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A Recap of Shoptalk 2023

A Detailed Ground Report from Retail’s Most Innovative Event 


Shoptalk is the place where the world’s biggest, most influential, and rising retailers and brands unite for unrivaled business-critical connections, conversations, insights, and extraordinary shared experiences to reimagine the future together. Shoptalk offers retail professionals the largest and most advanced meetings program by providing top-class speakers and content and catalyzing industry-wide connections.

Every year Shoptalk convenes thousands of retail changemakers to shape the future of retail with an agenda that covers the latest technologies, trends, and business models. The show also focuses on the transformational aspects of how consumers discover, shop, and buy—across all retail verticals. With strict quality control on the content presented and zero pay-to-play content, Shoptalk has become a leading industry voice with great insights and perspectives not found anywhere else.

Shoptalk’s speaker profile consists of 275 senior industry leaders and innovators from companies ranging from established retailers and brands to innovative new startups. Shoptalk 2023 featured some brand-new original content that included independent research and data, along with the Shoptalk Retail Zeitgeist, a framework for understanding the critical forces, challenges, and opportunities in retail today, developed in-house by the Shoptalk team.

This year’s show took place at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, from March 26th to 29th. McFadyen Digital was happy to sponsor, exhibit, and attend Shoptalk 2023. It was great to discuss what’s new in the industry and the best strategies to leverage your business in the marketplace journey. The McFadyen team was at booth 1605 and had a complimentary copy of our Amazon Best Selling book, Marketplace Best Practices, for the visitors. It also hosted a Sunday evening at the Skyfall Lounge for an exclusive happy hour celebration along with commercetools and Mirakl for those looking to unwind after the exciting first day at Shoptalk. While all the sessions across the four days were phenomenal, we will be focussing on just some of them in the interest of time and space. You can check out the full agenda for the event here.


Day 1 – March 26

Using Customer Data to Surprise and Delight – This session by Manju Thomas, SVP, Engineering & Data Science, Stitch Fix, Caleb Pearson, VP, Media & Digital for U.S. Marketing, McDonald’sMcDonald’s, Charles Gorra, Founder & CEO, Rebag, and Kelly Pedersen, Partner, U.S. Retail Leader, PwC (Interviewer) looked at the role of data in creating a cohesive and enjoyable customer experience. The executives of this panel shared their recent initiatives that have leveraged data to develop dazzling customer experiences while also focussing on how they pushed the performance needle around acquisition, retention, and sales.


Creating and Maintaining a Culture of Excellence – This session by Lisa Collier, Chief Product Officer, Under Armour, Parth Raval, Chief Growth Officer, PepsiCo Foods North America, PepsiCo, Samir Desai, Chief Digital & Technology Officer, Abercrombie & Fitch Co., and Sarah Engel, President, January Digital (Interviewer) looked at how to create an environment that simultaneously nurtures employees and challenges them to excel in the retail industry. Against the backdrop of vast economic and industry challenges and opportunities, creating a culture that will engage and align workers at all levels has become highly crucial. The three C-level leaders shared their insights on how they are building and maintaining a culture of excellence.


New Insights on Inflation and Other Economic Forces Shaping Retail – In this session hosted by Alexa Tietjen, Content Director at Shoptalk, Michelle Meyer, Chief Economist, U.S., Mastercard, Kristen Gall, President, Rakuten, Laura Kennedy, Principal Analyst, C.B. Insights provided an overview of the current economic situation; luxury shopping and consumer behavior in today’stoday’s economic climate; and shifting investments in retail technologies, including fallout from SVB’sSVB’s collapse. The session provided new, unbiased research into the state of the economy and how consumers and businesses are navigating it in a time of massive corporate layoffs and economic uncertainty. It examined why retail sales are elevated even during the recession and economic uncertainty.


Track Keynote: Meeting Consumer Expectations Around Convenience – This session saw Anne Mezzenga, Co-CEO, Omni Talk, interviewing Tom Pickett, Chief Revenue Officer, DoorDash. Tom shared how his organization is leveraging new technologies and offerings to meet ever-changing consumer expectations around Convenience and what shifts in Convenience mean for the industry. Convenience is coming to mean different things to different people—while mainly it refers to speed. Still, it’s a broader term that relates to anticipating and meeting a consumer’sconsumer’s needs in a way that makes their life easier. In the cut-throat retail world, companies are trying to outdo each other in the matter of Convenience with purchase processes, faster pickup and delivery times, and ready-to-use products as key differentiators.


