Leading Experts Agree the Future Is Now At VM Global Leadership Summit
NEW YORK—With leaders in their fields discussing Millennials, Big Data, omnichannel retailing, and wearable technologies, the 8th annual Vision Monday Global Leadership Summit once again showed how the future is now.
Anticipating which innovations will impact the optical profession, the VM Summit hosted a sold-out crowd of 400+ of the industry's leading executives. Sponsoring this year's "Future/Now" Summit were Premier supporters, Essilor and Luxottica, Signature sponsor VSP Global, along with Adlens, Alcon, CareCredit, DAC Vision and ThinkAboutYourEyes.com.
A one-on-one interview between Luxottica's CEO Andrea Guerra (l)
and VM's Marge Axelrad was a highlight of the day-long Summit.
Citing some predictions that have come to fruition since being introduced at previous Summits, such as the advent of health care reform, the rise of social media and profits-with-purpose, Marge Axelrad, VM senior VP/editorial director introduced the program.
The morning session began with a presentation from Michell Zappa, head of the technological trend forecasting firm Envisioning Technology. "Designing and utilizing technology is at the core of what it means to be human," he said. Zappa called technology "an upward leveling force to make our lives better," but he observed that "It's no wonder we're scared to death when technology shape shifts."
Insiya Lokhandwala demonstrated Google Glass.
Saying he often gets new ideas about future technology from science fiction books and films, Zappa noted that "Good sci-fi can set the mind rattling." To illustrate his point, he offered science fiction scenarios involving the wired world and virtual reality.
Zappa defined himself as part of a generation of "kids with broadband" who are completely comfortable with technology and who tend to "fix everything they encounter, without intermission." This generation is creating "a more flexible, interactive future" in which "everything is up for grabs."
"Suddenly the kids with broadband are asking how they can radically change your industry," said Zappa. He urged the audience to listen to them and learn from them. "If you resist, ignore or deny technology, you lose," he asserted.
Session Two, Millennials, focused on the consumer attitudes and social habits of the millennial generation, or shoppers aged between 18 and 35. VM senior editor, Deirdre Carroll, set the stage for the first speaker, Jeff Fromm, who said, "your goal is to be a favorite brand, not the nearest end competitor."
Steve Hartman (l) of Urban Outfitters and Jeff Fromm, author of
Marketing to Millennials, focused on the consumer attitudes and social
habits of the millennial generation.
Fromm, who is executive vice president of Barkley, a marketing agency, and co-author of Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever, emphasized that it is willingness to take risk and implement new ideas, not a big budget, that will win over Gen Y customers. "Don't use traditional KPIs when thinking about blue ocean ideas. You're going to hit the 'No Go' button every time," he said.
Steve Hartman managing director, Urban Outfitters direct and marketing, pointed out attributes of the artistically inclined clothing store that allow it to relate to millennials' desires and expectations. One way the company effectively reaches millennial consumers, Hartman explained, is to hire them. "Give them a platform to participate in the company," he said. "Millennial marketing takes creativity and authenticity, and speaking in a way that they can relate to and is not corporate."
Hartman also highlighted Urban Outfitters' "No Tweet Left Behind" policy, in which the company attempts to answer every question and comment posted to the brand through social media. "People are so excited to be replied to," he said. "And then they share that content and experience."
Retailing through multiple channels was discussed by the presenters in
the omnichannel session (l to r) Opternative's Aaron Dallek;
Luxottica's Carlo Privitera, and Essilor's Roy Hessel.
Kicking off the Leadership & Innovation session, Sarah Thurber, MS, managing partner, FourSight, LLC, a publishing firm that specializes in developing research-based tools to enhance innovation and team performance, stated, "Disruptive innovation has arrived at the door. Someone you didn't think of as a threat, someone who may have been marginalized, has started to encroach on your area."
"Consumers are scanning the horizon, asking what new solutions are out there? Those who can answer this question could have millions of dollars delivered to their door," she said.
After explaining her three-step approach to creative innovation and waking the audience through a quick test to determine what their thinking style was, she concluded with these thoughts, "Innovation is a team sport. As a leader you are not responsible for having the right answer but you should come up with the right question—'How do we stay relevant?' This is your world. Shape it or someone else will."
In a session on the rise of "omnichannel," Aaron Dallek, CEO/co-founder, Opternative, introduced the concept of his company's proprietary online refractive technology that determines sphere, cylinder, axes, Rx, and PD that "anyone anywhere can do themselves." Stressing that the test will undergo more testing and is seeking FDA approval, he added, "we're not here to take everyone's business away; we're here to work together," his hopes for the technology are to make it easy for the 50 million people in the U.S. and 2.5 billion people in the world who never had an eye exam to get started focusing on eye health. To that end, he said his firm would be "putting together a think tank of some of the brightest minds in the industry."
