Speaker Q&A with Rob Monster, CEO, DigitalTown
John Bensalhia speaks to Rob Monster, Chief Executive Officer, DigitalTown, Inc, about the advancements in retail technology and its future...
1. Who or what made you choose the job role that you have today?
I am CEO of DigitalTown. Since January 2016, I have led the company’s push to solve the problem of how to restore local economic sovereignty on a global scale. DigitalTown is a publicly traded company on the US OTC Exchange.
Over the last two years, I led the company through seven acquisitions of companies and a series of strategic partnerships with which to bring together the remarkable set of capabilities required to deliver on DigitalTown’s vision.
2. What is the background to Digital Town and what is its vision?
DigitalTown envisions a world of People-centric cities where residents and visitors co-create quality of life. In a DigitalTown, every citizen receives a free Smart Wallet and permanent and verified digital address. In addition, every merchant is eligible to receive free a free digital storefront with which to sell local and sell global. The result is a community that is empowered to keep more money in the local economy, and empowered to use its available human and financial capital to create more abundance locally.
3. How has the retail world changed in the last 50 years with advancements made in online retail facilities and technology?
The changes have of course been seismic, not just in the digital shopping experience but also in the supply chain. The combined paths of innovation have led to a sort of winner-take-all pattern where across a growing number of retail segments, strategic advantage continues to compound further. The upcoming shift to AI-powered voice agents as personal smart shopping assistants will appeal to many but not to all.
The real question in my mind is how much longer before the true battle engages, e.g. when major producers of consumer goods systematically engage in direct to consumer online retail. The success of Dollar Shave Club, now part of Unilever, is a case in point. That direct to consumer model can extend to a much larger array of categories. Local retailers will obviously have to find their niches and pick their battles.
4. What can online retail offer customers that high street shops cannot?
Online tools will increasingly become mobile and personalised smart agents. The tech conversation should no longer be about “online” as in “web”. The real question is how technology can improve the retail experience in ways that are personally relevant. For example, technology can serve as a suggestion engine to connect consumers to opportunities. Technology can also make the one-click shopping experience ubiquitous, including for transacting with high street shops and with artisanal producers.
Technology is not going away. The question is how will technology innovators better equip the High Street to use technology to its advantage without becoming soulless or generic.
5. What is the future for high street shops and do you think there will be a time when all shopping will be done online?
I believe local shopping will remain a practice forever. That said, I believe local commerce is being forced to evolve, blending the best of the multi-sensory experience with enabling technology in order to make the experience more efficient while stripping out cost that does not add value to either the item purchased or to the shopping experience.
6. With eCommerce Expo, Technology For Marketing and ad:tech all joining forces this year, what do you think are the benefits of this all-new connected event?
Conferences are partially about content, but largely about community. If all we wanted is content, there is an abundance of on-demand content available from most speakers on a variety of current topics. However, when it comes to conferences, it is about the opportunities to interact, both in and out of the formal proceedings. Larger conferences, while sometimes less intimate, afford more opportunities for meaningful encounters.