Shoptalk 2024 Conference Report Wrap-Up

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By: David Slavick |

Posted on March 26, 2024

David Slavick reports on the final days of the annual Shoptalk event

Shoptalk 2024 is a massive show that kicked off on St. Patrick’s Day in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay. Thousands of retailers and business partners came together to envision the future of retail and cover topics of highest importance to marketers including:

  • Using AI to transform your business
  • Creating unified retail experiences and enabling seamless customer journeys
  • Changing role of the brand, and building winning brands of the future
  • Navigating changing industry relationships 

David Slavick, Ascendant Loyalty, covered the show for The Wise Marketer and you can find the recap of Day 1 & 2 here.

The information shared over the ensuing two days to wrap up the show is too much to cover in one easily consumable article, so we’ll start by sharing what the core organizing group at Shoptalk (Ben Miller, VP Original Content & Strategy Shoptalk, Alexa Tietjen Content Director Shoptalk, Joe Laszio Head of Content, USA Shoptalk, Anne Mezzenga Co-CEO, Omni Talk, Chris Walton Co-CEO, Omni Talk) had to say about the four day event:

  • The mood was upbeat. Retailers shared a focus on profitability and expressed pragmatic optimism for the future.
  • Shopper marketing is a hot topic. The battle for consumer attention will become more intense and the path to purchase will continue to change. Emphasis was placed on creating the UX of the Future.
  • Retail Media was all the rage with over 80 companies offering this alternative method for reaching consumers. Many retailers indicated their new media split will be evenly allocated between traditional media and retail media through retail channels reaching consumers where they shop.
  • AI was discussed everywhere. It is still evolving as a tool for marketers and many retailers shared how Generative AI is supporting the business in areas such as inventory management, supply chain management, customer service and offer optimization. When the audience was asked what the single most sought-after topic for Shoptalk 2025 was, the answer was: Generative AI: case studies and future potential.
  • Store associate technologies are becoming more important. The story of what Walmart is doing in-store to help associates pick/pack same day orders, maintain awareness of inventory, and help ensure shelves are stocked was a key example.

An exclusive Shoptalk event powered by BCG’s Retail Influencer Network featured Karin Tracy, Head of Retail, Fashion, Luxury at Meta, and Anne Mezzenga Co-CEO of Omni Talk.

Karin shared how their platforms: Facebook, Instagram and Messenger are serving the digital shopping and information gathering needs of Gen Z and many more consumers, reaching 3.7B or more monthly. The buzz at Shoptalk has been heavily skewed to AI and the question is whether it is overly hyped, under hyped or just about right.

The general consensus is just about right with many retailers in the audience leveraging AI to improve merchandise planning, delivering personalized customer service and informing inventory management.  Karin shared that Meta has been on an AI journey for almost a decade and it indeed is driving success for brands large and small. 

The Meta omni-channel shopping platform has seen 4X ROI for valued clients across their platforms by adapting content to customers as they engage with the apps, varying product based on historical click or purchase behavior and more.

Another talk hosted by Attentive and Chew on This  addressed all things AI driven to impact ecommerce conversion and marketing efficiencies. Retailers are heavily focused on retention these days and Clients are relying on Chew on This to improve their Amazon sales performance, collaborating with Founders that need help/assistance with their DTC sales efforts. At the end of the session loyalty programs was mentioned as a top need for clients to build or re-fresh in order to improve lifetime value with strong attribution, measurement plus brand right collaborations.

Dani Reiss Chairman & CEO, Canada Goose shared the impressive story of this highly regarded clothing brand.  The brand was founded in 1957 and began in a small warehouse in Toronto manufactured out of a warehouse specializing in wool vests, raincoats and snowmobile suits all designed to withstand the harsh cold Canadian winters.

The careful, methodical, best in class standard that this luxury clothing brand takes in developing new categories is their north star. Dani shared that “we don’t just produce goods to put logos on things. We owe it to our luxury outerwear lovers to design and manufacture goods that will be their favorite item forever.”  Canada Goose product development is not influenced by trends. “We don’t chase trends, we set the trend” Dani shared.

Rosalind Johnson, SVP Chief People and Experience Officer Build-A-Bear, Melissa Blandford SVP Stores, DSW and Ruthie Underwood Chief Creative Officer, Shinola composed an interesting panel titled “Rethinking Physical Stores: Footprint, Purpose and Metrics.”

