3 Retail Insights from ShopTalk 2019

By Liz Alton on April 19, 2019

Marketers are abuzz with retail insights from Shoptalk 2019 as we dive deeper into Q2. The conference's self-described agenda brings together "the entire retail ecosystem … to create the future of retail." It's one event that's still got industry insiders talking and exploring the latest retail marketing trends. In a landscape full of emerging technologies, the testing of new delivery models, and an ever-increasing focus on the customer experience (CX), it's key to keep a pulse on change.

Weren't able to attend the conference? We've got you covered. Here's a roundup of the most important insights and takeaways from the event.

CX is Getting All the Attention in Retail Marketing Trends

If there's one phrase driving the retail industry, it's CX. Strategies for increasing CX performance were among the biggest retail insights from Shoptalk 2019.

One of the most eye-opening presentations came from Lokesh Ohri of Deloitte. Ohri notes that today's consumers are changing, and in many cases, these changes are happening in ways and in places retailers don't anticipate. As customers become busier and more stressed out, they're less loyal, she adds, so brands have to perform perfectly each and every time they interact with customers.

In turn, we're starting to see demographic approaches to audience intelligence shift. Ohri says brands now want to know "what (customers) think, where they go, how they spend their time, and how they spend their money." Focusing on these factors is key to delivering a winning CX. For example, an increasing number of baby boomers are relocating to retirement destinations such as Florida and Arizona. A brand that's focused on these customers and is contemplating a physical store strategy needs to consider these elements when shaping their CX.

In a landscape with more choices, Ohri concludes, "Consumer choice may be a bigger driver of change than changing consumers." In other words, consumers not only choose among retailers when making a purchase, but they also choose different channels for interacting with brands.

retail clothing shopper

Image attribution: Becca McHaffie

Professor Barbara E. Kahn of the Wharton Business School offered a fascinating presentation that deep dives into today's winning retail proposition. In addition to sharing several examples that explore the idea, she said it all comes down to two key experiential dimensions: increasing pleasure and eliminating pain points from the CX.

As Forbes notes, personalization is a key strategy for delivering a winning CX at scale across diverse and divergent audiences: "The importance of engaging with the customer on a deeper level and getting 'personal' was a recurring theme at Shoptalk. Retailers are focused on creating a more personalized customer experience, concentrating on what defines personalization, and offering the most relevant content for each customer."

Machine Learning and AI Reshape Retail

An effective retail strategy is a smarter one, and retailers are increasingly reshaping their customer experience through artificial intelligence and machine learning. Forbes continues: "Retailers need to learn to utilize AI and data analytics to improve customer service by anticipating behavior and allowing the data to come to life to impact the customer on an emotional level to drive business."

But how is AI actually being used? One example is through IOT technology for inventory management, which translates to sales floor impact as sales associates can more easily keep inventory stocked or quickly check to see if a specific color and size is in stock. AI is also helping identify customer-facing opportunities for better service.

"How retailers are utilizing these advanced data analytics are broad and span personalization, operations, supply chain, pricing, inventory, copywriting, fashion photography, and the list goes on," Forbes notes.

Physical Retail's Place in the Ecosystem is Changing

In the last few years, a significant percentage of shopping has shifted from physical stores to online. According to Small Business, seventy-five percent of Americans shop online. Yet, the latest frontier of retail to be reimagined is the physical store.

Consider the case study of Nordstrom Local. Nordstrom Local is a retail concept focused on inventory-free stores. The idea was to bring together key services and in a space where customers would want to spend time-a 'retail hub.' As Fast Company describes, "In lieu of stocked shelves, clients begin this revolutionary shopping experience well ahead (of time), either at home or on their mobile phone. Customers come here to pick up their online orders."

Nordstrom senior executives shared their experience at Shoptalk, and as Retail Touchpoints captures, "Today's retail stores no longer exist just to display merchandise ... They should be a place for engagement, faster returns, pickups, and alterations."

retail store display

Image attribution: Clark Street Mercantile

The focus on physical stores didn't stop there. In a presentation called "Design Human Experience," Matt Judge from Eight Inc. talked about key trends in store design. You can check out his presentation here, but one of the key takeaways is the need to design in-store experiences with what he calls "organic intelligence." He says in a world of online shopping and digital convenience, consumers are hungry for human connection. And when they elect to go into a physical store, versus placing an order online, brands should make sure they've created an environment that meets those needs.

He points to a shift from physical stores being viewed as a transactional space to a relationship space. So before brands go launching a flashy flagship store, consider this: How can you serve the greater needs of customers through these physical space interactions?

The retail insights from Shoptalk 2019 offer plenty of brain fodder for the year ahead. From the impact of emerging technologies to the changing role of the physical store in the retail ecosystem, one thing is clear: Retailers are innovating rapidly to deliver the customer experience consumers demand. The most important retail trends hone in on the ideal CX, and then find strategic ways to deliver that standard across channels and throughout the retail experience.

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Featured image attribution: Gyorgy Bakos


Liz Alton

Liz Alton is a technology and marketing writer, and content strategist, for Fortune 500 brands and creative agencies. Her specialties include marketing, technology, B2B, big data/analytics, cloud, and mobility. She's worked with clients including Adobe, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Twitter, ADP, and Google. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an MBA. She is currently pursuing a master’s in journalism from Harvard University.