Track Keynote: Building an Omnichannel Organization – Sarah Engel, President, January Digital, interviewed Seemantini Godbole, EVP, Chief Digital & Information Officer. Omnichannel is now evolving into a world where shoppers’ journey is moving fluidly across physical stores, websites, social media, and marketplaces. Winning the game in this new omnichannel requires strategic alignment balanced with a relentless focus on providing customer value. Seemantini provided some great insights on how she drove the omnichannel transformation in her organization, along with the strategies and tactics. Seemantini is a senior global executive with over 25 years of experience working with Fortune 50 companies across diverse operational and strategic roles in Omni Channel Retail, Travel/Airline, and Hospitality domains. At Lowe, she’sshe’s accountable for Lowe’sLowe’s E-commerce Business P&L and all global Technology functions, including Innovation labs, Products, Engineering, Data & Analytics, Infrastructure, and Security.


Building an Omnichannel Organization: A Conversation – In this session, Cathey Curtis, GM, ROXY, Boardriders, and Richard Honiball, EVP, Global Chief Merchandising & Marketing Officer, Navy Exchange Service Command, were interviewed by Brendan Witcher, VP & Principal Analyst, Forrester on how to build omnichannel organization both from within and for customers. The featured leaders discussed the strategies, technologies, and data-focused initiatives their organizations have implemented to reinvent themselves for the omnichannel world. With over twenty years of experience in general management and leadership in the fashion industry, Cathey has a successful track record in driving growth and consumer engagement across America, China, Europe, and Australasia. At the same time, Richard is a consumer-centric marketer & merchant with a passion for uncovering, defining, and communicating the disruptive purpose and power of an organization that like’s to push beyond traditional boundaries to create unexpected results.


Rapid Fire: Investors Unfiltered Perspectives on Retail Challenges and Opportunities – In this session, Zia Daniell Wigder, Chief Content Officer, Insider Intelligence, interviewed Scott Friend, Partner, Bain Capital Ventures, Shelly Kapoor Collins, Partner, Sway Ventures, and Simeon Siegel, Managing Director & Senior Analyst, BMO Capital Markets to get their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities the investors see in the retail industry. It was an intense session with three outspoken investors who shared their views on retail today. The last eight months have been rough for the formerly high-flying startups, with the focus firmly moving to operational efficiency and profitability. Not just the startups, amid the lowered valuations and economic uncertainty, established brands and retailers are also facing increased scrutiny of their financial performance. Shoptalk’sShoptalk’s gamified rapid-fire format ensured that the session covered a lot of ground, offering a frank and unfiltered primer on what success looks like in today’stoday’s changed world.


Resale, Upcycled Products, and the Circular Economy – Jeannette Neumann, Reporter, Bloomberg News, interviewed Anthony Marino, President, thredUP, Reham Fagiri, Co-Founder & CEO, AptDeco, and Mari Corella, GM, Home & Hard Goods, eBay. The three industry leaders discussed the demand side of recommerce offerings, as well as the benefits and challenges of each model. The circular economy is seeing a lot of tailwinds as businesses offer product repairs, creating new items from recycled materials, and more in addition to resale. The U.S. second-hand market is forecasted to double by 2026, touching $82 billion in the backdrop of consumers gravitating towards Recommerce.


Track Keynote: The C-Suite on Thriving in Today’s Retail Environment – This track saw two senior leaders sharing their tactics for surfing the wave of continuous change that defines retail today and their thoughts on future-proofing their businesses for what’swhat’s next. – Joe Laszlo, VP Content, Shoptalk, and Krystina Gustafson, SVP Content, Shoptalk interviewed Michael Fiddelke, Chief Financial Officer, Target and JuE Wong, CEO, OLAPLEX. It was an insightful session that gave the audience visibility into how top-of-the-line retailers adapt to fast-changing retail times.

Day 2 – March 27

The Forefront of Livestreaming and Shoppable Video – Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Founder & CEO, BrainTrust interviewed Kevin Miller, Chief Marketing Officer, The Fresh Market, Andrea Moore, Chief Digital Officer, NEST New York, and Soumya Sriraman, President of Streaming, Qurate Retail Group about how retail is embracing shoppable videos. The three retail and brand leaders discussed diverse approaches to shoppable video, including live streaming and on-demand, and via connected devices or social channels. It provided a great perspective for the attendees to evaluate today’s many options for engaging viewers and driving conversions. By 2024 U.S. consumers are expected to spend more time watching digital video than traditional T.V. Consumer attention is shifting from conventional T.V. ads and gravitating towards digital video, prompting brands and retailers to spend more on digital video and accelerate efforts to integrate shopping.


