5 themes that will emerge at Shoptalk 2020

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

Announcement: Shoptalk has been rescheduled for September 14-17, 2020 due to the rapid escalation of the Covid-19 outbreak

Despite only being in its 5th year, Shoptalk has already earned itself a permanent place in the retail calendar for brands, retailers, tech startups and investors, with Forbes describing the annual conference as “the best,” and Retail Touchpoints stating “Shoptalk has established itself as one of the “must attend” retail events of the year.”

Shoptalk 2020’s official theme is “Kicking off the next decade of retail transformation” – but in reality, it’s about empowering female leaders in the retail space to start a dialogue of their own. This year, Shoptalk made the bold decision to make its line up of 300+ speakers solely women.

Find out how what to expect at Shoptalk 2020 here.

“We believe this groundbreaking move, a first in events to our knowledge, is necessary to propel our industry forward and showcase many incredibly talented women who are working to transform retail in every way,” says Shoptalk’s Global Chief Content Officer, Zia Daniell Wigder, in a recent blog.

I have been invited along to present at the Emerging Technology Spotlight: Customer Experience – In-Store Experience session on Monday 23 March between 3:05 – 3:45pm. Dozens of engaging sessions, keynote speakers, curated meetings, networking opportunities and social events will take place across the four day long event, and I look forward to getting involved in as many as I can.

Find out which talks and sessions to attend here.

I also can’t wait to absorb a fresh intake of groundbreaking retail insights, but if I were to take a guess as to which topics will emerge again and again, here’s what I would say:

The opportunity for experiential retail is now

The word “experiential” in itself is flaky – experimenting with new ideas and approaches that you aren’t 100% certain will work – so investing in an experiential store, or bringing an immersive experience to your existing stores is a rather gutsy move.

But these are clearly paying off for many high-profile retailers (Nike’s House of Innovation in NYC and its Melrose Place store in LA, Samsung KX in London, Van’s Skateboarding Hall of Fame, to name just a few), and it’s nearing a point where experiential retail is moving to just plain common-sense.

Retailers that don’t invest in experiential approaches or immersive experiences not only risk losing appeal with modern consumers, they also miss out on the key learnings brands are gaining from their experiential campaigns. For instance, many brands are using these approaches as opportunities to gather valuable consumer data to determine buying behaviours and preferences on a global and local level, and putting these key learnings into place.

Read: New York’s best experiential retail store destinations

Retailers can remain competitive by partnering with tech startups

Many large retailers are well aware of the need for technological innovation (well, the successful ones are, anyway), and as a result, the majority have invested in large, high-functioning digital teams.

However, what leading retailers are noticing is that even the biggest and brightest in-house teams cannot do “everything”. To be truly agile and remain competitive, retailers need a better approach than attempting to build everything in-house, and that often means working with innovative tech startups to improve their in-store and e-commerce offerings.

While you may have the capabilities to build the same (or similar) solutions in-house, these small, agile startups offer the flexible, speed and versatility that retailers desperately need right now, not to mention the ability to continuously maintain and develop the solutions going forward.

Social commerce will reshape the e-commerce industry


It might not come as breaking news to hear that retailers can now sell products directly through social media sites – but what is interesting is the speed at which social commerce is moving.

Comparatively speaking, western markets are significantly behind when it comes to social commerce adoption – China is currently leading the way with a social commerce market that was forecasted to hit CNY 2 trillion in 2019, and with more than 48 million users and a growth rate of over 60% year-on-year, according to the Internet Society of China.

One of the chief drivers behind this increased demand is convenience. What is described as “casual shopping”, consumers are exposed to targeted content on social channels and can easily purchase it without clicking through to an e-commerce site.

Connecting online with brick-and-mortar

Retail brands have made great strides in recent years. In the last decade, most successful retailers have established strong e-commerce, online and digital teams that can compete with e-commerce giants.

But in their efforts to reel in customers online, many have missed a vital element – online and in-store shopping aren’t mutual exclusive in the eyes of the modern consumer, and nor should they be in your organization. That’s why retailers need to bring the digital and physical realms together to create an omnichannel offering that resonates with consumers across the board – and a large part of this is implementing the right technology in-store from both a customer experience and operations perspective.

Creating an e-commerce experience in-store

While this theme admittedly ties in closely with the above, there’s a growing need for retailers to apply the same principles they use with online customers into an in-store setting. For instance, using customer service technology to give customers a personalized greeting as they enter your store, or knowing that a customer is regular, or understanding their journey and tailoring their experience.

Key to achieving this is data. Most retailers gather enormous amounts of data from their online customers, yet very little from their in-store customers. For instance, most retailers only capture sales figures, footfall data and basic information about their store associates when they could be gathering the following data captures:

For more info on this, see our Business Intelligence solutions page.

As we all know, new topics will undoubtedly come up over the course of the event as people bounce new ideas off of each other and share approaches, but these are some of the many I am adamant will emerge at Shoptalk 2020. We’re really looking forward to attending the big event in Las Vegas in March and can’t wait to see you all there.


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