DSW is a large format shoe warehouse and Melissa shared the firm is “doubling down on loyalty. We plan to delight our VIP members with GWPs (gift with purchase) as an important part of our loyalty member benefit structure this year as it is a great way to personalize how much we value our loyal program members.” 

DSW uses personalization to push location-based SMS offers to program members based on past purchases. For example, a campaign will be built and executed to push new product news/offers to members who have bought a Pokémon branded item for their children.

Melissa also shared that “We found from customer feedback that they want to shop the store at their own pace.”  Half of their physical stores are modular where categories, styles and more can be moved to keep the store fresh and also all kids to shop for themselves off of displays that are low to the ground. Melissa shared that “truth is in the stores, don't tell yourself a story.” 

Ruthie shared that Shinola promotes based on the variable depth of unique merchandise by geography adapted to the preferences of that community. Shinola provides a welcoming store environment by making the in-store customer feel at home, offering coffee or water while shopping for their extensive line of watches, wallets, backpacks and more.

“Better clienteling is our objective to achieve the most satisfying shopping experience. We work with our associates to learn, understand, and adapt their personal selling approach by observing the pace and focus of the customer.  If they are time pressed and know what they want work quickly. If seeking a more in-depth pace of shopping experience, then share all the information they need to make the best choices possible.” This approach through training and change management has proven successful both in terms of customer feedback post purchase and associates developing their own style of personal clienteling.

Build-A-Bear related they have older stores that today are larger than they really need. Their newest store concept is called Discovery Store. Rosalind shared this “allows us to test the location for a future lease.” If the small shop works for that location, they can break down the concourse and move to a more traditional branded footprint.

All 3 retail experts predicted that 10 years from now stores will rely on a deeper loyalty connection to customers, providing private appointments, special services, and private shoppers to nurture relationships w guests. Associates will have permission to do personal texting to encourage visit frequency and conversion.

Another notable session featured Alexis Hoopes VP eCommerce Mattel, Neil Reynolds Global VP Digital Commerce Mars Snacking and Scott Lux EVP Technology & Innovation Esprit. The theme was “Driving Innovation in Large Organizations.”

Alexis had a very unique start to her career at Mattel as she joined 4 years ago and experienced the pandemic all the while building a new approach for Mattel which has always been a wholesale operation serving the needs of their retail distribution partners. Alexis and her team had many challenges as the Mattel Creations business was their focus and in building a direct-to-consumer business model which could launch “quickly” this speed to market was not the norm for a toy business that takes years to design, test, manufacture and distribute products to the mass audience at global scale.  Alexis’ advice was “to first find that spark of an idea, then incubate that idea as part of a big idea, fan the fire.”

Neil manages business across 80 countries and to manage innovation across that wide of a geography is no small challenge. His advice, “fan the flames with something that was just ignited. Also find out from your teams who are the sponsors and who are the anti-sponsor, detractors non-advocates. Use that knowledge to communicate clearly what the idea, the spark, the purpose is of the initiative or innovation, but do not attempt to explain how it will work to those who appear to not be onboard. Explain the should we vs. do we, be factual but do not solution on the fly, align on the foundation of the innovation and what success looks like.”

Scott, from Esprit advised to “include the right people for an innovation project from the very beginning, if your people selection isn’t right the project may fail no matter how hard you try.” 

He was passionate about data and advised that when it comes to leveraging AI for an innovative project, “get the data right, know where it comes from, have all parts of the enterprise that capture and manage data speaking to each other and ensure the data is as clean as possible before you start applying advanced analytics and tools to direct your business decisions, and especially customer experience using AI.”

He shared a success story where a Data Summit was initiated by his team where he brought in e-commerce, marketing technology leadership and vendors as well as business partners that support the enterprise to share their thoughts and impressions relative to the innovation concept and then build best practices so that everyone who may be involved as the project progresses will actually talk to each other, create team alignment and be fully transparent.

Alexis shared that her approach to achieving e-commerce success on an initiative was to get executive leadership buy-in, workstream owners to have defined roles and measures for success and that they too must create their own alignment across the enterprise from those that support their workstream. Alexis, felt it important to “prove early wins. Partner with the best technology choices to get a new concept stood up. Work hard to identify where we will find value quickly. Sometimes standing up an innovative project and doing it quickly is not the best path, but deliver value, learn, and refine.”