 Track Keynote: Transforming the Store Workforce with New Roles and Capabilities – Anne Mezzenga, Co-CEO, Omni Talk and Melissa Repko, Retail & Consumer Reporter, CNBC interviewed Katie Reeves, Managing Director, North America, COS and Marc Mastronardi, Chief Stores Officer, Macy’s on how retail industry is seeing the transformation of the store workforce. As the industry grapples with labor shortages, retailers and brands are looking at novel approaches to empower and increase the productivity of store associates. This involves redesigning teams to create new and more fulfilling roles; for instance, store associates can also support digital sales. The session witnessed senior retail executives sharing honest insights into transforming their store workforces with new functions and capabilities, streamlining workflows, boosting collaboration, driving customer engagement, and increasing labor retention.


The Efficient Retailer: Case Studies on Successful Tech Deployments – Poonam Goyal, Sector Head & Equity Analyst, Bloomberg interviewed Vijay Sankararaman, VP, Supply Chain Technology, Lowe’s, Scott Saeger, SVP & Chief Information Officer, GNC, and Yael Cosset, SVP & Chief Information Officer, Kroger. The seasoned retail leaders discussed specific technologies that moved the needle for them in terms of reducing cost and increasing productivity. With the economic downturn and rising inflation, efficiency is now crucial to retail success.


Ecommerce Innovation Workshop: Implementing Headless – Rick Watson, Founder & CEO, RMW Commerce Consulting (presenter) interviewed Dimple Rao, VP, Head of Digital Product Management & Product Design, Chico’s FAS. Rick, an e-commerce and marketplace implementation expert, shared a tactical framework for a headless e-commerce implementation; this was followed by a conversation with Dimple Rao, who managed a headless deployment at Chico’s. The session provided both strategic and tactical imperatives for successfully going headless. While headless is billed as the future of digital retail, re-platforming to a headless solution brings its own complexity.


Providing Inspiration and Ease: Balancing Store Design Imperatives – This session delved into how major retailers are effectively striking a balance between providing both inspiration and ease in their stores by designing new store formats, experiences, and services to cater to these divergent paths. Melissa Gonzalez, Founder, The Lionesque Group, Principal, MG2 led the session by interviewing Eric Ryan, Co-Founder & CEO, Cast Jewelry, Lisa Bubbers, Co-Founder & Chief Brand Officer, Studs, and Yehuda Shmidman, Chairman & CEO, WHP Global and Toys “R” Us. Consumer in-store seek a multitude of experiences, sometimes they wish to be inspired to discover new products they love, at their leisure while at other times they want to purchase and leave quickly. The session provided great insights to plan for both these kinds of scenarios.


Leveraging A.I. and Automation to Enhance Operations – This was the session’s theme led by Gerry Hough, Partner, McKinsey & Company where he interviewed Alexis DePree, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Nordstrom and George Hanson, SVP & Chief Digital Officer, Panera Bread. The retail industry leaders discussed how they had deployed innovative automation solutions in stores, warehouses, the back office, or elsewhere, exploring what they’ve learned from these initiatives. Recent advances in A.I. and automation have benefitted retailers by unlocking efficiencies and delivering a better customer experience while enabling workers to do more fulfilling tasks.

Groundbreaking International Retail Experiences -This session had Stacey Widlitz, President, S.W. Retail Advisors interview Lucas Herscovici, Chief Direct-to-Consumer Officer, AB InBev, Ryan den Rooijen, Chief Ecommerce Officer, Chalhoub Group, Antonino Guichard Gonzalez, Chief Digital Officer, Liverpool about the groundbreaking innovations that are transforming the retail landscape. The leaders from A.B. InBev, Chalhoub, and Liverpool presented their latest innovations while comparing and contrasting how retail is evolving in their markets and regions. Retail innovation can come from anywhere, with new trends taking off and getting adopted globally at groundbreaking speeds.


Data and Personalization Technologies – That was the theme of the session led by Adam Pressman, Partner & Managing Director, AlixPartners, where he interviewed Carrie Tharp, VP, Retail & Consumer, Google Cloud, Google, Jen Glaspie-Lundstrom, Co-Founder & CEO, Tandym, and Assaf Baciu, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer, Persado, and Puneet Mehta, Founder & CEO, Netomi. A presentation from Carrie Tharp kicked off the session and later segued into a 20-minute panel discussion focussing on innovative technology solutions that unlock new capabilities around data and personalization. It really helped attendees come away with new perspectives on how companies can maximize the value of their data.


