Believe the hype. After two years of meeting virtually, it was amazing to be a part of the biggest retail reunion in late March, when the Woolpert team attended Shoptalk 2022 in Las Vegas. After years of virtual sharing, it felt like a kinked hose was untangled, flooding the conference rooms and exhibition floor with industry data and information.
The show hosted nearly 10,000 attendees and featured over 250 speakers from some of the top names in retail, including Uber, Instacart and Sam’s Club. Each shared insights into market trends and strategic imperatives for 2022 and beyond. The conference was overflowing with opportunities to learn more about the latest ecommerce innovations and build brand awareness in the post-pandemic world.
Twitch Meets QVC
This just in: Live commerce is the new way to shop. The conference demonstrated how users can live-stream and interact with shoppers at physical retailers. They can request specific items to view and ask detailed questions, such as feel and fit. Users can then buy items directly through the interface for a seamless shopping experience.
Another trend that permeated Shoptalk was the focus on private traffic, which is a form of marketing developed in China. Users are utilizing “super apps,” such as WeChat, to provide a centralized platform for communication, social media, shopping and payment processing.
Retailers are shifting from tactics like targeted emails to encouraging sales representatives to join group chats with customers to create a personal communication channel. Once connected with a customer, that salesperson can answer questions, follow up on purchases and offer exclusive promotions.
What does live commerce and private traffic tell us about the future of retail marketing? Our current model of advertising through email, website splashes and even automated texts are in decline. Retailers are challenged to be more engaging, personal and trustworthy. Younger customers are less attached to corporate entities and appreciate when goods and services can be tailored to them, making customers feel more connected to the brand.
The Omnichannel Presence
Some investors are curious as to whether physical storefronts are as valuable as they were before COVID. Retailers are finding success with an omnichannel strategy, in which physical stores work with web and mobile stores to create an integrated shopping experience. During the pandemic, users were heavily engaged with retailers such as Target because they could easily find and buy items online and then pick them up in the store or curbside the same day. As restrictions have lifted, a surge of in-store shopping has occurred. This omnichannel approach also works inversely, when an in-store shopper can’t find an item but can still purchase it there and have it delivered.
In the omnichannel footprint, the physical store becomes its marketing. Rather than being just a place to sell goods, retailers are looking to make their stores an experience. Whether the rise of in-store shopping is temporary following COVID restrictions, there will always be a level of convenience that comes with being able to touch and try on items and then leave with those purchases in hand.
At Shoptalk, I observed that many vendors are working to solve data problems, specifically data coming from various sources and how to apply them. For example, Poshmark data centers enable sellers to access the shopping trends of their customers, so they can market at a micro level. Other large retailers provide real-time stock information to their employees, so they can provide realistic expectations to their customers regarding stock replenishment and can guarantee delivery times.
In addition to using data to empower sellers, a great deal of effort and research is going into using data to empower customers. In the context of digital shopping, retailers agree that no two users should have the same home page. Shopping platforms can increase their stock by thousands of items a day, and they want to make sure what customers are seeing is relevant and interesting.
Data, technology and customer strategy are merging to meet customer demand for useful messaging and meaningful product recommendations, leading retailers to focus on integrating more data points and advancing media capabilities and optimization.
Evolution of Payments and Payment Systems
Point-of-sale terminals are getting smaller and more mobile. In fact, the smartphone is becoming the most universal POS terminal because it allows for fast adoption and does not require additional cost or technology. This is especially beneficial in regions that predominantly rely on cash. The Phone As A Terminal concept puts checkout in the hands of the consumer. For instance, 7-Eleven’s Mobile Checkout enables users to scan and purchase items in store with their smartphones and skip the checkout line.
Easing the purchasing process is just as vital in the virtual marketplace. A multitude of UX, digital wallet and buy now, pay later (BNPL) solutions aim to make checkout instantaneous. Ideally, users will be able to click and purchase an item seen in a photo or video on social media without having to exit to an external merchant or input payment information. A central digital wallet login and approval at the moment of discovery can create a quick and frictionless conversion.
These were just a few of the amazing topics discussed at this year’s Shoptalk conference, but there were many more—augmented and virtual reality experiences, on-demand retail and delivery, logistics/reverse logistics and sustainability, etc. Fortunately, we will learn more about these at Groceryshop 2022 in September. Until then, happy shopping!