The Signal stage is one of the best ways to get a head-start on what’s coming up across the business landscape. For our look-back issue for the end of 2021, we gathered some of our speakers’ best  gems of wisdom to guide you toward some of the trends that influenced 2021 as well as the year to come.

Birring (Watsons China): Steady state of reinvention for retail

In the early months of the pandemic, Watsons China CEO Kulvinder Birring said the leading retailer had developed personalization tools to stay connected to consumers. But not through Facebook or Google. “We’ve been creating our own platforms, which can be very targeted,” he said. He expects in-store will be in a constant state of change: “Literally every 18 months to two years, we will do a total store redesign with new elements to excite our consumers.”

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TikTok = the new “mall”

Consumers will expect to shop anywhere, on any platform and in any context. “We haven’t had a digital solution that’s really more like the mall where you go to be entertained, you go to hang out. And while you’re there, you have these spontaneous purchases, because you see something that you didn’t think about before,” said TikTok’s head of global marketing Nick Tran at Signal 2021. 

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Galloway: The end of consumer choice

Streaming services have proliferated. Delivery services have multiplied. Options abound across the consumer landscape. But marketing guru Scott Galloway tells us this is a misread of consumers. “Marketers have made a fundamental error in thinking that choice is a good thing,” he said in a Signal Conversation last year. “I think consumers want less choice, but they want to be more confident in the choices presented to them. I think we’re going to go from one-click to zero-click.” 

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Cooley: Homes: Not dumb, but not smart

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of a lot of home technologies, but in a session at Signal 2021, CNET’s Brian Cooley shrugged off the idea of the smart home. “I don’t think it’s smart. The array of products you can find have mostly just accomplished remote control and a little bit of resource or time efficiency. Where we’re going now is greater interoperation.” 

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McSweeny: Tech in government crosshairs

Government scrutiny of the tech industry will only increase. Terrell McSweeny, a former FTC commissioner, points the finger at companies to take ownership of consumer impact: “The challenge is that the tech outpaces the law. And so what you need to think about when you’re deploying these products and using these products and marketing through these products is, how are we going to monitor this once it’s in the wild, when it’s operating on its own?” 

Szaky (TerraCycle): Leaning into the circular economy

Corporate and consumer interest in sustainability will grow. TerraCycle’s Tom Szaky focused on companies’ ability to use circular economy strategies: “The most important thing is that the company be responsible for the molecules that make up that product, so that they can get back and reintegrate into the same product. If we could achieve that as a design rule, whether for single use or reusable products, we would solve for waste.”

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