Case Studies: Enabling Commerce Everywhere – Andrew Lipsman, Principal Analyst, Insider Intelligence, interviewed Eva Press, V.P., U.S. Global Business Group – Retail Marketplaces, CPG, & Health, Meta, Maureen Kelly, Founder & CEO, Tarte Cosmetics, and Jimmy Bennett, VP, Marketing – Media, Social, Partnerships, Wendy’s. In this series of case studies, retail, and brand leaders shared examples of how they leveraged partnerships, data, and the most relevant technologies and channels to enable seamless and consistent commerce experiences. Some of the use cases included taking voice technology beyond shopping list creation to actual purchase completion, adding transactional capabilities so consumers can buy on apps like Instagram and Pinterest, and interacting with customers on platforms like Twitch. Today’s commerce anywhere technologies enable virtually any digital channel to support a “buy” button, decreasing friction.


Track Keynote: Innovative Approaches to Engaging Consumers – In this track keynote, Lokesh Ohri, Partner, EY interviewed Linh Peters, SVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Walgreens. Linh shared her insight on Walgreens’s modern approach to channel integration and data science capabilities to drive better consumer outcomes along their health journey. When it comes to gaining share and driving growth, customer engagement is paramount for any retailer. Things like discounts, rewards, and loyalty programs are not differentiators anymore for retailers, today, consumers are more focused on their health, and these best practices need to evolve to the needs of each individual consumer. Linh Peters believes that where you’re from can profoundly impact where you’re going. As an immigrant and refugee, her experiences have deeply shaped her career, and how she defines leadership.

Fulfillment, Delivery and the Last Mile
– This session had Janie Yu, Partner, LFX Venture Partners, interviewing Adam Woodworth, CEO, Wing (Alphabet), Simon Kalouche, Founder & CEO, Nimble, Nitin Gupta, Co-Founder & CEO, Beans.ai, Shekar Natarajan, President, Quiet Platforms. In this session, each company’s founder presented their technology solution. It was followed by a panel discussion on how retailers can optimize their processes to ensure they continue to meet consumer expectations for fast and efficient delivery through the entire customer journey. The likes of Amazon and Walmart have set the bar high in terms of what customers expect today, and this session provided a bird’s eye view of the technology solutions that exist to help level the field. The session featured technologies that optimize fulfillment, delivery, and the last mile.


Day 3 – March 28


Web 3 in Retail: Virtual Goods and Immersive Consumer Experiences – Hilary Milnes, Executive Americas Editor, Vogue Business, interviewed Brieane Olson, Co-CEO, PacSun, Carolina Arguelles Navas, Global Head of AR Business Strategy, Snap, and Craig Brommers, Chief Marketing Officer, American Eagle. The three industry executives shared compelling examples of how their businesses adapt to the next digital frontier and what these learnings mean for the future. Immersive digital experiences and virtual goods define the still emerging worlds of Web 3 and the metaverse. The session provided an excellent primer on how retailers and brands launch initiatives with NFTs and virtual goods, augmented and virtual reality, and offered invaluable learnings and insights on the technologies and offerings.


Optimizing Between DTC and Wholesale Strategies – Sonya Brown, General Partner & Co-Head of Growth Equity, Norwest Venture Partners, led the session interviewing Anddria Clack-Rogers Varnado, VP & GM, Consumer Business, Kohler Co., David J. Katz, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Randa Apparel & Accessories, and Chris Clark, Co-Founder & Chief Digital Officer, Grove Collaborative. The brand leaders discussed how they’re finding balance and where they see their DTC and wholesale businesses in the future. Brands continuously evolve, requiring a constant rethink of wholesale and DTC strategies. Recent advancements in fulfillment technologies, supply chains, and commerce platforms have made it easier for DTC businesses to succeed while simultaneously providing the retailer rich consumer data. But still, for many companies operating and scaling a DTC business remains challenging as it needs a careful balance between wholesale and DTC.


Making the Supply Chain a Strategic Differentiator – Lindsey Mazza, Global Retail Lead, Capgemini led this session with Peter Pernot-Day, Global Head of Strategy & Corporate Affairs, SHEIN, Brian Bobigian, VP, Supply Chain Strategy & Systems, ULTA Beauty, and Kevin Kuntz, SVP, Global Logistics Fulfillment, Gap Inc. The three senior supply chain executives shared their knowledge about managing a complex global supply chain, strategically leveraging returns, and more to stand out from competitors and grow their businesses. It was an insightful session that highlighted what leading brands and retailers are doing to rethink the supply chain, what skill sets they are investing in, and what partnerships they are forging upstream and downstream to get their products in front of the customer when they need it.


