After a two-year hiatus, close to 10,000 retail innovators joined forces in Las Vegas last month for Shoptalk. The much-anticipated event focused on the future of retail, highlighting new technologies, trends and business models. Shoptalk offered a variety of engaging speakers, from small startups to the biggest brand names in the industry, along with original content. But most of all, it was a chance for all of us in the e-commerce industry to meet face-to-face once again.
Diversity, inclusion, technology, and shopper convenience ruled Shoptalk conversation, offering insights into current trends. Below is a sampling of the direction retailers will be taking over the next 12 months.
Inclusion and Diversity
Major brands, such as REI, Sephora, and Stitch Fix, have all made commitments to inclusion within their corporate cultures. They're committed to diversifying their employment rosters and their product lines.
- Susan Viscon, senior vice president of corporate development and investment for REI, explained how after she realized that less than 2 percent of brands carried by the retailer were led by people of color (POC), she spearheaded an accelerator program which offers POC an incubator program where they can launch a product and bring it to market.
- Sephora, the first company to sign the Fifteen Percent Pledge — a commitment to have 15 percent of their product line from companies owned by POC — has expanded its hair care and makeup lines to better serve people of all races.
- Stitch Fix is focusing on inclusion by bringing more women into the technology industry at pay equal to their male counterparts. Additionally, the company is focusing on offering modern styles in larger sizes. A recent study revealed that 60 percent of women in the United States wear a size 16 or higher, so Stitch Fix has pledged to better meet market need by growing its plus-size segment by 20 percent.
Emerging Digital Technologies
Executives from Walmart, Fabletics, and Estee Lauder focused on some of the new digital technologies that are leading the way in retail. Below is a listing of those they find most cutting edge in improving customer experience:
- Livestream: Described as huge during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, livestream shopping is another opportunity to digitally meet your customers. Meera Bhatia, chief operating officer at Fabletics, believes it’s beneficial to all brands with a big social media presence.
- Metaverse: Liz Bacelar, executive director of global tech innovation at Estee Lauder, said that the metaverse can’t be escaped and that she believes TikTok and YouTube will migrate to it. She views it as the evolution of the internet and believes that within the next four years all marketing teams must have experience in blockchain.
- Checkout-Free Technology: Anshu Bhardwaj, senior vice president of technology strategy and commercialization at Walmart Global Tech, believes that checkout-free technology is any payment process that reduces friction for in-store customers. Bhardwaj went on to say that contactless payments and curbside pickup are the way of the future.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): Bhardwaj believes AI is a digital transformation for every industry that simplifies life for both customers and employees.
- Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL): Bhatia discussed how this technology is exciting for e-tailers because it drives consumer behavior; Bhardwaj added that it gives customers more choices. Bacelar shared that BNPL been a staple in Brazil for some time and the result is larger average order values.
- Robotics In-Store: Bhardwaj shared that using in-store robotics helps customers and employees. Customers can find what they need more quickly, and employees are able to have more face time with customers.
Omnichannel continues to be the way of the future for retail. As COVID numbers wane and restrictions are lifted, consumers are anxious to get back in stores, but digital storefronts aren’t going anywhere. Even if a purchase is made in-store, the customer journey typically begins online. Cara Sylvester, executive vice president, chief marketing and digital officer at Target, along with Matt Baer, chief digital and customer officer at Macy’s, spoke of how to effectively guide the omnichannel customer. Key to this process is making sure that marketing, operations, and e-commerce departments are in sync. Breaking down data silos and investing in cross-functional teams can better drive a connected journey across channels.
For example, a shopper may see a pair of shoes they like on Facebook, click on the ad and end up on the brand’s site. From there, they may browse other products. Later that week, the shopper might be near the brand’s brick-and-mortar store and get an ad on their phone about the shoes and finish their shopping journey in-store. When teams are well connected and share data, the journey is much better guided.
Modern consumers expect shopping experiences to be tailored to their preferences and buying habits. Bradford Shellhammer, vice president of buyer experience and eBay for Charity, and general manager at eBay New York; Julie Bornstein, co-founder and CEO of The Yes; and Nadine Graham, vice president of digital client experience at Sephora, discussed the importance of targeting messaging and advertising to the shopper’s needs. Brands use "clienteling" to form long-term relationships with customers based on data about their past purchases and browsing habits. If a brand knows that a particular customer has already purchased a pair of jeans, they can recommend a shirt or blazer that will go with the jeans via an email or on social media. They can do the same with promotions that they know match a particular customer’s shopping habits. This cuts out unnecessary noise and helps brands curate a positive and engaging shopping experience for customers.
Main Takeaways From Shoptalk 2022
The main takeaways from Shoptalk 2022 are that e-commerce is still on the rise and that the online shopping experience is vital to brands’ bottom lines. Companies need to embrace new technologies or be left behind as omnichannel and personalization become expected by consumers. It’s all about shoppers' journeys as we look to the future of retail. And judging by the massive crowds at the event, Shoptalk proved that after two years of mainly digital conferences, retailers are eager to return to in-person conferences to network, learn about industry trends, and discover cutting-edge technologies that will help them grow their brands.
Rich Stendardo is the CEO of Yottaa, an e-commerce acceleration platform.
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