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World Retail Congress 2023 daily recap, Spora’s ASMR discomfort exhibition, and why American Millennials favour fortune-tellers over financial advisers

World Retail Congress daily recap: Generative AI and e-commerce futures

Hotel Arts Barcelona, Spain Hotel Arts Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona – The second day of the show was dedicated to how artificial intelligence will affect the retail sector and its players.

Dr Thomas Gilbert, a machine ethics scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, highlighted how all major e-commerce platforms would soon include AI-powered chatbots. Although unpredictable, the latter can be developed in only 12 months thanks to advances in generative AI such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The next step for the tool is to specialise in the emotional understanding of consumers to cement a hyper-personalised level of customer service and recommendations.

Addressing the future of e-commerce, Dr Carsten Keller, vice-president of direct-to-consumer at Zalando, dismissed the metaverse buzz that dominated retail conversations in 2022 to stress the importance of investing in Generative AI instead.

Loyalty was another hot topic, with Dr Keller reflecting on Zalando’s acquisition of Highsnobiety. The fashion-forward indie publication brought editorial excellence, hype and a new-found relevance to the Germany-based marketplace.

Elsewhere, Niraj Jain, chief financial officer of Matahari, the largest retail platform in Indonesia, celebrated the success of its WhatsApp shopping programme after sending over 15m marketing messages on the Meta-owned app. According to business communications platform Message Bird, Matahari achieved a conversion rate of 6.5%, nearly 2.5 times higher than the industry average of 2.6%. Jain was even more optimistic, saying WhatsApp is now generating more sales for the company than

Spora digital artworks explore ASMR discomfort

Spora by Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins, UK Spora by Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins, UK
Spora by Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins, UK Spora by Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins, UK

UK – Acclaimed creatives Lucy Hardcastle and Maisie Cousins have joined forces to create Spora, a series of digital art pieces the duo define as ‘hypnotic moving images exploring the hidden alchemy of the female form’. The project was launched in Shoreditch, East London, as part of Downstairs at Mother in April 2023.

Spora is available to watch online and we encourage you to do so to experience the fascinating yet uncomfortable ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) soundtrack, the macro-level photography and the CGI elements, all moving in harmony. ‘We wanted to create visuals that expose the eco-system of micro-organisms existing within us beyond a surface level,’ Hardcastle told Dazed. ‘These processes are happening within our body that we may not be aware of, or might be considered unpalatable.’

In Grotesque Grub and Doom Dressing, we previously looked at how both food and fashion brands are exploring their darker side and embracing uglier aesthetics in a new creative movement shifting away from the Instagram-ready pristine visual identity that dominated the 2010s and recalling the abject, de-centred work of artists such as Cindy Sherman.

Strategic opportunity

Embrace a bolder approach to brand identity by taking risks with striking visuals that tell stories from a maximalist or surrealistic perspective, or which encourage a sensory or discomforting response

Robot dogs join New York police

US – In a press conference with Mayor Eric Adams and officials, The New York Police Department (NYPD) has announced the addition of three robots to its teams. The devices – StarChase, K5 Autonomous Security Robot and Digidog – are all set to work alongside human officers.

The StarChase will allow police to shoot a projectile that attaches a GPS tracker onto cars, with the goal to avoid high-speed vehicle pursuits and allowing officers to track and locate cars precisely. The K5 is a white robot on wheels that can be used to patrol small areas such as subway stations as it uses AI to provide real-time communication to first responders. Digidog is perhaps the most controversial: a K9-like, remote-controlled robot that the police intend to use to assess dangerous incidents including hostage situations, terrorism attacks and encounters with people in mental health crises.

NYPD previously terminated a contract to use similar devices in 2020 when a video of a Digidog running through a public housing complex in Manhattan went viral. The K5 has also run into a few challenges, including being toppled and slathered in barbecue sauce, being beaten up and on another occasion falling into a pool of water.

Police reform activists have raised important ethical questions about surveillance, privacy and the technology’s cost. As revealed in our Consumer Surveillance Market report, technology created to assist organisations often has the adverse effect of gathering large amounts of data.

Boston Dynamics, US

Strategic opportunity

The adoption of robotic dogs by organisations such as NYPD will create suspicion and cynicism among people with regard to the protection of their privacy

US Millennials favour fortune-tellers over financial advisers

Wise. Identity by Ragged Edge Wise. Identity by Ragged Edge

US – A new survey of 2,000 Americans from financial planning service Empower reveals that one in four Millennials turn to a fortune-teller for advice. In contrast, only one-third of the Americans surveyed have spoken to a financial adviser in the past. The results also show how over six in 10 Americans (62%) are still reluctant to talk about money. Many would rather discuss politics (43%) and even death (32%) than their finances (24%).

The research suggests a lack of communication about money strengthens the gender pay gap and only empowers those who dare to research their net worth and can afford to seek professional financial advice. More Americans are now familiar with Elon Musks net worth (28%) than that of their own family (24%), while only 38% admit that they know their partners net worth.

In Money Market: Gen Z, we previously looked at how this generation of pragmatists have a conservative approach to spending and a progressive view of financial technology. Empower confirmed our findings, as its research showed that over half of Gen Z (53%) and Millennials (58%) would share their salary information on their LinkedIn profile.

Strategic opportunity

Employers looking to attract Gen Z talent should embrace transparency with more information on salary perspectives, from the job ad to the onboarding and yearly review – young employees will demand to know how much their peers make

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