Shoptalk 2019

Shoptalk has become one of the most important retail gatherings for our industry, as evidenced by its explosive growth over the past four years – bringing in 8,400 attendees in 2019. This year, the industry’s most influential brands, marketers and retailers were in attendance, talking shop on stage and on the expo floor. Here is our perspective on some of the top themes we saw coming out of Shoptalk this year:

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It’s All Commerce: Three Rules To Succeed Whenever, Wherever

By Molly Hop, SVP, Commerce Media, Performics

Whether you’re a brand, merchant, QSR or service provider, the same rules of commerce apply for digital customer connections. In the complex ecosystem of digital commerce, there are three rules to keep top of mind to succeed in today’s “commerce everywhere” environment:

Redefine Personalization As Convenience. We have shifted from digital-first to commerce-first. Consumer expectations of a brand are to provide discovery, shopping and fulfillment that fits their lifestyle. It is need-based and utilitarian vs. experiential. This redefines omnichannel focus to customer preference vs. a traditional marketing approach. It is a partnership with retailers to build an end-to-end experience, continuing to find the gap between ecommerce and in-store with a constant interaction of content, accessibility and technology. This isn’t an easy task and is reliant on finding shared priorities.

Find Sweet Spot Between Retailer And Brand Customer. Retailers and brands often have competing priorities and this competition most often interferes with the customer relationship. If a brand and retailer settle into a “frenenemy” relationship in the commerce ecosystem, the customer, brand and retailer all lose. The customer loses in convenience and personalization, the brand may lose the sale to a competitor and the retailer loses in delivering a positive experience. The sweet spot lies in the overlap of the retailer’s customer strategy and the brand’s direct relationship with that customer.

Data Is Not A Solution, It Is A Tool. Data-overload and a lack of strategy on how to use data to connect is a constant challenge for brands. The most common misstep is having disparate data living across different departments, which leads to decentralization and limited governance, forcing a need to use the data vs. defining the business needs and problems that need to be solved.

In the world of endless data, the pursuit of solutions first, data second is the road to success.

DTC And The Changing Role Of Brands In The Retail Ecosystem

By Amy Lanzi, EVP, North American Commerce Practice Lead, Publicis Media

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are here to stay, and the term doesn’t just apply to digital natives. Any brand that wants to truly meet the demanding needs of changing consumers should have a DTC strategy. The lines are blurring as digitally-native brands use traditional strategies to grow while heritage brands are rebuilding their business models to create meaningful connections. Three things to consider for DTC success:

Made For Me
DTC brands are no longer just about a cool story and purpose. Brands are betting on customization — and winning. Those that understand how to create products that go beyond a market fit to one that also fits the sales channel
will succeed, allowing consumers to come to a brand experience and specify their exact wants and needs vs. sifting through the shelves at a brick and mortar destination. Brands can learn from Nike’s success with the customization model — it’s allowing them to tap into micro-communities with similar passion.

Let’s Band Together
DTC brands and retailers are a perfect match and need each other to grow. Retailers have the physical spaces for consumers to discover new brands while DTCs make them more relevant. Retail and DTC partnerships are on the rise. Nordstrom President Erik Nordstrom emphasized the importance of these programs in stores, which has included capsule collections with brands like Greats and Lively. At Shoptalk, there was a thread of “we need each other to survive.”

Old School Is New
Many DTC brands are no longer startups, but are entering their growth years and can no longer rely on digital acquisition and paid social media. The next phase of growth will come from deploying old school tactics like direct mail, OTT media and moving into brick and mortar via popups and stores. Done correctly, each of these tactics adds new layers of learnings. Marketers must constantly reinvent business models to more easily meet the demanding needs of the empowered consumer, find partners to identify joint sources of growth and have a deep understanding of their core customer and future growth audiences.

Meeting Changing Consumer Behavior: Legacy Brands, DTC Or Invisible Tech

By Mike Montagna, SVP, Commerce Practice Lead, Starcom USA

Brands have much less power over the consumer than in the past. To win in today’s market, we must be with the consumer — where they’re shopping
and optimizing experiences, product assortment and content for those unique and differentiated channels. Here’s how your brand can rise to the challenge:

Six Second Shopping Decisions

Consumers today make a decision in as little as six seconds, particularly in digital channels such as mobile social commerce (like Instagram). The consumer journey funnel is now so compressed that awareness, consideration and conversion need to happen simultaneously, or you risk losing the consumer. A frictionless experience now means building and optimizing a sales experience directly on platforms vs. directing them back to a brand’s own retail experience.

Marketplace Visits For Research & Inspiration

Consumers use marketplaces not only for shopping, but also for research and inspiration. Brands cannot repurpose assets and assume that the brand strength in other channels will automatically extend to the marketplace. You need to invest in the right content for the way consumers interact with the product in the marketplace environment. Further, you must invest early or risk sales and brand growth getting more difficult and vastly more expensive down the road.