Track Keynote: Building Unified Retail Experiences – In this keynote session Krystina Gustafson, SVP Content, Shoptalk, and Hilary Milnes, Executive Americas Editor, Vogue Business, interviewed Jason Bonfig, Chief Merchandising Officer, Best Buy, and Jamie Singleton, Group President & Chief Consumer Officer, Signet on how their companies are leaping omnichannel to unified retail. Today’s tech-savvy and forward-thinking retailers understand that siloed online and offline channels approaches do not align with how people shop or buy, and that is where unified retail comes in. Unified retail and how it differs from omnichannel is beautifully illustrated in this article from sitoo. Recent research has shown that consumers today use an average of five touchpoints before making a purchase decision. In most instances, they prefer to begin the journey where they left off instead of starting all over.


Day 4 – March 29


Building a Modern Brand – Kate Hardcastle, MBE, Broadcaster & The Customer Whisperer, Insight with Passion Consultancy, was the presenter and interviewer for this session. With Stacey McCormick, SVP Marketing, Aerie, Natalie Gordon, Founder & CEO, Babylist, Matthew Kaness, CEO, GoodwillFinds.com, this was a presentation with an industry expert and a panel with three practitioners that examined what it takes to build a modern brand identity, including the tools and tactics executives use to create and maintain their brands. Building a brand today involves more of a two-way conversation than a one-way mass media broadcast. It requires the brand to spend time and resources to create communities of fans while ensuring that each individual feels like they have a unique connection with the brand.


Agency Pitch: Launching a Product Innovation in an Omnichannel World – In this new, dynamic Shoptalk session format, three agency executives discussed and presented how they approached strategies and tactics for building awareness of the new product quickly and cost-effectively. Zahra Mohamed, Senior Content Producer, Shoptalk Europe, interviewed and facilitated a discussion between Jon Reily, SVP Commerce & Loyalty, Bounteous, Curt Munk, Chief Strategy Officer, Tracy-Locke, Tierney Wilson, SVP & GM, Strategy & Consulting, January Digital, Michal Geller, President of Ecommerce & Digital, Newell Brands. This panel fielded some tough questions from prospective clients and the audience as they discussed best practices for launching product innovations in a fast-changing retail world.

The Rise of the Creator Economy – This session witnessed an industry expert sharing new insights and perspectives on the creator economy, followed by a conversation among three business leaders who have worked successfully with creators about what they learned from their initiatives. Jasmine Enberg, Principal Analyst, Social Media, Insider Intelligence, was the presenter and interviewer for this session, which had a panel of Sam Wick, Head of UTA Ventures, UTA,  Angela Hsu, Chief Marketing Officer, Overstock, and Matt Cleary, U.S. Head of Retail & eCommerce, Global Business Solutions, TikTok. With over 50 million amateur or professional content creators, the creator economy is beginning to move from social channels and proliferating other platforms and media. Now the creators are embracing novel approaches to storytelling, creativity, and entrepreneurship.

Key Takeaways – Shoptalk 2023

This year’s edition of Shoptalk featured 10,000 attendees, 275 speakers, and over 50,000 meetups, and, as usual, big industry names such as Meta, Google, Walmart, and J.P. Morgan were sponsors. The outcome was four days of learning, knowledge sharing, and collaboration among the brightest minds in the retail industry ranging from small start-ups to enterprises. Here are our five key takeaways from Shoptalk 2023.

  1. Unified Retail over Omnichannel – The conversation has now shifted from reaching the consumers at various touchpoints to creating a unified experience across channels. It is about creating experiences that are aligned with consumer needs.
  2. From Customer Acquisition to Customer Experience and Retention – Once the dominant force of all retail strategies, customer acquisition gives way to more effort on the customer experience and retention side.
  3. Generative AI will transform commerce; this was the hottest topic of the show, with every merchant/ retailer having some interesting use case to adopt.
  4. DTC is a channel, not a business model; the smaller emerging brands adopting this strategy in their growth stage are seeing great results.
  5. Rent/ Buy tech, don’t build it; with an ever-changing digital landscape, brands and retailers should leave the tech stack to specialists as in-house builds lead to increased overheads and slower time-to-market.

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