I never win anything. So, I was thrilled when I won a free registration to attend Shoptalk through The News Funnel.
Held in Las Vegas on March 19-22, Shoptalk bills itself as “The New Blueprint for Retail & Ecommerce”. The event attracted over 5,000 attendees and hosted more than 325 amazing speakers. After many years of attending a variety of conferences, I am often not wowed, however I was very impressed with the depth of retailers in attendance at this conference - from Walmart to Chanel and everyone in between. The quality of the 100+ carefully curated sessions was also remarkable.
When I heard that Lionel Richie would be delivering the opening remarks, I had high hopes that he would start the conference by getting us “Dancing on the Ceiling”. Instead he shared some inspiring words on building his brand. One piece that particularly stuck with me was when he asked us, “What do a hero and a coward have in common?” The answer was that both faced fear - except one stepped forward and one stepped back.
Technology was a large focus of this event and the impact it is having on the way consumers discover, shop and buy. Like Lionel Ritchie’s quote, we have a decision on how we approach it. My key takeaways for my approach included the following:
1. Presenting Ideas to Your Executive Management Team.
How many PowerPoint presentations have you used to present your innovative ideas to your senior management team? Kyle Nel, Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, Lowe’s Companies, described how his team uses comic books when presenting to their senior management team. I thought this was simple but brilliant. He advised to be obsessed with stories – tell the story and describe how you are going to solve issues – and they have found that comic books are a great to share their innovative ideas.
2. 5-Year Plans are Obsolete.
Mindy Grossman, Chief Executive Officer and Director, HSN, Inc. spoke about how the 5-year plan is becoming a daily plan, and that it is important to have agile teams that can adapt. She reminded the audience that as a marketer, you are competing with your customer’s last experience and the importance of improving this experience for your brand.
3. If you’re not using AI, you’re going to be dead.
This session offered many examples of how AI is being used in all areas of retail including improving the customer experience. Uri Minkoff, Co-founder & CEO, Rebecca Minkoff, demonstrated how voice commands help to monitor store inventory. He also talked about “smart” bags which, when scanned, provide access to exclusive e-mails, recommendation videos, discounts and other exclusive access. I loved this idea of fostering loyalty and making the experience in-store and online seamless while showcasing the power of the data that you can learn from this smart bag. This got me thinking – what can we do to make our customers feel like VIPs with our customer data?
4. Celebrate the Picky Behavior of Millennials.
There’s a lot of chatter right now about Millennials, so the “Changing Consumers” panel had some inspiring takeaways. You often hear complaints about millennials are picky. We need to celebrate this and figure out how to personalize their experiences. Consumers and not just millennials are so much more demanding than they were 10 years ago and brands need to keep up.
5. Give Up Some Control with Social Media.
The Marketing Evolution session, with panelists representing Google, Facebook, Express, Adidas and 24Notion, offered advice to work with people with inspiring stories. Seek out brand ambassadors and influencers with large audiences. Also, when you are working with influencers, it’s okay to give up some control in order to find more success. This helps to keep the content real.
6. Brian Cornell, Chairman and CEO of Target, put it simply:
- Build a great brand.
- Offer unique products and services.
- Invest in what differentiates you.
- Make it easy for your customers.
The question is this: As you look at the part you play in the future of retail and ecommerce, will you be the hero or the coward?