Sofia Grundman

Facebook’s Sofia Grundman started her talk with the one topic people can’t stop talking about, when it comes to her company: privacy.

The impulse to address the hot-button issue is natural, given the heightened interest in how Facebook treats user data — even if the subject’s not really part of her purview as fashion client lead at Facebook and Instagram.

Nonetheless, she explained what the company has been up to. “We know that protecting people’s information is incredibly important. Privacy is incredibly important. That is why protecting your information is the single most important thing that we do at Facebook,” she said.

“In fact, we’ve allocated 30,000 people — 30,000 heads — that are focused specifically on privacy and keeping bad actors off of our platforms,” she said, adding that the tech giant recently issued an update that lets people see which apps and web sites share their activity, so they can potentially shut them down.

While it makes sense to clear away a high-profile issue before moving on, the tech talk was actually an apt intro for a session on retail’s need to create seamless experiences. Because what underpins those efforts, Grundman explained, is technology.

She pointed to mobile, in particular, as the great enabler of this frictionless future.

High-end stores are experts at seamless experience, as they pamper their customers, hold open their doors, shop for them or offer glasses of Champagne. “But the problem that we’re all struggling with is how do we replicate that amazing, fabulous in-store experience here into the palm of her hand,” she said.

Changing generations, business models and shopping behaviors are “pressure-testing” the sector.

That generational shift matters.

According to Grundberg’s data, Millennials and Gen Z shoppers will account for half the market in the next five years, and more than 130 percent of the growth in luxury personal goods. Not only will they be spending much of their money online, but it will be on mobile. And for these generations, mobile equals social.

Social media is among their top influences, when it comes to purchases, Grundman added. And the rules around getting their loyalty are shifting, too. Where they once loved personal service, a brand heritage and exclusivity, they now favor personalization, innovation and exclusive experiences.

They also want integrity: “They care about how a brand matches up with their own personal values and beliefs [such as] sustainability and low-impact manufacturing methods,” she said.

It all speaks to inspiration as a consumer demand. While exciting for shoppers, it’s a challenge for retailers. And things get harder still, with younger consumers looking to be inspired — and take action — in the fewest clicks possible.

“The fact that it takes an average of 22 clicks to complete a checkout on most e-commerce platforms, that’s a problem,” said Grundman. “It’s friction, it’s frustration and all of that is actually fueling this. There’s an opportunity cost behind this. We’ve seen research that the opportunity cost of friction is upwards of $213 billion a year in the U.S. alone in potential business revenue.”

Removing the friction takes a lot of effort and investment. But the cost of not doing it are clearly high.

One thing that Grundman didn’t mention is that much of those seamless experiences will take data — lots of it — especially if personal tastes factor into the equation. Hopefully retailers will take some lessons from the top of the session.

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