Shoptalk 2019: Key takeaways

Forbes calls Shoptalk ‘retail’s best show’. And having attended this year for the first time, it’s easy to see why.

The three-day conference brings retail and e-commerce sectors together to examine and discuss the latest trends, technologies and changes in consumer behaviors. With a little over 8,000 attendees, it was the perfect opportunity to chat to like-minded peers within the industry.

The format was simple; keynote speakers, networking events, one-to-one table talks (think Tinder/speed dating for business), and a gigantic exhibition hall with technology leaders, vendors and suppliers. If that wasn’t enough, there was even a barber’s shop and massage area for when it all got a bit too much.

To help digest this large conference in bitesize chunks, here are our top takeaways from Shoptalk 2019:

The marriage between digital and brick & mortar

One prominent theme of Shoptalk was how the line between digital and the physical is becoming blurred, with the customer’s shopping journey increasingly diluted thanks to the growing role of mobile.

Erik Nordstrom, CEO of Nordstrom, spoke about how his brand takes an agnostic view as to where the customer purchases, stating that both brick & mortar and online are essential in equal measures.

Speaking about the company’s ongoing strategy, Erik talked about the importance of becoming more relevant locally by marrying the physical with digital, market-to-market. Having tested this theory in a few places, Nordstrom will continue to open countrywide “local” stores in 2019. Built solely to provide consumers with a handy pit-stop for returns and pickups, these stores enable Nordstrom two advantages; giving the customer what they want, and collecting data.

It’s apparent that brick and mortar retail has come up against some difficult times lately (RIP Toys R Us). However, the reality is that brick and mortar stores have a significant role to play, especially with more online direct to consumer brands turning to the physical.

As for the future, physical stores aren’t going away, however they will look different. The question will now be around how stores can continue to learn quickly, adapt, and move in an agile way in order to accommodate what the customer is telling us. Something we’re all too familiar with doing in the digital space.

Innovate or get left behind

We’ve heard the term “Retail Apocalypse” a million times, but one of the takeaways from Shoptalk was…(brace yourselves here) retail isn’t dying; it’s evolving. Brands and retailers gave numerous examples of how they’ve shifted their retail strategy in order to adjust to consumer behaviour and innovations in tech.

One cool standout was from the department store, Macy’s. The brand has introduced what they call Macy’s Style Crew – an innovative way to enlist the help of their staff. These “micro-influencers” share user-generated content across social, and in turn, get a percentage of the profits their posts accrue.

While walking around the exhibition hall, we were blown away by the new and emerging tech in the e-commerce & retail industry. It’s clear that evolving technologies such as AI, robotics, blockchain (and more) address the changes anticipated in how customers discover, shop and buy.

In the closing words of Gap’s CEO, Art Peck… ‘change or fail’.

It’s time to get personal

With “Personalization” being 2019’s latest buzzword, this was also one of the conference’s most essential themes. As online shopping experiences continue to be highly personalized, consumers now expect retailers to understand their preferences and habits. They feel like the brand knows them. Naturally, these expectations cross over into the physical store.

Many of the brands at the conference discussed how they are using customer data through AI-based solutions to create personal and engaging experiences for their shoppers. These new and innovative shopping experiences must marry both science and art to be able to put the customer first. In doing so, they’re able to create relevant and engaging shopping experiences offline and online.

There’s more to come: Retail Club

In the keynote opening speech, Shoptalk announced its latest initiative, Retail Club.

Retail Club will focus on tight-knit networking and collaborative events on a local scale. Launching in New York first, the program will then roll out across the country. Mini, localized, Shoptalks if you will. The idea of which is to create “intellectually honest conversations” across the industry. Watch this space.

To find out more about Shoptalk 2019 or Croud, contact us.

by Lucy Rogers
13 March 2019



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