Always-On Shopping

Technology has enabled brands to serve consumers in a variety of need states previously too complex. Winning with the consumer today is about being present in every moment. That means making all content and media transactable via buy now buttons, possessing robust social commerce integrations, developing an optimized voice presence and crucially, having a present and enhanced experience across a variety of channels.

The Role Of Big Brands In The Digital Vertical Economy

By Ali Nehme, Global Commerce Practice Lead, Publicis Media

Big brands have always had a prominent presence at large retail events. Their key focus remains on how to transform their model to grow in this new economy. Digitally-native, DTC brands on the other hand, are in the scale and diversification game. After some success, they tend to diversify their offering.

A Tale Of Two DTC Brands:

Dollar Shave Club (now part of Unilever) remains a standalone team. After driving success in shaving, they have focused on growing their portfolio into the larger grooming category. Scaling is easy thanks to an existing technology infrastructure, customer understanding and strong community (keeping in mind they own MEL Magazine).

Hubble (contact lenses) on the other hand, is trying to outsource their expertise and forge joint ventures with existing CPGs. Having cracked an end-to-end commerce model, Hubble wants to build it with other verticals.

Bottom Line:

Big brands might have been late to the game, but are readying to catch up. They’re under a lot of pressure to shift focus and become DTC brands, so we are helping them work through channel conflict and prioritize DTC efforts alongside retail partners. Navigating this terrain and creating a new commerce paradigm that satisfies both ventures, will be one of the brands’ biggest challenges in 2019.

Technology To Watch: Facial Recognition, In-store Tech & More

By Elie Milan, Director Of Commerce, Middle East, Publicis Media

“Machine learning” was among the most used terms at Shoptalk this year, proving that retailers and brands are quickly developing innovative solutions to meet the rapidly-increasing consumer expectations, online and off.

In-Store Tech. Technology is central to the evolution of brick-and-mortar retail. Digital storefronts will be key as brands like GAP and Nordstrom look to expand their footprint by establishing smaller, service-driven local shops. Digital shelves are already making their way into Kroger and Safeway, offering retailers the opportunity for nimble dynamic pricing, cross-selling, digital brand placement and merchandising optimization through eye movement detection. And from an operational perspective, consumers will soon meet their friendly neighborhood inventory-counting robot or drone.

Facial Recognition. This is becoming more scalable and cost efficient, resulting in a variety of applications from ID verification enabling “pay by face,” in-store personalization and proximity marketing. Here comes the “Minority Report” experience we’ve all been waiting for!

AR/VR. Needless to say, AR and VR have a role to play in retail — in-store and online — whether they’re building a sandwich on the Panera app, trying different beauty looks from Macy’s or L’Oréal, or re-designing a living room with IKEA.

Redefined Inputs And Outputs. While a picture is worth a thousand words, a casual conversation with a voice assistant can be priceless. Natural language processing through voice assistants also allows consumers to replenish groceries, make reservations and tackle other key tasks — all while stuck in traffic. Image search is particularly important today, allowing consumers to turn a product crush into a purchase.

As the demand for machine learning increases, simplifying its setup becomes essential to ensure scalability. was one of many eye-catching startups at Shoptalk. It promotes “using AI to build AI” by offering a simplified user interface that helps define the inputs and outputs of the model and offers a variety of pre-packaged models including demand forecasting and dynamic pricing.

Personalization, The Next Frontier

By Cassandra Stevens, Global Commerce Director, Zenith

Customers expect their experiences to be seamless and relevant. The word personalization is used a lot in our industry, but it clearly means different things to different people.

Customers Want Variety And They’re On A Mission
Consumers want a quality product. Provide choices that enable them to create personalized experiences. If you can delight a customer once, they are likely to come back.

The Past Is The Past, The Future Is Relevant
Being relevant was a common thread throughout Shoptalk. AI should be used to predict and deliver against preference. If you’re reverting to historical data to define personalization segments, you will be out of date. Using predictive segmentation lets brands and retailers stay relevant and lead the category.

The Person In Personalization Matters
We need to put the personal back into personalization. For most retailers, a majority of sales happen in store and that is the biggest opportunity to deliver personalized experiences and services. Enabling store employees and customer service teams to be key sources for shopper insight will ensure that future product development is tailored to customers’ feedback.

Avoid Personalization For The Sake Of It
Select high-value personalization cases to act on, rather than trying to integrate personalization end-to-end. There’s limited value in delivering personalized experiences if it’s done without a clear goal to prove success in a controlled environment. We often get distracted by shiny new tech, but it was clear at Shoptalk that finding the right tech to fit your company’s culture is most important.