10 Highlights From Ben Smithee’s Thought-Provoking Keynote at JCK Las Vegas 2015

“The price of attention has become the most expensive asset in modern retailing,” said Ben Smithee, professional speaker and chief strategy officer at Relevents, during his excellent keynote address at the retailer’s breakfast at last week’s LUXURY show in Las Vegas.

“You open your phone and see your Twitter feed, then your Facebook feed…you’re scrolling through all that information waiting for something to stop you and grab your attention.”

Smithee certainly captured the attention of the robust crowd of retailers at the annual breakfast—and delivered a healthy dose of tough love, to boot. Below, 10 useful (and/or amusing) takeaways from Smithee’s talk:

Courtesy D magazine

Speaker and market analyst Ben Smithee

  1. “Marketing is cheap. What’s expensive is putting a movement around the marketing and getting people to actually engage in it. Experiences create movements. The only way to create a movement around your brand is to create unique experiences.”
  2. “As marketers we tend to mess things up; we get a bunch of emails and spam the s**t out of them.”
  3. “When you look at things like the ALA Ice Bucket challenge, that’s creating a movement that [includes] a call to action that results in some kind of monetary action. And that’s where we all want to get to.”
  4. “It takes two people to create a movement—and they are the catalyst and the momentum. How do we create a path that others can follow and create bigger, momentous change? As marketers, we’re very good about coming up with ideas. But in today’s economy, ideas are crap. Everyone has an idea. VCs won’t even sign an idea..they care about execution.”
  5. “In retail…momentum gives people a vehicle to create change with. We’ve never had the [kind of] tools we have today to create that momentum with. We can get exposure by paying for it, or for free on social media. And targeted advertising on social media has never been as successful as it has the potential to be today…. The catalyst is not expensive, the ability to create something is not expensive. Your ability to capitalize on that is supercheap.”
  6. “If you don’t believe me now that you need to integrate tech into your retail experience, you’re going to believe me a year from now. [Technology] is going to fundamentally shift and really lead the consumer experience. You’ll be getting sensors and machine learning in stores [through] things like…NFC, low-energy Bluetooth, and beacons.”
  7. “As a jewelry retailer, you will be able to use technology to [tell stories] of where a diamond was sourced, why it costs what it costs, and how it translates from a rough diamond to a final piece of jewelry. Through technology, that information will be put right into the ring. We’ve never been able to tell the story and connect the dots like we can today.”
  8. “We are seeing how consumers walk through stores, and we can [merchandise] and design stores around that data…hacking that human data stream; the fact that we’re creating wearables and creating more streams of data is good for business.”
  9. “Dynamic pricing is also coming. In Texas we have Nebraska Furniture Mart, and at 4 a.m. every day they crawl through the web for prices and update all the digital price tags in the store [to reflect the lowest prices]. They can tell you in real time what’s going on, demand wise…based on historical and predicted data.”
  10. “You haven’t given millennials a reason to engage with the jewelry industry. If I asked people what they’re more excited about—a laptop or a piece of jewelry, it’s [technology]. There’s no reason to go into 99 percent of jewelry retail environments. And you’re hard-pressed to see jewelry companies who are really investing in social media in a meaningful way. You have to figure out a way to make jewelry fun and relevant. You have more story to tell than any other industry I’ve ever worked with, hands down.”

JCK Magazine Editor