Shoptalk 2024 Conference Report

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By: David Slavick |

Posted on March 20, 2024

David Slavick reports on the first two days of the annual Shoptalk event

Shoptalk 2024 kicked off on St. Patrick’s Day in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay where thousands of retailers and business partners come together to envision the future of retail. The Shoptalk agenda covers the latest technologies, trends, and business models, as well as the rapid transformation of what consumers discover, shop for, and buy – everything ranging from apparel and electronics to beauty and groceries. The breadth of speakers across the retail landscape is impressive.

The key themes that framed this year’s event tracks include:

  • 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 

The opening remarks set the tone for the event, presented by Sophie Wawro, Global President Shoptalk and Mike Antonecchia, SVP Shoptalk and they started with a big announcement. In response to what the retail community needs, Shoptalk is launching The New Market a brand-new event taking place in March 2025 in Las Vegas. The focus will be on the media landscape – marketing, advertising, and all things digital used to capture the consumer’s attention to drive profitable behaviors. More information can be found here

During the afternoon’s panels it was reinforced that the retail enterprise must have a culture of innovation, that test/learn needs to be a constant business practice and that failure is acceptable, just so long as you “fast fail”.  Learn from the experience and build new practices, processes and methods that have the potential to influence customer affinity, loyalty, and lift satisfaction.

At the Brandlands Stage, we first heard from Scott Mezvinsky, President North America & International Taco Bell. He shared that when the company was started by Mr. Bell 62 years ago, stepping into the fast-food category against the burger chains was no small task. Today the company continues to innovate with new product introductions in an Apple-like approach, offering Mexican Pizza which sold out well in advance of plan and collaborations you never would imagine

At Taco Bell, loyalty is an essential part of their relationship building efforts to influence frequency of visit.  Today, the brand’s focus is on Gen Z as they drive social buzz, set trends and influence culture. In time as Gen Z “ages”, the shift will be to Gen Alpha.  Taco Tuesday’s leverage global personalities including LeBron James and now offer new news every Tuesday that brand lovers look forward to.  It in turn has become their #1 day for new member enrollments.

A panel followed composed of Adeela Hussain Johnson, President BEIS, Scott Tannen, Founder & CEO Boll and Branch, and Andrea DiNunzio, General Manager Luxury Skincare. The discussion focused on how innovative brands are engaging with today’s consumer and the panelists expressed their reliance on research, product development and test/learn to drive business metrics.

Tannen shared that by listening to customers, Boll and Branch recognizes that where the product is grown, processed, and manufactured is the north star for Boll and Branch. The company makes sure to inform buyers that goods are ethically and responsibly manufactured and that employees at their partner factories are paying a fair living wage. This “radical transparency” has become a key to their success. 

Andrea DiNunzio shared that the 120-year-old brand is not only reliant on consumer feedback, but that science drives beauty transformation. For BEIS, having luggage and bags that are essential to meet the travelers’ needs is balanced against trying new designs informed by their community of brand lovers. Loyalty is established through a community of brand advocates and the brand has a commitment to listening to their fashion trend preferences – style, color, functionality and more.

Day Two began with a session titled Working Cross-Functionally to Drive Transformation. Randy Spaeth, VP & Managing Director eCommerce Nestle’ Purina spoke to the importance of transparency when building alignment toward digital transformation. “It is so important to build plans that have defined goals and objectives that the full team cross- functionally will be aligned to.”  

Randy spoke about the culture of leadership at Nestle’ Purina where cross functional teams each have a “General Manager” mindset so that those individuals drive their area toward project success. He suggested that when sourcing talent, look for “problem solvers that are willing to own their workstreams and operate both independently and as one cohesive unit”. He shared that building great teams requires “self commitment, team alignment and C-suite commitment”.  This approach has ensured that Nestle’ Purina has achieved optimum ROI from projects delivered in recent years.  

Kat Grider, VP, Ecommerce & Digital Experience ADT spoke to the importance of data security and privacy to protect valued subscribers.  Having insight into the home or business is a matter of trust, and her team focuses on enabling a personalized mobile app experience with advanced tools and solutions so that customers can monitor and adapt protection to their own personalized preferences.

Christian Fortucci, CTO David Yurman spoke to his 1.5 years at the high-end jewelry e-commerce leader.  Since joining DY his team has designed, built, and delivered multiple technology initiatives, all of which fall under the digital transformation umbrella. 

Jon Alferness, EVP and Chief Product Officer Walmart US shared insight about the tools and solutions America’s largest retailer employs to help store associates do the best job possible serving the needs of their valued customers.  Jon shared how Walmart provides real-time updates to associates on product so that store shelves are fully stocked, remote orders are filled with the right item per customer specifications.  They have built a foundational layer of data to make it easier for associates get their daily tasks done and know they are contributing to overall customer satisfaction. 

Even chat with online buyers has access to inventory to confirm what is in stock.  Using Generative AI Walmart helps the associate to best manage their time/productivity by taking on the next most valuable task after completing what is in front of them.  Indeed they can be informed by AI to know where items are located to pick/pack an order most efficiently.  

Overall Walmart has found that these solutions are contributing to a better in-store experience for customers and associates alike.  Jon observed “they are happy associates which ultimately results in happy customers.”

A session titled Meeting Consumer Expectations to Maximize Relevancy and Loyalty was informed by Lisa Roath, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer Target.  The RedCard program is newly branded as Circle Card program maintaining the 5% savings on total purchase on qualified items plus get incremental benefits that satisfy the shopper’s need for time savings and convenience.  Taking advantage of what Target has in place today, Circle 360 is a paid subscription program design offering speed of delivery with the promise of 1 hour from placement of order.  Target acquired Shipt and is now fully taking advantage of this capability to delight valued customers. 

Shoppers informed Target that what they love about the brand and loyalty experience included free program, house card always on savings, personalized deals, and in-store surprise savings. What they didn’t like was having to tap items to create a shopping list, take advantage of savings using pc or mobile app and not fully knowing if their savings were ultimately applied to their basket at checkout. Traditional shoppers who choose to pay with their preferred tender and not the Target proprietary “house” credit card get everyday savings from Target Circle by shopping from e-commerce site, mobile app, or in-store item selection.  

Ultimately, Lisa shared that “the new loyalty construct will feel reliable and establish trust”.  The customer journey will be progressively satisfying as people choose to fulfill their orders from ship to home, to buy online/pick up in store, to shop in store.  The new program is taking advantage of what Target has in place today, but Lisa anticipates that the program will evolve as Marketing, Store Teams, and fulfillment partners (e.g. Shipt) continue to work in tandem.  Lisa shared that “the program today meets the needs of 1 out of every 3 Americans and those participating in the program frequent our stores 5x more often than non-members.  The program is a top priority for the company and we will continue to monitor guest sentiment to learn what we are doing right and what we need to adjust to do better.”

Including partners is the next frontier for the guest program across all 3 tiers.  Today, ULTA gives 2x points for purchase, Starbucks and CVS delights customers in-store and Apple offers free access to content exclusive to Target guests.  Lisa indicated that more guest relevant partnerships are in the works later in 2024.