A drinking fountain version of the Shoptalk firehose.
It’s 2023 and the big conferences are fully back on – Shoptalk in Vegas, baby(!). And while we do appreciate a solid podcast or webinar, we were (very possibly quite overly) excited to be mingling with this particular crowd in person, collecting digital POPL cards like kids rounding up rare Pokémon.
Unabashed students of the industry that we are, we listened attentively, took copious notes, and stuck around for any after-talk talks. So, here’s the short version of the topics that seemed most en fuego at Shoptalk 2023.
Omnichannel? It gone. We will speak only of “Unified Retail” from henceforth forward. The difference? Unified is more of an overachiever, doing exactly what it says. It doesn’t just show up in all channels — it works harder, with the goal of connecting them in a way that delivers a seamless experience. 90% of in-store shopping starts online, so it’s crucial that the touch points play well together and complete a bigger picture for consumers. The biggest hurdle? Figuring out how to identify and welcome loyal customers when they come into brick and mortar (no surprise there). It seems Panera excels in this area. (We bow down to thee, O Great Customer Acknowledger, with great respect and fingers crossed for extra Rewards points.) They’ve linked their loyalty program to the in-store POS system. Seems so basic — but, like, genius-basic.
There was also a whoooole lot of spirited discussion around bots, and how machine learning AI can up retailers’ personalization/shopper experience game. That said, not all AI “progress” was quite so well received. For deets, take a quick gander at this article on the hit Levi’s took for using AI to generate “diverse” models.
Livestream shopping was deemed worthy of more critical thinking in terms of best practices for a few reasons. While the livestream long form is a no-brainer for categories like beauty, it’s not a one-form-fits-all solve. Edited quick-hit clips work better across other digital channels. And while video seems relatively easy, doing it well is not. Phone camera + ring light does not equal compelling, well-produced, can’t-get-enough-of-it content. The equation’s more complicated than that. Other considerations include placement, usage and relevancy of the content. It can’t feel schilly. It’s got to connect and engage.
A couple of other tech-related topics that seemed top-of-mind for all:
Maximizing the Metaverse. Seems this whole mysterious new arena also begged further exploration. Brands are rethinking it in order to show up in a way that’s meaningful. It’s got to make sense and have a purpose. Just being there isn’t enough.
Enhancing the online experience. A catalog on a web page? No. Puhhhlease, no. We’re nodding off just typing that (and apparently so are shoppers). Consumers are rightly demanding something next-level — an online experience that warrants engagement and offers some entertainment value.
Increasing efficiency. Where can tech most effectively translate to consumer value? C-Suite execs aren’t up for playing budget roulette. They want a safe bet, so they can confidently communicate to shareholders how their spend will pay off. New apps for frontline employees show some promise here, helping service people check inventory, providing insight on assortment and selection, and offering virtual checkout to deliver an improved customer experience.
One last theme we were ever so happy to hear is that stores still very much matter. While people browse and pre-shop digitally, they ultimately crave a physical experience. Proof? The proliferation of digitally native brands expanding to brick and mortar. Brilliant Earth Jewelry is a prime poster child, with new showrooms giving shoppers the opportunity to see and try on the items, while making their purchase online.
So that’s our nutshell recap, but we’re happy to talk the whole kit and kaboodle. Fear not — we won’t ramble on about the 17,239 other Shoptalk nuggets we gleaned. We’ll strategically single out key learnings that best address the challenges your business is up against.
Reach out and let’s get something on the books. We love talking shop, Shoptalk – anything with those two words.