Three years ago, I attended the inaugural Shoptalk. It was early in my future-looking role with Hershey, and the retail and e-commerce innovation conference blew my mind. What I learned there filled my playbook and helped guide my strategy as I built our Retail Evolution team.
This year, I returned to the conference as a speaker, and marveled at how much the show has grown and matured. As a veteran attendee, having attended all three years, I can honestly say that I was as impressed in 2018 as I was in 2016. Shoptalk has done a remarkable job of maintaining its core principles (high-caliber speakers, scores of track sessions that appeal to multiple retail interests, remarkable facilitated networking opportunities) while also growing in a structured manner and drawing in attendees from near and far.
While I loved having the opportunity to share what I’ve learned from my own experiences, the real benefit of the conference, for me, is getting the chance to meet up with peers, vendors and retail partners. And it’s a chance to decode the latest “buzz” in the future of retail. On that note, here are some trends I observed at this year’s Shoptalk that I expect to see more of in the coming year.
It's no longer about retail disruption. Rather, we’ve all accepted that disruption. Now, it’s about the new normal. Many speakers started off with their own personalized version of “retail disruption” to set the tone, but then moved on from acknowledging our commonalities to share how they’re each living in this new era. It’s not about fear. It’s about action. And we can learn from one another.
“Community” is the buzzword for 2018. It came up in the sessions, time and again. Many of us are trying to figure out how retail can play a role in the community, because we have a great opportunity to rise to a higher purpose and inspire our customers. Think about it: shoppers will continue to automate their lives via delivery and subscription. As they do that, where will they go to interact, to be social, to connect with a community? Consumers will continue to go where they want to while allowing their needs to be automated. In short, retailers have an opportunity here to become a “want” and not just a “need.” At the same time, it’s important to remember that there is no shortcut to the top of a pyramid. You have to build it along the way.
The lines of communication are open. The phrase “360-degree commerce/communication” as it applies to the consumer really stuck with me. Brands and retailers are focusing on keeping the dialogue with consumers open throughout the shopping journey. That means before, during and after the retail experience. And yet, no one is doing it particularly well. This is another area with great opportunity for innovation and improvement.
Voice will play an increasing role in commerce in the future. One thing is certain in the retail world, and that is this: the traditional consumer packaged goods world will continue to be reshaped. The latest evidence is in voice-driven payments, such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and others. For instantaneous results, you can’t beat it.
Convenience will continue to be redefined. Convenience just keeps getting more, well, convenient. Look at Amazon Go, a cashless store where cameras and sensors track purchases and lines are a thing of the past. Retail partners must work together, when it makes sense, to leverage this new technology and delight consumers, while still maintaining conversion opportunities.
In today’s retail landscape, change continues to come at a rapid pace. And while opportunities are endless, resources are not. It’s important that we lean on one another to learn fast and find ways to give shoppers the new normal they are demanding. I, for one, am already looking forward to the 2019 Shoptalk conference, and I’m excited to go out and create next year’s stories right now. Join me?