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Hilfiger: fall behind at your own peril

American fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger has warned that those who fall behind the curve on technological innovation in retail may find themselves unable to catch up.

In the final keynote of the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual Big Show in New York, Hilfiger, in conversation with IBM’s Michelle Peluso, said his label had managed to buck the retail blues by embracing new technology and taking risks.

“Many years back, when we decided we should be technically advanced, it was a great decision because we were right on the cusp of change in retail. We were the reverse of that trend [of decline]… It all had to do with the fact that we embraced new technology and were not afraid to take risks,” Hilfiger said.

Tommy Hilfiger was an early adopter of the see now, buy now trend in fashion and the first retailer to partner with Facebook Messenger on chatbots. The brand has embraced mobile shopping, such as ‘snap to shop’, and influencer marketing, striking advantageous partnerships with the likes of Gigi Hadid.

And while Hilfiger noted that – to some extent – embracing the latest technology was part and parcel of being a “young” brand, the decision also had to do with the increasingly competitive retail landscape.

“If you fall behind…catching up is maybe not an option,” he said.

Indeed, Peluso is of the opinion that many established retailers – with their wealth of data – are better placed than some might think to thrive in this new retail era.

“Now is the time for the rise of the incumbent,” she said.

Some of the world’s biggest brands and retailers have taken to the stage at the Big Show over the last three days, with discussion ranging from pronouncements about the state of the industry ranging from challenged to flourishing.

In a panel on artificial intelligence on day two, Ebay marketplace chief strategy officer Kris Miller offered some wisdom about the near future of machine learning that could change the face of ecommerce in the coming years.

“We’ve hit a tipping point in our ability to train AI, along with massive increases in computing power. We can do much more with AI and deep learning…It will impact how consumers become aware of brands, how they browse, how they make decisions, how they transact and how they ship,” Miller said.

For his part, McCann believes that voice is the user interface of the future. “Mass adoption of these capabilities are happening really fast,” he said.

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