Randi Zuckerberg Shares Big Insights Into the Future of Retail

At WJA’s In the Know conference on March 10, Mark’s big sister talked about everything from reinventing retail to bracelets that transform into selfie-snapping drones

WJA’s 13th annual In the Know conference—themed “Blurring the Lines”—kicked off March 10 with a phenomenal keynote presentation by Randi Zuckerberg, whose little brother, Mark, you may have heard of (hint: His social media company boasts nearly 1.6 billion active users).

Randi is a charismatic Renaissance woman: founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, author of Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives (which spawned a digital lifestyle website), Harvard graduate, mother to two young boys, and an accomplished musical performer (she recently completed a two-week run in the Broadway musical Rock of Ages). She’s also a phenomenal public speaker.

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Randi Zuckerberg (photo courtesy of @randizuckerberg)

Zuckerberg’s presentation, “Finding the Balance,” spanned many topics—from her beginnings at Facebook (her brother’s “stupid little company in the suburbs of California”) to the dawn of virtual reality. Here are the highlights.

On the Keys to Facebook’s Early Success

“One thing that was incredible about those guys was their passion,” Zuckerberg told the crowd about her early days with the fledgling company. “It was truly intoxicating. I caught the entrepreneurial buzz. I spent the next seven years at Facebook. There were about 12 of us. I didn’t even have a title. When I left, it was a public company.”

“We launched with exclusivity; there’s something to be said about this world in which there’s so much noise about having a little scarcity.”

“We also used real identities. That completely changed the game for social media and networking.”

“Finally, we developed our own fun company culture: We wanted everyone to feel like they were a hacker. We did ‘hackathons’ where any employee was invited to pull an all-nighter at the office. The only rule was you couldn’t work on anything related to your day job.”

On Her “Avengers” of Social Media

“YouTube is a huge one. There’s no better way to tell a story if you’re demonstrating new product. There’s a big trend around ‘edutainment.’ ”

“Facebook. For businesses, you can almost become your own media company in Facebook.”

“LinkedIn. When I post something, I get more engagement on LinkedIn than every other site combined. Such an efficient way to get great information.”

“Instagram. What photographs better than jewelry? Instagram was made for this industry. It’s worth signing up just for this account: @hotdudesreading.”

“Twitter. Amazing for live events.”

On Trends in Technology

“Entrepreneur or employee? In the new workspace, the lines are incredibly blurred. You need that entrepreneurial skill set. We all need to be creative, all need to think like entrepreneurs. The new workspace is creative.”

“Google says to its employees they can use 20 percent of their time to work on anything they want—even a novel. The idea is to get people to put down their devices and think creatively.”

“The new workplace is mobile and on demand. You can get anything with a button on your iPhone: a manicure, massage, alcohol, or marijuana delivered like an Uber.”

“Communicate like a media company: GE created its own podcast, and 2 million people have downloaded it since October. It’s not enough to just put out a website; every single one of us is a media company and needs to put out content that’s entertaining.” [Exhibits A, B, and C: RedBull video of Felix Baumgartner’s historic space jump, Carlsberg “best poster in the world,” and Arby’s to Pharrell: “Can we have our hat back?”]

On Companies That Are Reinventing Retail

“We’re seeing some exciting trends: The 1888 Hotel in Sydney says you stay for free if you have more than 10,000 followers. The idea is that cash is not the only currency.”

On the Maker Movement

“There’s a lot more excitement around 3-D printing: kayaks, shoes, smartphone cases, a bridge in the Netherlands that is building itself.”

“In China, there are huge printers that can print houses in a day. In Taiwan, you can print your selfie on a latte.”

“On the medical front, 3-D printed models of ears that can hear just as well if not better than human ears.”

“Etsy has proven than anyone can be a maker.”

On Virtual Reality

“VR is the talk of Silicon Valley right now. For now, it’s mostly being used for gaming and movies. Imagine taking someone through a piece of jewelry and letting them touch it and try it on without it ever being created.”

On Drones

“Selfie drones: Meet Lily. She follows you and videos you for 20 minutes.”

Nixie: It starts as a bracelet and transforms into a drone to take selfies.”

My Takeaway

All in all, Zuckerberg presented a glimpse of a mind-blowing future, all the more impressive because it’s already here. That bracelet-turned-drone? It was introduced in 2014. For those of us still processing the kooky ideas sampled above, here’s a sobering thought: We’re already behind the curve.

An immense thank you to the hardest-working women in the jewelry business (at least in recent months): conference organizers Jen Cullen Williams of the Luxury Brand Group and the NPD Group’s Desiree Hanson. You two did a fantastic job putting together a very special day full of thought-provoking speakers and phenomenal networking. Kudos on a job brilliantly done!