The Online Retailer conference is the largest ecommerce event in the Southern Hemisphere; and the Retail Oasis team have been here in Sydney checking it out!

Over the past 2 days we’ve seen numerous tech demos, spoken with a lot exhibitors and had the chance to listen to some great Australian retail leaders and executives from the likes of Showpo, the Good Guys, Thankyou, Supercheap Auto, T2 and even Australian Post.

So what what did we learn? Here’s our top 3 takeaways from the event:


Recognition technology is looking pretty cool.

First off let’s talk about what we liked.

One future technology we did see a lot of was around “recognition”. That is, a camera recognises physical characteristics of the consumer and personalises the retail experience for them. Although still somewhat in it’s infancy, it’s a technology with a lot of potential.

The technology can be partnered with holograms to personalise advertisements to consumers. From an advertising point of view, the experience changes depending on who the customer is. Once a consumer stands in front of the display, the built-in camera picks up physical traits of the consumer; for example their gender, age, colour of their clothing and emotional state (whether they’re smiling or not). It can then personalise an advertisement for them based on their demographic and perceived interests.

For example, me being a male in his (early) 30’s, once I stood in front of the display I was promoted with holographic advertisements for products that it thinks may be of interest to me. Cars, beer and even sneakers. And whether it was a case of sheer circumstance or extreme accuracy, I was actually shown an advertisement for a watch; which was eerily close to the model watch I was actually wearing at the time.

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The camera is able to recognise a number of variables of the person in front of the camera and make relevant product suggestions.

The recognition software and cameras can also be used to personalise the actual shopping experience. By looking into a camera, the screen suggests what type of eyewear you should wear. The experience even changes based on whether you’re male or female (a male consumer will receive a male shop assistant and vice-versa for female consumers).

Although the end result left a bit to be desired, it’s still a cool concept.

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Purple shades? It know’s me too well!


Australia is woefully behind the rest of the world when it comes to retail tech.

So apart from recognition technology, what other examples of tech did we see and hear about?

Not much…

We’ve been fortunate to attend a lot of retailing tech events this year and seen some excellent examples of how tech is being used to help consumers overseas, but when it comes to innovations in tech Australia has a long way to go.

Virtual reality was very limited and dare we say gimmicky (unlike the excellent examples we saw at shoptalk earlier in the year). There was little-to-no talk about augmented reality, artificial intelligence, automated payments or voice computing (e.g. Alexa or Echo). This was quite disappointing given the growth we’re currently seeing of these tech overseas (Echo is currently the top selling tech item in the states this year).

It wouldn't be a tech conference if there wasn't some guy in a suit using VR and awkwardly waving his hands around.

It wouldn’t be a retail tech conference if there wasn’t some guy in a suit using VR and awkwardly waving his hands around.

Amazon who?

Like every retail conference, over the past two days we’ve heard multiple buzzwords. “Cloud computing”. “Machine learning”. “The internet of things”. And there was even the token panel discussion on marketing to generation z generation y millennials!

There's about 5 million millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the turn of the millennium) in Australia. Call me crazy, but 20% of the total Australian population isn't really an accurate or relevant definition of a "consumer segment".

There’s about 5 million millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the turn of the millennium) in Australia. Call me crazy, but 20% of the total Australian population isn’t really an accurate or relevant definition of a “consumer segment”.

But there was one word (or more accurately, name) that was notably missing throughout the conference… Amazon.

Yes that’s right. We thought it bizarre that at an “online retailing” conference, there was barely any mention of Amazon’s potential impact to the Australian retail industry. Granted, we didn’t have the chance to speak to all retailers at the event, but the general mood was it’s “business as usual” or “they won’t affect us”.

Now we feel Amazon’s impact has been overstated by the media. However only the naive will think Amazon’s impact will be minimal, especially in the medium-to-long term. Only a few months ago in the US, the continual threat of Amazon to retail was a dominate theme of the annual Shoptalk conference (you can read our report from Shoptalk 2017 here).

If the past two days are any indication, many Australian retailers are still living in the past. They’re woefully unaware of Amazon’s potential impact or worse still, they’re choosing to bury their hands in the sand. And we all now how that’s going to end right?


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Author Trent Rigby

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