family. This is not possible with traditional TV. This can lower content creation cost. Netflix is already doing this – with data on what people are watching, they can customize shows for what people want. Therefore, there is less waste of time and money in development.

* What are the implications of the concept of TV as an app versus a piece of hardware (e.g. HBO to Go)? Designing apps for the TV needs to be one-to-many (possibly using things like facial and voice recognition) versus one-to-one.

* Metadata will allow for everything in the video to be tagged. Then, we can build apps to interact with the data and possibly connect it to commerce or other content. How does that change advertising? If the 30-second spot is TV’s native ad unit, what is Smart TV’s native ad unit? With Smart TV you can change out the host of the show depending on who is watching to make it more relevant to the specific viewer.

Other speakers included Wolfgang Huebschle, Executive Director for the State of Bavaria U.S. Office of Economic Development; Freddie Laker, CEO & Founder of Guide; and Peter S. Crosby, Head of Sales for The list of delegates was equally impressive. If you play in the digital space, Digital Leaders may be a network to consider.

What do you think?
What will the retail landscape look like five years from now? Who will thrive in this environment? How will data change business and our interactions? What is the future of television? Who will be the Smart TV / OTT Video winner – traditional TV companies or technology companies?

Contributed by Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, Ph.D., MBA.

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