Howard Purcell, OD, FAAO, SVP Customer Development, Essilor,
Premier Sponsor, said, "Let's not let the newness of change
get in the way of us moving forward."
Also in the omnichannel session, Roy Hessel, head of Essilor's Online Initiatives, explained how the independent ECP remains central to the optical retail ecosystem, flanked by chains and e-commerce and surrounded by optical technology innovations, Big Data/cloud computing, value apps and disruptive technologies.
Another theme emerged during the omnichannel session when Carlo Privitera, Luxottica's digital and e-commerce innovation lab president, observed that today's consumers are "people who want to decide how to live their life." Privitera also declined to make a prediction about the size of the future online eyewear market saying that 'down the road, there will be a blend of online and in store purchasing."
Attending the Eye2 - Wearables panel are (l to r) moderator
Andrew Karp; Sinah Fateh, MD, Atheer Labs; Edward Tang, Avegant;
Corey Mack, Laforge Optical; Tim Moore, Rochester Optical;
and Matt Alpert, OD, VSP Global.
True of futurist Zappa and his reference to "kids with broadband," who seek to "live as they want," were a group of wearable technologies experts curated by Andrew Karp, group editor, Jobson Optical Group. With Google Glass being the best known among them, the other wearable technologies were from Atheer, Avegant, Laforge Optical and Rochester Optical.
Having just announced a partnership with Luxottica earlier in the week, and also with VSP Global for Rx lenses earlier in the year, Google Glass promises still another "very important partnership announcement," according to Insiya Lokhandwala, business development, Google Glass.
Futurist Michell Zappa, head of the technological trend forecasting
firm Envisioning Technology, described his generation as
"kids with broadband."
With Glass still in the early adopter Explorer phase, she said there are three types of reactions—1) people who are instantly excited, 2) those who are instantly skeptical but then try them on and come around, and 3) those who just stare. "We think wearable computing will change the world," she said.
While startups and disrupters were in the house, the patriarch of computing technology was represented as well by Charlie Schick, PhD, director, IBM Watson Foundations, Healthcare & Life Sciences. Illustrating how IBM's computing capabilities have evolved from tabulating to programmable to cognitive, he shared specific examples of how the company has partnered with various health care organizations to substantially improve the quality of health care.
Charlie Schick, PhD, director of IBM Watson Foundations, discussed how Big Data is improving health care.
Schick pointed out that the problem is not technology but organizational barriers that prevent companies from becoming Big Data adopters. "If you're not data driven you won't be successful." His area of expertise is the health care field where he has studied how Big Data is handled by hospitals, pharmaceutical and insurance companies. "In the eyewear industry, Big Data is giving suppliers insights about their customers as they gather data from different sources to understand consumers' needs. This is what retail is all about, getting the full view to understand the customer."
One of the highlights of the event was a one-on-one interview Axelrad conducted with Andrea Guerra, CEO of Luxottica. "We're living in a world fantastic and full of global opportunities," he said, citing an unprecedented two to three billion new global consumers.
Other trends he observed were 3D printing changing R&D and the doubling or tripling of business in the last six years in emerging markets such as Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, India and China. Although China sunglass sales doubling from 1 percent to 2 percent brought laughter from the audience, he defined exponential growth for them, "you don't see it, you don't see it, and then finally it's big." Overall, he predicted substantial sunglass growth in both emerging as well as established markets. "It has the smallest market penetration in the biggest markets in the world," he said.
FourSight's Sarah Thurber, MS, presented a three-step approach to creative innovation.
About North America, Guerra said, "With 55 to 60 percent of our business, it will always remain our primary focus and objective. When asked about major changes, Guerra said, "In the U.S., one special thing characterizing the industry is insurance, managed vision care," which "makes it slower. The consumer wants to choose and does not want to be driven anymore." After saying that maximum choice will make things go faster, he said that he's not predicting this but hoping for it.
When asked by audience member John Bonizio of Metro Optics his reaction to a not-so-positive 60 Minutes report, Guerra said that the company's stock jumped from $25 to $40 in the four months following the report. However, about 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl, Guerra said that she interviewed him for hours with a "clear mission" about how she wanted to demonstrate his company's brand. "I hadn't seen that woman before, and I don't think I want to see her again," he said.